Baby It’s Cold Outside

I really can’t stay (Baby it’s cold outside)

I gotta go away (Baby it’s cold outside)

This evening has been (Been hoping that you’d dropped in)

So very nice (I’ll hold your hands they’re just like ice)

According to Wikipedia this song was written by Frank Loessor in 1944 to be performed by him and his wife, Lynn Garland, at Hollywood parties.  It was the norm at that time, that talented guests perform and, for a time, this became a popular final song indicating it was time to go home.

The lyrics

This duet is designed to be heard as a conversation between two people, identified as “Mouse” (usually female) and “Wolf” (usually male) on the printed score.  They are at the wolf’s home and the mouse decides it is time to leave, but the wolf flirtatiously invites the mouse to stay because it is cold outside.

The controversy

It began with a radio station in Cleveland deciding to pull the song from its Christmas rotation in response to phone calls, emails and a poll which all suggested listeners found the lyrics of this song problematic in an age of #MeToo.  Other stations in the US and Canada followed suit.  In effect, some argue that the call and response highlight aspects of rape culture:

“Even if the intentions aren’t sinister, it’s simply exhausting to be a woman in that situation,” wrote USA TODAY’s Mary Nahorniak. “In the original score, the male part is written as a ‘wolf’ and the woman as a ‘mouse’ – that speaks volumes about male predatory behavior. Many women know what it’s like to feel trapped by a man, whether emotionally or physically. In those situations, it doesn’t matter how it began or why she wants to leave, it only matters that she wants to go, now.” 

Others argue that the song should be considered from the historical context in which it was written:

“Women deserve better than lazy, intentionally uncharitable readings of half-a-century-old songs for their feminist causes. People, romance and sexuality are complex, so taking a catchy tune and highlighting the portions that sound most suspicious in 2018 is not just a stretch — it’s dishonest.”

Opportunity for conversation

Perhaps one of the advantages of this controversy is that it creates space for conversation.  What would it look like to explore the dynamics of this duet from the perspective of consent?  Is there a point at which ‘the wolf’ crosses the line?  If so, how do we know what that point is?  Who gets to decide?

When it comes to relationships there is much that is nuance.  In an era of #MeToo we are challenged to explore those nuances more deeply in order to identify the ways in which privilege and power undermine the relationship to the point in which one person becomes not a partner but a victim.  There is much that we still need to learn in this regard.  So then, how do we engage in that conversation?  We want to hear from you.

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