The holidays can be a divisive time. They can be divisive in ways you didn’t even know where divisive! Take for example the Christmas classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside, ” which has been covered by Dean Martin, Zooey Deschanel, and everyone in between. Having listened to the lyrics, you may find yourself part of a group who find it problematic (or you may find yourself in their opposition— which is fine, too. I’ll get to that in a minute.)
In the newfound spirit of not molesting/sexually intimidating/creeping out women, let’s consider cooling it on Baby It’s Cold Outside this holiday season.— kaitlin olson (@KaitlinOlson) November 22, 2017
It's that time of the year, when we talk about how problematic 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' is because it's literally a song where a man doesn't give af about consent and actually spikes a woman's drink.— ☾♡ (@demuresunflower) November 27, 2017
Motion to ban “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” from the Christmas song rotation given the current state of things. Call me crazy, but a lighthearted song about a persistent man holding a woman against her will seems ill-advised in 2017.— Brohibition Now (@OhNoSheTwitnt) November 28, 2017
“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a call-and-response duet in which at the end of a date, a woman is trying to to go home while a man convinces her— nay, pleads with her—to stay. Viewed from our beyond rightfully wary 2017 lenses, the lyrics “I really can’t stay” and “Hey, what’s in this drink?” have, for lack of a better word, rapey connotations.
But a Tumblr post from 2016 remaking the rounds spins it in a very different light. A self-proclaimed “former English nerd/teacher” and big jazz fan laid out how when presented in a historical context, the song is far more innocent than our 2017 brains allow us to believe.
First of all, the author writes how the seemingly-eerie line “What’s in this drink?” was actually a standard joke when the song was created back in the ’40s. “The punchline was invariably that there’s actually pretty much nothing in the drink, not even a significant amount of alcohol,” writes the jazz fan (they weren’t as good at jokes back then).
The former English nerd then proceeds to flip the entire script on its head when he asserts that rather than being rapey and misogynistic, the song is actually about a woman exerting her sexual agency; She wants to stay the night but is worried about what people would say if she does (they weren’t as good at embracing female sexuality back then, either.)
“The woman in the song says outright, multiple times, that what other people will think of her staying is what she’s really concerned about. … But she’s having a really good time, and she wants to stay, and so she is excusing her uncharacteristically bold behavior (either to the guy or to herself) by blaming it on the drink — unaware that the drink is actually really weak, maybe not even alcoholic at all. That’s the joke.”
You must remember, this was back in the ’40s when women were supposed to act disinterested and protest sexual advances so they didn’t look like ~total ~harlot~. The man in offering her excuses she could use to avoid societal judgement.
This is the post in full:
FURTHERMORE, he author concludes, the song is “one of the best illustrations of rape culture that pop culture has ever produced” because it’s “about a society where women aren’t allowed to say yes…which happens to mean it’s also a society where women don’t have a clear and unambiguous way to say no.” And that, my friends, is what we call a catch-22.