Why I’m Fine With the Song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

I’m a feminist and I’m fine with the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and here’s why:

(And please note that I’m only analyzing the song as it was intended — as in, which part was female and which was for the male. Switch it around, and it no longer fits in its original historical context. I am also assuming that the characters are at least 18 years old, which seems likely.)

I understand that the song was written in 1944 and thus has some social context that doesn’t really fit in with today’s social interactions anymore. I mean, thank goodness that we live in a culture now where it’s okay and normal for a woman to be alone with a man.

I don’t get a date-rapey vibe from the song because it is clear to me that the woman wants to stay and spend some intimate time with this guy. She’s just playing a game. And, yes, it is annoying for women to play games like that. But at that time in history, it was pretty much necessary for her to keep her reputation intact.

She is only playing the game because of the outside pressures that society is placing on her. I don’t have a problem with this song, I have a problem with misogynistic sex-discrimination against women in the 1940s… but it’s 2016 and we’re (mostly) beyond that now, right?

Today, if a woman was planning on spending an evening with a charming guy she liked, she would bring her own bottle of her fave alcohol to share and a purse full of condoms. She wouldn’t even have to tell her family, “Don’t wait up,” because she wouldn’t be so accountable to them. I believe it is a rare occasion these days for an entire family to be worrying, pacing, suspicious, and waiting at the door when a young woman goes out to drop in on her beau.

Here are some lines that I think may be commonly misunderstood:

  • “I ought to say no… at least I’m gonna say that I tried.” Spoiler alert: she really wants to say yes, but knows it wouldn’t be “proper” during this strict 1940s dating scene. Hey neighbors, why don’t you mind your own business and let a woman do what she wants?
  • “Say, what’s in this drink?” Not a rufi — you can’t taste a rufi! Probably just alcohol, people.
  • “My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious.”  Does anyone even know what a maiden aunt is? I looked it up. It’s an unmarried aunt. The point is, it’s not relevant anymore. Collins Dictionary clarified it is “old-fashioned”.
  • “You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)… But don’t you see?… There’s bound to be talk tomorrow.” This poor woman can’t do what she wants for fear of societal backlash and losing her good reputation, back in the days when a reputation was all a woman could have.
  • Think of my lifelong sorrow… If you got pneumonia and died.” Yeah, he’s playing the game, too. Oh, you’re hurtin’ me soooo much! But at least he’s still being humorous about it — i.e. he’s not serious. Neither of them are. It’s supposed to be a fun song!

I hope by now we all know that consent is an important thing. A very important thing. But I also hope that we can live in a world with some subtle nuances, where some witty tête à tête is allowed, and where there’s room for humor between the lines. I hope we can live in a world where art can just be enjoyed.

And we should take the context of the art into consideration. Because in the 1940s, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” was actually seen as empowering for women — she was having a drink with a man who wasn’t her husband, she didn’t want to be judged for her actions, and ultimately she makes her own decision. And I don’t see a problem with that.

Songs are art. Art is expression. They need not be, nor should be, public service announcements.

Feel free to enjoy that song if you like it.

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