"Baby, It's Cold Outside": Christmas-y or Creepy?

  Christmas is just around the corner, which means that you will most likely be bombarded with holiday songs in every establishment you enter. One particular tune that seems to cause an uproar of controversy every year is “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” originally written by Frank Loesser in 1944.

At first listen, the duet is lighthearted and cute, about a man and a woman returning from a date. He tries to convince her to stay with him for the night, using the frigid weather as an excuse. Upon further inspection of the lyrics, however, the situation starts to sound a little creepy. For example, the most debated lyric in the song is when the woman asks “Say, what's in this drink?” Many modern critics take this to mean that he spikes her beverage with alcohol in order to persuade her to stay. Until recently, I also denounced this song, believing it to be an anti-consensual anthem.

Upon even further inspection of the words, though, the song may not be so disturbing after all. Many feminists have offered defenses of the song in recent years. The blogazine Persephone Magazine posted an especially helpful article in 2010. It turns out that in the time period that the song was written, many people would use “alcoholic drinks” as justification for their wild behaviors in that more conservative era. The assumed joke is that the drink has no alcohol, and the woman, in this case, wants to stay with the man without being shunned. Her main concerns do lie in the fact that her neighbors and family members will look down on her for being “improper,” but subtextually speaking, the woman wants to be with the man as well. The tune concludes with the woman making her own decision (to stay), and not the decision that others want her to make. This can be seen as empowering, especially considering the chaste expectations for women of that generation.

In summary, the song itself is probably pretty harmless when you acknowledge its coy undertone. The real problem lies in the fact that women were/are so often shamed for embracing their sexuality, to the point where they feel as though they “ought to” say no. Who knew that one Christmas song could be so thought-provoking?