Baby It’s Cold Outside versus Several Other Songs
It’s the time of year when folks discuss the coercive nature of the Winter song, Baby It’s Cold Outside. Now, I understand the issue with this call-and-response song: Singer #1, presumably female, has to head out into the snowy night to go home. Her host, Singer #2, presumably male, comes up with all kinds of excuses as to why she should not leave. The argument is that She really wants to leave and He doesn’t respect that, and is trying to coerce her into staying against her will. Ok, I get that this is an interpretation, and understand why it is problematic. That is not the point of this post.
Here is an excellent article about the song and the evolution of consent: https://time.com/5739183/baby-its-cold-outside-consent/
Frank Loesser wrote the song for himself and his wife, Lynn Garland, to sing at a housewarming party, and the couple’s performance became a hit; they were asked to sing it at many parties after that. Loesser sold it to MGM (which Garland was pretty angry about).
I have sung Baby It’s Cold Outside with my friend Tom, accompanied by FAT Jazz. Our interpretation was always from the perspective of two consenting adults: First of all, she’s at his home in the first place, presumably because he invited her and she wanted to go (which does not imply consent to any further action, obviously). I get the sense that they’ve had dinner and a lovely evening, and now comes the moment of truth: It’s getting late, and she sorta feels like she needs to leave, she “ought to” leave, but doesn’t reallywant to… and he is giving her some really great reasons not to, trying to convince her to stay. It didn’t feel like coercion, it felt playful and fun, and the feeling was that by the end of the song she stayed because she truly wanted to, ie. “Well maybe just a half a drink more” (but she could have left if that’s what she wanted).
There are other songs I take bigger issue with.
Here are three songs with similar plotlines:
El Paso by Marty Robbins
Springtime in Alaska by Johnny Horton
Gimme Three Steps by Lynyrd Skynyrd (written by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant)
In all three songs, a guy goes into a bar and sees a beautiful woman and dances with her. Another man becomes enraged that this guy is dancing with his woman, and the guy is chased off, and in two out of the three cases, is murdered by the jealous man.
Does anybody else notice the point of view that is missing in all three cases?
Ah yes, the woman’s.
These songs dismiss the woman’s point of view entirely. It’s not that she gets to express her opinion, or defend herself, and is ignored. No, she is ignored completely, her opinion isn’t even asked for. The man’s assertion of his proprietary “rights” over her are celebrated in these songs, and I find that much more cringe-worthy than Baby It’s Cold Outside. I don’t find the notion of two men fighting over a woman “romantic” at all.
Another oldie that I look at distastefully with my modern perception is Four Little Heels, aka “the clickety-clack song” by Brian Hyland (of Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka-dot Bikini fame). I heard this for the first time just a couple of years ago, and I reacted with an “Ewww!” of epic proportions.
Here it is, for your viewing and listening pleasure:
In this song, a guy and his friend see two girls walking along the street, with their heels clicking (it’s a sensory song). The guys follow the girls and whistle at them, expecting that the girls will turn around. [Yeah, coz that’s always a great way to ingratiate yourself to a young woman]. The girls go and join two other guys, and the first two guys are “pretty mad.” [really? you have a right to be mad about that??] Then, to my horror, the young women leave those two guys and do come and join these two, who now walk along with them saying they “got” the two girls.
There are tons more examples, and maybe I’ll look at others in later posts, but these are just a few songs where I think the message to women, and the message to men aboutwomen is much more insidiously negative.