Baby, It’s Not as Bad as Other Songs

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.

Enti­tle­ment much?

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.