Sorry in advance, I’m about to destroy this classic holiday song for you. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has been around since the 1940s, and there has been significant progress regarding feminism since. Marital rape wasn’t even recognized as being a crime until 1979! Yet, this song continues to be played every year for the holiday season, and is still being remade by modern artists.
But why is it creepy? Why should we care about a song?
Well, first of all, the whole premise of this song is a woman trying to leave, while a man is trying to come up with reasons why she has to stay. Some might say that this is just playful banter, and that she’s just worried about her family finding out if she stayed (remember the time period!), but specific lines make it apparent that there is more to this situation. For a video interpretation of this song (as well as an interesting twist where the typical man and woman parts are switched) performed in “Neptune’s Daughter” in 1949, check out this link.
The first alarming line in this song (and personally, I think the greatest indication that something is wrong here) is when the woman says, “say, what’s in this drink?” After saying this, the man essentially just pretends she didn’t. He never acknowledges this comment, in opposition to the direct reaction he has to most things she says. A few lines earlier, he tells her that he is going to pour her a drink. It is totally plausible that with how badly he wants her to stay, he could have decided to put something in her drink. Today, women are constantly warned about watching their drinks at all times, so that no one has an opportunity to drug them. It’s scary that this is a reality! But his song, unfortunately, normalizes this behavior.
Later, the man says to her, “what’s the sense in hurting my pride?” This is a textbook manipulation.The man is talking to her as if she is the bad guy because she does not want to stay with him, or predictably have sex with him. He is trying to manipulate her by making her feel guilty for not wanting to. Not okay! An important part of sex is consent, and a individual has every right to say no, even if their partner doesn’t want them to.
Next, the song goes on to blatantly say to him “the answer is no.” She couldn’t be clearer here! Even if you argue that the rest of the song is just playful banter, this is definitely a solid no. She is insinuating that he can stop trying to talk her into it because she is saying no. It’s important that women’s right to say no is respected, and not treated as something that’s optional to listen to. The man only responds to this by repeating “baby, it’s cold outside.”
The woman follows this interaction by talking about how her family would feel. She tells him “my sister will be suspicious,” and “my brother will be there at the door.” This sounds as if she is trying to warn him that her family will know if he does anything or if she doesn’t come home. Red flag! This also raises an important question- is she of legal age to consent and be drinking? How old is he? We do not know if her family would be waiting for her to come home just because she’s visiting for the holidays or if she is young and still lives at home.
At the end of the song, he says to her, “how can you do this thing to me?” Once again, super creepy and manipulative. Then, she tells him, “there’s bound to be talk tomorrow,” and he responds by saying “think of my life long sorrow if you caught pneumonia and died.” With this, he is trying to once again manipulate her into staying by using scare tactics. Not only that, but he’s making it about him! He’s basically saying that if she died it would be terrible not because she, you know, died, but because he would be sad about it. This song really reinforces the idea that men are supposed to be in charge, and that women are just supposed to do what men want. We have come a long way from this as a society, but we still have a way to go. And this song is not helping.
In summary, let’s please just quit with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” We have progressed to the point where we have a society that is nearing equality for men and women (comparatively speaking), and this date rape song has no part in our modern culture. If you want to see this song changed around a bit to demonstrate proper consent, check out this video on YouTube!