'Baby, It's Cold Outside' And The Tricky Task Of Being On The Right Side Of History

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Being On The Right Side Of History
Self, Health And Wellness

Quick confession: I don't like Christmas music. Sonically, it's like driving tiny tacks into my earholes. I appreciate the musicality of, say, a Mannheim Steamroller. And while it's not exactly an every household thing, I like “Fairytale Of New York” from The Pogues. Otherwise, the whole genre can go micturate into a ceiling fan for all I care. 

People seem to be up in arms about the holiday mainstay “Baby, It's Cold Outside.”

Those against it — presumably they have never heard 2 Live Crew — declare it a singular rape culture anthem about sexual assault. And those for it — likely also have not heard a 2 Live Crew song — mostly say, “shut up, you snowflake!” But there's another nuanced approach to the context of the song. 


RELATED: The Actual Definitions Of Sexual Abuse & Sexual Harassment For People Who Think The Rules Have Changed


An essay for Persephone Magazine (which has likely been thought of independently elsewhere) argues that “Baby, It's Cold Outside” is much, much less about a dude trying to emotionally cudgel a lady into having sex with him and more of a team-up between the two to skate around sexually conservative social mores of the 1930s.

The author, who is either operating under a pseudonym or has the raddest parents ever by virtue that her name is Slay Belle, goes on to explain that the phrase “what's in this drink?” was a pre-excuse in that era to cover for uncharacteristic and socially “abhorrent” behavior. 

Reading between the lines a bit (always a dicey proposition) but literally reading the comments, the most objectionable part of the song is the persistent (and species-long) burden of women have of being the sexual gatekeeper.

People much smarter than me have explored this much more succinctly, but maybe the lesson should be expectations (sexually speaking) of society often not having the best interests of the individual (particularly women in this case) in mind. That lesson of the song is probably just about as true as it was infinity years ago. 

Again, I don't care for Christmas music, or Jazz if I'm being perfectly honest, but like all sociological artifacts, it is a fantastic clue with which to at least measure ourselves with and realize that trying to be on the right side of history is completely impossible. 

I hope we don't swing too far into the pedantic nature of morals vs. ethics (what you think is right vs. what society says is right), but in some cases, you just had to be there. History and our understanding of it are fickle at best. Most cultures claim to value harmony over killing, yet virtually every society's history is characterized by the conflicts it found itself winning or losing.

Painfully, most groups make a big show of protecting women yet by today's definition, 100 percent of us are the progeny of sexual assault. Our ancestors endured and committed countless acts of depravity that deserve condemnation but our biggest takeaway from history class should be the promise to be better. 


RELATED: 10 Christmas Songs That Are Actually Creepy As Hell


It's not in the same ballpark as sexual violence; however, my sister thinks that in 30 years, us conscientious liberals will be as disgusted by live Christmas trees (you're uprooting a perfectly viable plant so you can force your kids to engage in a consumerist myth?) as we are people who litter. Asking the guy at Trader Joe's for plastic grocery bags may look like killing bison just for their pelts to our descendants.

In 50 years, we may have collectively sued all of the major music labels into oblivion because every song kinda does sound like something else. In 100 years, we may have built a thriving colony on Mars but are already “kinda over it.”

As quickly as our understanding of the physical world is growing, in 200 years, a genius like Neil DeGrasse Tyson with his current astrophysics knowledge would likely be too ignorant to teach middle school science. In 300 years, we may have evolved into a post-scarcity economy with the downside of all being depressed. In 500 years, we may have developed telepathy but immediately turned it off as hearing people think “this sucks” constantly was driving us insane.

In 600 years, solar power receptors may be collecting so much energy that's supposed to be warming the Earth that we usher in a new ice age. In 700 years, we may have genetically engineered our flatulence to smell less like McDonalds and more like Chick-fil-A. 

Because I make eye contact and smile at strangers on the subway, assume every dog I'm meeting for the first time is male, and am militant about refilling the Brita, I may go down as history's greatest villain. But I like cold water and the ice produced by my ice-maker tastes weird funny, not "haha" funny. Every generation lives at the end of history.

We think our problems are far less quaint than our predecessors. In general, judging the past in today's context is fun because it's easy. And jokes aside, it's important to contrast history to the contemporary world, but there's an exceptional value in understanding a thing for what it was when it happened.  

That said, feel free to turn off “Baby It's Cold Outside” when it comes on or petition your local radio station to stop playing it, or do like I do and pretend it's a little game that the last man and woman on earth play after a zombie apocalypse. Maybe if we'd come up with more than “Last Christmas” and “All I Want For Christmas Is You” in the last 40 years, we'd have a few other holiday music choices that aren't so polarizing. 


RELATED: Genius Duo Rewrites 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' To Make It Not Rape-y

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Tom Miller is a writer and performer based in New York. He's been a mechanical engineer and a banker. He's been the general manager and coordinating video producer at YourTango for 12 years. He's probably listening to Bryan Adams' "(Everything I Do) I Do It For You" as we speak.