The troubling Christmas song has been transformed into an epic consent anthem.
Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without the cheesy feel-good songs (belted out over ambient tinkling sleigh-bells, obviously). From Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas to The Pogues’ Fairytale in New York, every single one is a total tune – and it’s basically mandatory to hum along when they start playing on the radio.
However there’s one Christmas hit that has always made us feel deeply troubled. And we are, of course, talking about Baby, It’s Cold Outside.
Originally featured in Neptune’s Daughter, the call-and-response song has been covered countless times by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Doris Day, Tom Jones and Cerys Matthews, Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell, and Idina Menzel and Michael Buble.
Every single time, the woman in the duet insists that it’s time to go home, that she doesn’t want to spend the night, and that she’s worried someone has slipped something strange into her drink.
And, every single time, the man pressures her into staying, telling her that, if she leaves, she’ll be “hurting my pride”.
In short, it’s a song that dazzles us with nostalgia – but it hails from a period where rape culture was, horrifyingly, the norm. Cue a not-so-festive ditty about sexual coercion, sexist double standards, and implied date rape.
Thankfully, though, that has all changed, thanks to two Minnesota musicians.
Working together, the duo have revamped the outdated ballad for the 21st century.
Released in 2016, Lydia Liza and Josiah Lemanski’s refreshing twist on Baby, it’s Cold Outside opens, as it does in the original, with Lydia singing that she has “got to get home”.
But, rather than pressuring her to stay, Josiah responds with a simple “baby, I’m fine with that”.
Throughout the song, he continues to share such gems as: “I’m hoping you get home safe”, “do you know how to get home from here?”, and “You reserve the right to say no.”
Gone is the predatory nature of the original song lyrics – not to mention the threat of impending sexual assault. Instead, we are given a wonderful love song, which reminds us that two people can have a lovely time together, that consent must always be sought before a sexual encounter, and that respecting one another’s boundaries is key to true romance.
The song remains available on YouTube for all to hear – and we have a feeling it could be set to become the ultimate Christmas classic (all together now? Baby, I’m cool with that).
However, it is worth noting that there are those who have spoken out in defence of the original tune, insisting that it is not as creepy as it may first appear.
Baby, It’s Cold Outside – the original lyrics
I really can’t stay (but baby, it’s cold outside)
I’ve got to go away (but baby, it’s cold outside)
This evening has been (been hoping that you’d drop in)
So very nice (I’ll hold your hands, they’re just like ice)
My mother will start to worry (beautiful what’s your hurry?)
My father will be pacing the floor (listen to the fireplace roar)
So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry)
But maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)
The neighbors might think (baby, it’s bad out there)
Say what’s in this drink? (no cabs to be had out there)
I wish I knew how (your eyes are like starlight now)
To break this spell (i’ll take your hat, your hair looks swell)
I ought to say, no, no, no sir (mind if I move in closer?)
At least I’m gonna say that I tried (what’s the sense in hurtin’ my pride?)
I really can’t stay (oh baby don’t hold out)
But baby, it’s cold outside
I simply must go (but baby, it’s cold outside)
The answer is no (but baby, it’s cold outside)
Your welcome has been (how lucky that you dropped in)
So nice and warm (look out the window at this dawn)
My sister will be suspicious (gosh your lips look delicious)
My brother will be there at the door (waves upon the tropical shore)
My maiden aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)
I’ve gotta get home(but baby, you’d freeze out there)
Say lend me a coat(it’s up to your knees out there)
You’ve really been grand (I thrill when you touch my hand)
But don’t you see? (how can you do this thing to me?)
There’s bound to be talk tomorrow (think of my lifelong sorrow)
At least there will be plenty implied (if you got pnuemonia and died)
I really can’t stay (get over that old out)
Baby, it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside
Indeed, according to Kirsty Walker, Baby, Its Cold Outside was “what passed for a feminist anthem in the Forties”.
Commenting on the line ‘Say, what’s in this drink?’, Walker explains that this was a “common joke phrase used [in the Forties] when someone had done something that they thought they shouldn’t have, because of alcohol. The joke is that the drink was to blame when actually, there was nothing in the drink at all.”
She continues: “Contemporary audiences would have been in on the joke that, actually, the woman wants to stay as much as the man wants her too, but she couldn’t possibly accept because she has to give an air of respectability. When someone offers you another pint and you roll your eyes dramatically and say ‘Well go on then, you’ve twisted my arm!’ you are not genuinely suggesting any coercion and you’d be pretty gutted not to receive a drink. We all understand this because of the context of the statement, and so did people who listened to the song for decades.”