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Baby it’s Cold Outside: The Predator’s Anthem

Bella Juzenas, Guest Writer

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With the start of December, we have once again begun to bust out our most beloved holiday tunes. Accordingly, we rekindle the age-old discussion surrounding one particularly disturbing song, “Baby it’s Cold Outside.” That’s right, one of America’s favorite songs to sing around Christmas Time has some pretty sinister undertones. Specifically, it hints at the very serious issue of sexual violence toward women. With the surge in allegations against men such as Harvey Weinstein, Donald Trump, and Matt Lauer and with the continuing rise of the #MeToo campaign, this has become a contentious issue that we need to be discussing instead of singing.

Baby it’s Cold Outside tells the story of a couple who just can’t stand to be separated on a cold, snowy winter night. It’s a pretty cute song… until you listen to the lyrics. The sultry-sweet tune of the song masks what is really a very questionable situation. The song was written in 1944, most likely with good intentions. In today’s world, it just doesn’t have any business on the radio or in our homes and stores.

Let us begin by taking a closer look at the people we’ve been singing about for the past eighty-three years. We can assume that the two are in the man’s apartment, by his references to “[putting] some records on while [he pours],” and how he has been “hoping that [she would] drop in.” From this we gather that he is a well-established adult with the ability to provide for himself and live on his own. Where it starts to get weird is when we take a closer look at the girl. Just a few of the excuses she uses to get away from this guy reference her family (“my mother will start to worry,” “my father will be pacing the floor,” “my sister will be suspicious” “my brother will be there at the door”). This implies she lives at home, suggesting that she may be significantly younger. Even further proof of a significant age difference is her calling him “sir” (“I ought to say, no, no, no sir”). I don’t know about you, but that freaks me out.

Characters aside, the dynamic and situation is also a source of controversy. The song alternates between the man and the girl, with her giving him an excuse to go home and him convincing her to stay. Starting on the third line of the song, we are given the first clue that something fishy is going on. The girl is telling the man that she has had a nice time, but needs to go, to which he responds, “I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice.” If you’re also confused as to why her leaving and him holding her cold hands are related at all, let me clarify that for you, they’re not. This man isn’t listening to her at all, instead focusing on finding an excuse to touch her in a way that is definitely unasked for if not unwanted. People in today’s world will quickly attribute this unwanted attention to sexual harassment.

A situation like this one is a very clear example of sexual assault, and something which definitely shouldn’t be on our holly jolly holiday playlists.”

The next especially striking line which has warranted lots of speculation over the years, is when the girl asks the man, “say, what’s in this drink?” Now, I certainly wouldn’t rule out some type of drug being put into this girl’s drink, but I’m also not sure how prevalent the use of date-rape drugs was in the mid 20th century. Still, in today’s world where we’ve seen a rise in the use of drugs to further sedate a victim of sexual violence, foul play certainly should not be ruled out in this situation. Aside from the possible use of drugs, the fact still remains that the man keeps offering this young girl drinks as a premise to stay. And those ploys aren’t uncommon – perpetrators of sexual assault often try and get their victims drunk to make them an easier target, and there is definitely some concerning evidence pointing to that to here.

Perhaps the most off-putting part of this song is when the girl says, “my sister will be suspicious,” to which the man replies, “gosh your lips look delicious.” Once again, this man refuses to listen to this poor girl, but, even more upsetting is what he does next. When the girl says, “my maiden aunt’s mind is vicious” he responds with, “gosh your lips are delicious.” In essence, this man not only refuses to listen to this girl, he goes so far as to kiss her when she obviously wants nothing to do with him. A situation like this one is a very clear example of sexual assault, and something which definitely shouldn’t be on our holly jolly holiday playlists.

Lastly, something that really disturbs me is the guilt that this man continually lays on the girl. Two phrases which stand out are, “what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?” and “think of my lifelong sorrow.” This is a tactic which men continue to use today, hoping to make women feel bad for refusing unwanted sexual advances. Women today are still so concerned with “hurtin’ a man’s pride” that we continue to let ourselves be abused for the sake of men’s egos.

Today more than ever we need to empower women. Sexual violence continues to occur even in places we’d never suspect. I mean, we just elected a president accused of more than twenty sexual assaults. In order to combat this continuing violence against women, it is essential that we stop glamorizing any kind of unwanted sexual attention, especially within the confines of our beloved Christmas carols. So, this year, skip the predatorial tune and entertain yourself with something a little more light-hearted like “Jingle Bell Rock.”

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4 Comments

4 Responses to “Baby it’s Cold Outside: The Predator’s Anthem”

  1. Samaa on December 10th, 2017 8:53 pm

    The arguments in this article are well-founded and eternally relevant. In light of today’s sexual assault awareness campaigns, in what ways will we recognize the pervasiveness of rape culture change? What is the right balance between maintaining sexist traditions and establishing new, less problematic traditions? I’m proud that on our campus, we are continuing to recognize the ways in which pop culture condones values we don’t.

    [Reply]

  2. Annie McCasland on December 11th, 2017 11:03 am

    This was very insightful. I had never noticed how obviously predatory this song is until now. Often, christmas songs are simply background music and, since people only associate positive feelings with christmas, the lyrics aren’t analyzed this way as they may be for other songs. This is just another example of how this kind of behavior is engrained into our society.
    Intriguing. Good job.

    [Reply]

  3. emily Gordon on January 18th, 2018 10:51 am

    I couldn’t agree more Bella! This is a very well written article that I can’t belive hasn’t been brought to the worlds attention earlier. I was listening to this song on the radio last year and a friend told me to listen closely. Once I did I was in a state of shock. I couldn’t believe something like that would even be aloud on public radio! It is disturbing and way too sadly true. This kind of behavior, especially the guilting women, is what gets to me the most, because i have been there. This is a nightmare song and should be taken off of music streaming apps and youtube. I am very glad yuo wrote this because i couldn’t stop going on about it when i heard what the song was actually saying.

    [Reply]

  4. Jeremy Mednik on January 26th, 2018 8:47 am

    I always have felt this song was a bit off for me, but I now see how truly creepy it is. I don’t know what the singers were thinking when they created this song, but it raises some serious red flags. “What’s in this drink” is the weirdest line by far. I thought your points in this article are spot on and you did a good job of conveying your message. Good work!

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Baby it’s Cold Outside: The Predator’s Anthem