OPINION: Baby, it’s (no longer) cold outside

Olivia Eastly

Star 102 radio (WDOK-FM) calls itself “Cleveland’s Christmas station,” but some Ohio residents are angry the station removed one Christmas song from its playlists. I remember growing up and listening to “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” and I never really thought it was different from any other holiday songs.

Since coming to college, once the holiday season comes around, I’ve seen news outlets publish op-eds about the potentially troubling messages in the song. Star 102 is the first station I’ve heard of that took such a firm stand against playing the song.

I’ll admit, I was excited at first. Here was a media outlet that wasn’t just talking about how problematic the messages in the song were — it was actually doing something about it. As I sat in my room doing homework and listening to classic Christmas songs, I started to regret my knee-jerk reaction.

If you break down the song, it’s about a man and a woman who have spent an evening together. The woman decides she has to leave, and the man tries to convince her to stay. It’s pretty simple. The man is oddly persistent about the woman staying, and there’s an insinuation he may have put something in her drink.

But is that really what’s going on? Originally penned in 1944, the song is a reflection of more conservative times. So let’s think about an alternative story for the song.

A woman comes over to a man’s house and is having a grand time. Maybe they’ve been seeing each other for a while, or maybe they were considering a one-night stand. Either way, it would be extremely taboo for the woman to make the walk of shame in the morning.

She would be criticized by neighbors and relatives and probably told that no one would ever want to marry her, no matter what happened the night before. The very idea that a woman could choose to spend the night at a man’s home in 1944 was scandalous.

Let’s say our female protagonist is very progressive for her time. She’s comfortable in her sexuality and is attracted to her male counterpart. Maybe she wants to stay, but is scared of the societal judgement that is sure to greet her the next day.

Maybe she’s really worried about what people will say about her. We can’t really know for sure. The song was written in a very different time. People had different values. Women get slut-shamed in 2018, but imagine what it was like 74 years ago.

We don’t know if the woman was in a bad situation. It’s possible she’s making excuses to make herself feel better about staying. Maybe she isn’t making excuses, but she has a very low tolerance for alcohol. The only person that really knows the context is Frank Loesser, the songwriter of the now-infamous tune. No one else knows the intentions behind the song. We can speculate and theorize all we want, but it will inevitably cause more anxiety and tension than is necessary over a song.

Values change over time. I’m a very progressive woman who isn’t afraid to call herself a feminist. However, I have to admit maybe people in today’s society are so eager to do the right thing that they jump to conclusions. I understand the argument of date-rape survivors who may feel unsettled by the song. I’m not saying it’s the best Christmas song of all time or anything like that. But sometimes we can all be guilty of reading into things and blowing the simplest things, like Christmas songs, out of proportion.

Olivia Eastly is the digital director. Contact her at [email protected].