“Baby, It’s Cold Outside” and the Issue of Consent

A Media Analysis

I chose to analyze a song for my media source because the impact the music we listen to has on us is very important to how we perceive society’s norms of behavior, word usage, and cultural attitudes towards certain situations. During Christmas time as I was listening to my favorite Christmas song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, I found the classic lyrics to be a little troubling falling upon the ears of a more aware, college-age current self. Certain lines such as “I really can’t stay” and “Say, what’s in this drink” and “At least I’m gonna say that I tried” that were never answered by the male voice in a reassuring or respectful way bothered me a little more this time that I listened to the song. I found these lines to represent the woman as an innocent, unaware, and inferior person in comparison to representing the man in an aggressive, controlling, and manipulative way, which is gender stereotyping for both genders. As emphasized in Newsom’s film Miss Representation, word usage for men and women are very divided and label men and women in distinct categories that do not allow for fluidity or freedom of expression of personality and gender. The lyrics of this song do just that. I’ve always loved it’s playful duo-style melody, but in today’s generation where we are capable of increasing our worldview and awareness of inequality through the use of open communication and the media, some of these lines simply weren’t okay with me anymore.

I figured that someone else probably felt this way as well, so I went to the internet for guidance on how to better interpret some of the troubling words. What I found was pretty incredible--a 2016 remake of the song by a couple in Minnesota who were both equally troubled by the subliminal messages relating to consent. Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski rewrote some of the troubling lyrics of the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to present the message that consent is important. Liza was most concerned that “you never figure out if she gets to go home...you never figure out if there was something in her drink” (King). With added lines such as “Baby, I’m fine with that” and “Been hoping you get home safe” and “You reserve the right to say no”, they changed the meaning of the song to be more respectful of the woman’s desire to leave and the man’s willing acceptance of that statement (Edes; King). What’s even better is that after releasing the song, they plan to donate their earnings to their local Sexual Violence Center, the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence, and RAINN (Edes).

I think that this important change in the wording of media, a song in this case, shows that there is always the opportunity to rethink and question something that we feel uncomfortable about--even if it is something that has been accepted for many years previously. Something that was mentioned in Miss Representation that really struck me is that not everyone has access to a worldview that is aware of and bothered by inequality, whether that be social, racial, sexual, or gender inequalities, because the media does a very good job of minimizing the problems behind certain word usage and presentations of stereotypes (Newsom). Changing the lyrics to a classic song that everyone already likes the tune of is a great way to get a better, more engaging message out to the public. Liza said herself “I hope that this song gets people thinking about [sexual assault on college campuses]” (King).

Another point to make is that women and men have been presented in the media in certain ways during different generations for various reasons, so it is always important to understand the context and historical background of an issue before jumping to blame the original writer of the media source. Reading more about the original intention of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”, I found that the song was written to empower women at a time when drinking, sex, and staying over with a man was considered controversial (Edes). A better interpretation of the back and forth dialogue of the man and woman from the viewpoint of society in the 1940s is that the woman did want to stay and would give consent to staying with the man if she didn’t fear the judgments she would face--from her mother, father, sister, neighbors, etc. (Edes). It may seem that this interpretation of the song lyrics does give the woman the choice to make her own decisions, a right that wasn’t so freely given at that time in history.

In conclusion, the media is a very prevalent source in our lives that has shaped how we understand the information it presents to us and has shaped entire generational viewpoints towards certain issues. What one generation may view as sexual assault, another generation may view as liberation for a woman who feels she has no rights to her own body. Perspective and context is important in analyzing all media sources, but the power of public words and media has the capability to shape the viewpoints of many.

Works Cited

Edes, A. (2016). One more time, with consent: ‘baby it’s cold outside’ gets an update. NPR. Retrieved
            from http://www.npr.org/2016/12/20/505113526/one-more-time-with-consent-baby-its-cold

King, A. (2016). Couple rewrites ‘baby it’s cold outside’ to emphasize importance of consent. CNN.
            Retrieved from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/12/02/us/baby-its-cold-outside-cover-trnd/

Loesser, F. (Songwriter). (1949). Baby it’s cold outside [Recorded and rewritten by Lydia Liza and
            Josiah Lemanski in 2016]. On SoundCloud [webpage]. Minnesota, USA.

Newsom, J. S. (Producer & Director). (2011). Miss Representation [Motion picture]. United States.