An Ohio radio station’s decision to not broadcast Christmas classic Baby, It’s Cold Outside this holiday season has prompted a debate between some who argue that the song describes sexual coercion, and others who perceive it as a kitschy commentary on how women are prohibited by society from being honest about their sexual desires. While controversy over the 1944 song has become almost as traditional as the holidays themselves, Glenn Anderson, a midday DJ for Cleveland’s WDOK-FM radio station, took things a step further last week when he declared that the song “has no place” in a post-#MeToo era.
“Now, I do realize that when the song was written in 1944, it was a different time, but now while reading it, it seems very manipulative and wrong,” said Anderson in a blog post explaining why the station would no longer broadcast the tune. “The world we live in is extra sensitive now, and people get easily offended, but in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place.” Critics of the song have also said they were made uncomfortable by lyrics such as “What’s in this drink?” which some took as a tacit reference to the use of date-rape drugs.
But in an article for Variety, journalist Chris Willman argued that while male “program directors and DJs at radio stations” might find the song offensive, “actual dyed-in-the-wool, talking-about-this-stuff-everyday [feminists]” did not. The duet does feature a man trying to convince a woman to stay at his house — ostensibly due to cold weather — but Willman says that the woman’s seeming protestations are not meant to signal her lack of interest, but rather her fear of being judged too eager for sex by her parents, family, and society.
“The most critical word in the whole piece is ‘ought,’ as in, ‘I ought to say no, no, no sir,’” wrote Willman, quoting lyrics from the female part of the duet. “She isn’t trying to fend off advances — she is mouthing excuses so she can ‘at least… say that I tried.’ He won’t face judgment sneaking home, whereas she can tick off at least three family members who’ll notice when she sneaks in after hours.”
Many feminists, he noted, have defended the song as being “about the desires even good girls have.” To quote comedian Jen Kirkman: “The song seems odd now not cuz it’s about coercing sex but about a woman who knows her reputation is ruined if she stays… The song has a lot to teach us about how society views women’s sexuality. But the lesson of this song is NOT that it’s about forcing a woman into sex. If you want to be outraged, be outraged about what the song is actually about — the double standard in regards to sex that women face and how nothing much has changed. And then enjoy the song. It’s a delight.”
Even Gayle King weighed in on the growing controversy on Thursday’s edition of CBS This Morning, saying that the mounting backlash to the song’s lyrics shows Americans are “losing our sense of humor.”
King continued, “It’s a Christmas song that was written years ago, and you have to look at the intent of the song. And when you look at the intent of the song, to me, it’s a very flirtatious back-and-forth between the two of them. I think you can look at anything and read something in to it these days. I just don’t think that was the case when they wrote that song.”
The radio station's poll whether to put "Baby It's Cold Outside" back on the air runs through Monday and at last check, the votes were running more than 90% in the song's favor. pic.twitter.com/cGvbqADA83
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) December 6, 2018
With all of that considered, we ask you Women in the World reader, what you think about the embattled tune. Is “Baby It’s Cold Outside” a subversive feminist anthem? Should it be banished for eternity? Or is it just a silly song that doesn’t trigger a strong opinion in you one way or the other? Vote in our poll below and let us know what you think.
???? Some radio stations have banned a classic Christmas song that was written in 1944, sparking a fierce debate over its lyrics. Where do you stand on 'Baby It's Cold Outside'? https://t.co/RRqEMMCCXU
— Women in the World (@WomenintheWorld) December 7, 2018