‘Baby it’s Cold Outside,’ Innocent Christmas Classic or Sinister Song of Sexual Harassment?

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The song ‘Baby it’s Cold Outside’ was written 72 years ago by Frank Loesser and is a widely known and adored song this time of year. In recent years there have been some rumblings about the true meaning of the song, making most people roll their eyes. But this year might be the year people are actually listening to those complaints and reconsidering the song’s fate. Before all the hubbub surrounding the song, you may remember it was featured in the Movie “Elf.” Somehow I don’t think it would make the cut today.
2017 has certainly been the year of sexual harassment sagas. It seems that every day there is another headline of a politician, businessman or Hollywood type being accused of something creepy or even downright scary. Rampant misconduct has been exposed. So it isn’t surprising that this particular song has come under fire. However, there are also arguments to be made for keeping the song around. But first, a refresher on the lyrics:
“I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (i’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (i’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside
I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (but baby, it’s cold outside)
Your welcome has been(how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out the window at this dawn)
My sister will be suspicious (gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon the tropical shore)
My maiden aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)
I’ve gotta get home(but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat(it’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (i thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (how can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (if you got pnuemonia and died)
I really can’t stay (get over that old out)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside”
Those who argue the song should be retired point out that the original lyric sheet the men’s part was labeled “the wolf” and the female part labeled “the mouse.” Not exactly a great set up to argue this is not predatory behavior. They, of course, point to the conversation and find coercion. Here’s a guy basically ignoring a woman’s wishes and insisting she stay with him overnight. She asks at one point “so what’s in this drink?” Of course the implication of some type of date rape drug drives the argument further. Opponents of the song also argue that the song keeps the idea that “no means yes” alive.
Those on the other side argue that the song must be seen in its cultural context. The song was first performed by a husband and wife duo, hardly scandalous. Some feminists have even defended the song saying you must look at the intent of the song, a fun, flirty song about a girl who wants what she “shouldn’t.” As far as the drink, some say that is simply an acknowledgement of alcohol in the drink and that it is making her want to stay more.
Personally, I like the song and to me it is more a flirtatious conversation that doesn’t invoke images of coercion or violence. It seems more like she wants to stay, but wants to keep up appearances of her innocence. I feel for this song like I feel with most things accused of being offensive; if you don’t like it, don’t listen to it! There! How easy was that?
Sources: USAtoday.com; Snopes.com

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