Baby, It's Cold Outside?

Some radio stations are no longer playing the song

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Listening While Feminist: In Defense of "Baby, It's Cold Outside"

Editor's note: Please enjoy this featured post from our archives.

I'm a pretty voracious consumer and critic of American popular culture. I'm one of those 3 wavers who believes that the deconstruction of all aspects of pop culture is an important aspect of feminism or any sort of progressive movement. Mass culture is the stew we all live in; when we learn to look at it critically, we can discuss the messages we're soaking in every day.

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Is there a problem with the lyrics of Baby It's Cold Outside?

By Joe Harker

A radio station in Ohio has removed Baby It's Cold Outside from their Christmas playlist because of complaints from listeners. The lyrics of the song were called "inappropriate and at odds with the #MeToo movement" in a series of complaints, leading to Star 102 pulling the song and deciding not to play it any more.

A social media poll on the station's Facebook page showed that an overwhelming majority of listeners wanted the song to stay on air. Glenn Anderson, a presenter for the radio station, wrote that the song lyrics now feel "manipulative and wrong" in the modern day.

The song, written by Frank Loesser in 1944, is a duet where a man is attempting to convince a woman to stay the night at his home, citing a number of reasons including how cold it is outside. Several of the woman's lines such as "I really must go", "the answer is no" and "Say, what's in this drink?" carry unfortunate implications.

Viewed through modern eyes, or perhaps heard through modern ears, the song could very easily sound like a man pressuring a woman into staying at his home and having sex when she is very reluctant to do so. She keeps saying how she needs to leave and denies his advances, while he is constantly offering reasons why she shouldn't go and ignoring her telling him no. The characters in the song are named as the Wolf and Mouse, further adding to the predatory undertones.

The song has been accused of being a "date rape anthem", particularly with the line where the woman asks what's in her drink. To modern ears that sounds very clearly like she suspects it has been tampered with, which would mean the man has attempted to drug her.

However, the song was made decades ago when values and certain phrases meant different things. It was made in a time where young single women were frowned upon for spending lots of time with a man and no chaperone. The woman in the song would definitely be judged for spending a late night at a man's house and in this context the meaning of many of her lines is different.

Vanity Fair argues that Baby It's Cold Outside is representative of a change in culture. Written as "a sweet couple's number for him and his spouse" according to John Loesser, son of songwriter Frank, who says the song is a flirtatious exchange between two people, not a man pressuring a woman into staying against her will.

Lizzy Acker suggests the song is positively Shakespearean, arguing that the song is playing out a scene that could mean any number of things depending on who is singing it and how. There are many different covers of the song and the way each part is sung changes the subtext behind the lyrics. With this change the entire meaning of the song changes, but the original version was certainly not about a man pressuring a woman to stay.

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