By Sophia Christensen
Decorating for the holidays, I play tunes and always find myself singing and dancing to one of my favorite holiday songs: “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” One morning, as I was singing along to the lyrics in attempted synchrony, I paid closer attention to the words and felt sort of uneasy. I came across others online who too felt uncomfortable with the language of the song. Although a few of the lines in the song read as precious and lovey-dovey, the basis of the song essentially coercises the female lead to stay with him, despite her troubled hesitation. The common excuse for the lyrics is when it was written, seeing as though the song was released in 1949. Disregarding the release date, the song still holds influence today. The issue remains that the song normalizes coercion and implies sexual coercion to listeners today. To some, it may seem too problematic to enjoy with a clear conscience, but the point of this article is to educate, not to cancel the song (especially since it still remains one of my favorite holiday songs).
With a modern understanding of consent versus coercion, the events of the song are seen as troubling. The precedent of the song includes the female’s lyrics reading, “I really can’t stay,” with the male responding with, “but baby it’s cold outside.” While it sounds simple and playful, the lyrics allow for the possibility that the woman is not “teasing” and actually wants to go–therefore, the man’s response and behavior becomes a problem. Further in the song, the lyrics elevate concern with a line from the woman reading, “Say, what’s in this drink.” With the stress in the womens voice, and the mans constant convincing, it raises concern that he resorted harsher forms of coercion in order for her to stay. After the woman sternly confirms she will not stay with a solid, “no,” he begins to play the part of the victim singing, “What’s the sense of hurting my pride.” Continuing to pressure the woman, the man goes on to sing, “Don’t hold out,” a line in which makes her feel uncomfortable and uneasy in her decision to take a stance to leave. She tries her best not to give in, and tries to leave, but his coercive language influences her to stay.
Whether she thinks she’ll feel violated or ashamed, or if she’ll actually enjoy herself, the ends do not justify the means regarding how he got her to stay. Although it’s insinuated the woman stays by the end of the song, she could have only done that because of the man’s continuous manipulative efforts to get her to stay. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” still stands as one of my favorite holiday songs, but it is important to be aware of the hardships that women and men experience, and to not let the song normalize sexual coercion and date rape.