Now that it’s almost Christmas, it’s time again for feminists to gather ‘round the fireplace, watching the bras snapping in the hearth, and suck all the joy out of Christmas songs. Their favorite classic ditty to pick to pieces — until you can’t even listen to your playlists in peace because of the constant whine that seems to emanate from your speakers (or it may just be from your college-aged daughter home for the holidays) — is, of course, Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
Every year, it seems, articles crop up suggesting that this particular holiday favorite ought to be retired (whatever that means) because it promotes “rape culture” (whatever that means, I’m still not totally sure). This year, USA Today asks, “Is this the year we finally retire Baby, It’s Cold Outside?” Um, no.
There are two schools of (stupid) thought about this song. One is that the woman is obviously trying to get the heck out of there and the dude is creepily forcing her to stay. “In those situations,” the USA Today article opines, “it doesn’t matter how it began or why she wants to leave, it only matters that she wants to go, now.” Which would be true, if that was what the song was actually about. Perhaps the USA Today author has confused Baby It’s Cold Outside with that lesser-known holiday classic, Baby, I’ve Locked All the Windows and Doors and Want to Show You My Torture Chamber.
The other school of thought actually seems to understand what the song is about, but still hates it anyway. “She’s having a really good time, and she wants to stay,” explains a Tumblr post from 2016, but she’s worried about how it will look if she spends the night. But this means it’s apparently “one of the best illustrations of rape culture that pop culture has ever produced.” Whoa. “It’s a song about a society where women aren’t allowed to say yes…which happens to mean it’s also a society where women don’t have a clear and unambiguous way to say no.” So… she wants to stay and he wants her to stay but it’s still bad because she might not want to stay at some other made-up time? Insert eye roll here.
Okay, so first of all, let’s all be clear about something: the dude and the girl in this song are into each other. I mean, really into each other. Like, there better be a fade to black pretty quick here or we’re gonna see more than we bargained for into each other. She wants him, just as much as he wants her. “I wish I knew how to break this spell,” she tells him. She knows it’s risky to stay but she can’t help it. “Well, maybe just a cigarette more,” she decides. She’s looking for excuses to stay, even as she talks about excuses for why she has to leave. Anyone who listens to this song and thinks she’s actually trying to get out of this situation is an idiot.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside was written in 1944. An unmarried woman spending the night with an unmarried man would have been seen as scandalous. The author of the Tumblr post wants us to believe that it’s oppressive for a woman’s sexual desires to be held in check by societal rules meant to protect her from becoming pregnant by a guy who might not stick around. It would be less oppressive, apparently, if they just slept together, consequences be damned.
This idiotic video made the rounds last year, in which two musicians changed the lyrics of the song to highlight “consent.” She’s basically like, “I really must go” and he’s like, “I’m fine with that.” And that would be okay (aside from the fact that that’s a stupid idea for a song) except that’s not what’s going on in the song. It’s true that no means no if what she’s saying is, “No, I’m really not into you, go away,” but she isn’t saying that. The reason the song is so powerful is because it’s about the woman’s inner tension: she thinks she should go because she wants to protect her reputation, but she really wants to stay.
The seductive interplay that’s going on in this song happens because we all know (and by all I mean rational human beings and therefore excluding modern-day feminists) that men’s sexual drives are stronger than women’s. And because a woman has more at stake, what with pregnancy and all, she can’t just sleep with whoever she feels like, even if she does feel like it. In that sense, she’s powerful. She holds the cards. And she’s making him wait.
Look, we don’t know who these two people are (because it’s a song for crying out loud and why are we still talking about this?) but this girl is someone who cares about her reputation and won’t be sleeping with just anyone. So clearly she really likes this guy for whatever reason since she’s already been making out with him for a while (that’s what we’re supposed to get from the whole “lend me your comb” thing). And he, well, what’s he doing to try to get her into bed? He’s telling her that her eyes are like starlight and asking if he can move in closer. If that makes you scream “rapist” but you’re fine with hooking up with some random guy you met on Tinder who asked you your cup size, you have a serious problem.
I’ll tell you what: how about this is the year we stop talking about this song? Just let these two nice people be. They’re clearly adults in a consensual relationship. Let’s leave them alone. Ooh! How about this is the year we “retire” Feliz Navidad! That song sucks.