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This “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” controversy is just plain silly

The latest political correctness battle erupted earlier this month when a Cleveland radio station announced it would no longer play the 1944 Christmas classic, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” because its lyrics made some listeners uneasy in a #MeToo sort of way.

The song, written in 1944, features a flirty and fun call-and-response exchange between a man and a woman. The woman initially says she has to go home. The man tried to convince her to stay. In the end, the woman decides to stay of her own volition. Yet in today’s #MeToo environment, some interpret the man as pressuring the woman to stay, perhaps by trying to get her drunk.

Some have even got as far as to call this the “Christmas date rape song.” “The man seems to think no means yes!” they say. “Predatory undertones!” Others also point to composer Frank Loesser’s original intentions where the guy in the song is noted as the “Wolf” in the song. Perhaps but Loessner was merely capturing gender and sexual mores of the day. He wrote it for his wife so they could have fun singing it at parties. Have we become so hypersexualized and paranoid that we can only hear the song in terms of date rape? (Note, too, when the song was written, the modern roofie did not exist.)

I quote the lyrics:

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) (Why thank you)
I ought to say no, no, no sir (Mind if move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (What’s the sense of hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (Baby don’t hold out)
Baby, it’s cold outside

The story went viral like herpes with other radio stations banning the song, including the CBC and 24/7 Christmas stations operated by Bell and Rogers.

This debate isn’t new. A quick Google search will turn up debates stretching back years. In 2012, for example, a column entitled “Listening While Feminist: In Defense of ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside‘” appeared, decrying demands that the song should be banned. Others point out that it’s not really a Christmas song; a winter song, yes. But it has nothing to do with Christmas itself.

Here’s another comment:

Look, we all listen with bias. And it’s very true that the current generation will look at the art of previous generations differently. We are never obligated to accept the standards and practices that were once considered okay. Times and attitudes change. We’ve jettisoned many things from the past because they clearly no longer align with modernity.

But if you feel applying such strict judgments to a Christmas song are a bit much, you’re not alone. A station in Denver surveyed its listeners about the song and the audience overwhelmingly voted to have the song re-added to the station’s playlist. Others say that we should recognize what the song was meant to describe when it was written.

Before you leave a comment blasting me for defending what many consider song that many find offensive, don’t bother. I’m just bemused by the whole issue. The things people get excited about, you know?

However, we also have to be very careful about how we apply modern standards to other Christmas songs. Vinay Menon of The Toronto Star had a brilliant column where he singles out other Christmas songs that are, well creepy and could thus be victims to the same sort of political correctness assaults under the right circumstances.

I’ve got a couple, too.

  • “Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer”: It’s all about body-shaming! Think of all the people with difficult-to-treat nose-borne rosacea!
  • Any Christmas song by The Chipmunks: Most of them are only about getting presents. How greedy! Materialistic!
  • “The Christmas Shoes”: MUCH too depressing. What about all the people who are reminded about lost loved ones at this time of year? They could be triggered. And no one wants to cry on Christmas. (Actually, I agree with this one simply because it’s a dreadful, dreadful song.)
  • “Deck the Halls”: “Don we now our gay apparel?” Think about the poor homophobes who might be triggered by this!
  • “Dominick the Donkey”: This 1960 song by Lou Monte is loaded with Italian stereotypes.
  • “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”: What if you’re allergic to figgy pudding? Those people will feel excluded and shamed.
  • “Silent Night”: Clearly offensive to deaf people.
  • “The Christmas Song” by David Hasselhoff: Because, well, the Hoff.
  • Any song that mentions Santa: Obviously a pagan supernatural being. A false idol.
  • ANY song mentioning Christmas: What about those of other religions? Or agnostics? Or atheists?

Any others you can think of?

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38410 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

28 thoughts on “This “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” controversy is just plain silly

  • I think the key point (for me anyways) is that the debate would be a lot simpler if people just acknowledged that it’s understandable why some people might see it that way. The problem with this stuff is that someone says “Don’t you see how this sounds wrong?” and then someone else says “You’re crazy! There’s NOTHING wrong with it!!”. It doesn’t take much to say “Yeah I can see how you would feel that way about it. I don’t, but I do get how you could.” and then move on.

    • Thank you, Sean. I completely agree. Also, context is everything. As a slightly older person, I understand the context it was written in. My 13 year old daughter, however, only hears the message of intimidation and rupees in the drink. Not that the song is promoting either of these things, and certainly the lyrics of other songs in other genres that 13 year olds hear more often are much more concerning. The song warrants a discussion and a bit of a history lesson.

    • Thank you Sean! That is exactly it for me. People just simply struggle to break bread together and see it from another’s point of view. It’s become far too black and white to have a conversation. We should not be shutting down a generation who are saying “I don’t know if we should be playing this anymore” just because our context of how we heard it originally is different. Life is so much simpler when we just say ‘hmmm…thanks I had not thought of it that way. It’s not exactly my perspective but I can see your point of view.”

  • I’ve always found that song to be terribly creepy… I don’t sing it or enjoy listening to it. I’m kinda glad its gone.

    • So change the bloody dial if you don’t enjoy listening to it. Why do you take joy in robbing people who do enjoy it the pleasure of listening to it. How would you like it if people lodged frivolous (and this is frivolous by any reasonable reading of the lyrics rather than the gross mischaracterization of it) to prevent you from experiencing something you enjoy?

      • Or you could just buy the CD – if it’s so important to you.
        There are literally hundreds of better songs which could take its place in the playlist.
        Just Boomers getting emotional because time has moved on…

        • The point is snowflake mienials trying to dictate their ignorant standards on what others should watch/listen too. Maybe we should ban your rap music?

          If there are so many better songs, this would have disappeared from playlists for other reasons? You think it was popular for 70 years BECAUSE it is a rape song?

          Do you interpret Shakespeare by using modern linguistic standards? You millenials are a laughingstock of fragility. You are so hateful of boomers that you look to take from us anything we like while ya’ll listen to blurred lines on the radio and twerk on the dance floor ?

          • So because you like it it has to be played on the radio? The argument for turning the knob is the same argument for you buying a CD with the song on it, if anything you’d be supporting the music more by paying for it! you are dictating standards just as much as those “snowflakes”.

            And look how hateful you are towards millennials while decrying their own “hateful-ness”. Calling them snowflakes while you yourself is getting so uppity. Pot meet kettle. Things don’t exist in a vacuum and you best believe modern english classes do examine Shakespeare in modern language *eye roll* clearly when you took english you didn’t…

            Blurred lines hasn’t been on the radio in years, what a dated reference

  • Hey Alan. I appreciate you making your commentary on this song. I fully agree that it’s silly.

    I do want to point out that the lyrics you quoted are not the original 1944 lyrics, but rather a later cover of the song. Most notably are the final two lines which were added in the later cover.

  • I don’t even get why it’s considered a Christmas song. I was so annoyed with it playing after every tow songs last year. I’m glad it’s gone.

  • It’s way less rape-y than Blurred Lines and no one tried to ban that

    • Blurred Lines was marketed to adults though – it’s my understanding that Christmas songs are supposed to be more family friendly…

  • Banning this song? You people are definitely smoking ass crack!

  • “Feliz Navidad”… we must think of Trump and his cronies! And how they could be affected by the thought that Mexicans indeed celebrate Christmas as well! Oh my!

  • Banning the song is excessive given there are songs that get airplay with profanity or subject matter that is also inappropriate.Granted they are all not Christmas songs.
    Perhaps a warning prior to airing the song should be given to listeners “Caution! The lyrics of this song may be offensive to some listeners” or how about bleeping out the lyrics in question? (Insert tongue in cheek here)

  • Let’s swap the male and female parts of the song. That should make it acceptable for at least a few more years…

    At the end of the day, it’s just a song, and it doesn’t even make the top 1000 list of offensive songs since 1944… You still retain the freedom to change the dial on your radio. You have the freedom to not go to an establishment that plays music you don’t like. You have choices that you can make on your own. Hell, you can even make your own Christmas playlist and just stay home – technology, eh? Not everything needs to be a headline.

  • If it’s too much to handle there’s always that kids version that Idina Menzel and Michael Buble released a couple years back…

  • I don’t even see how it’s a Christmas song. It’s not. It was overplayed the last couple of years during Christmas season so I’m glad it’s gone.

    • Then neither are Frosty the Snowman, or Winter Wonderland. My Favourite Things and Hallelujah also get played during the holiday season, despite not being “Christmas” songs.

  • While I am not up in arms about the debate, I think it is disingenuous to mockingly compare fictional characters like Rudolph and Santa to a situation that is all too real for many woman: man that doesn’t take no for an answer. Part of the reason we got to this point in the 21st century is because of the decades of normalizing the behaviour in the song. Guy trying to convince girl does not get a “pass” based on the fact it is decades old.

      • The point is not to mock a serious situation. It’s to draw a comparison to how deep one will dig in an effort to be offended. I’ll agree that the lyrics on their own, without context, are easily misinterpreted if you are simply reading them under the headline of ‘date rape’. But in the context of this song, where two people are so happy they are literally dancing and singing their conversation to eachother? We are jumping to the guilty until proven otherwise, again. I’m pretty sure if she stopped singing and just said “I’m leaving”, he’d let her leave. I’ve asked friends to stay for drinks, and never once wanted to rape them. It’s crazy that the assumption being made here it so dark. Yes, the real life situations where women are threatened are terrible. This, on the other hand is neither real life, nor intended to portray that situation.

  • I only know it from Power of Nightmares. a Muslim extremist apparently it crystalized for him these people dancing at a church dance to that song. he talked about bodies meeting bodies as the lights dimmed on the dance floor. Strange something that would pass the censors then would be questionable now.

  • Well, he is asking if he can move closer… with words… not being grabby… I think that is asking for consent. I’m sure a lot of men could learn some manners from listening to this song. She is also only giving reasons why other people might think of her differently if she stayed but that indicates that she really does want to stay. (You should never make decision solely based on what others will think.) She never gives the reason that she doesn’t want to stay. She is playing games to make him work for it. If every man in the world stopped trying after one semi-negative response from a woman (just using words still mind you.), then there would be no more human race in about a century. (If people are still offended by this song then how about playing Happy Holidays you B@$7@^d by Blink 182 in it’s place then everyone would forget about this.)

  • Pingback: Cold comfort | Mark Sardella

  • How ’bout “I’m Dreaming of a WHITE Christmas?” I mean, come on!!! Yup, silliness. Good way to describe it!

  • Has anyone listen to the music that comes out today. Most music being released today is so violent & suggestive & not a word is said about that. Stop trying to be so politically correct that it no longer makes any sense. Some people need to just lighten up & find better things to do with their time. If this song is causing issues for you then you need to get some counselling. If you do not like the song turn off the volume & let others enjoy the song.


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