‘Baby it’s cold outside’ – is it sexist or empowering?

I’ve always been a massive Christmas fan, but this year I’ve been more impatient than ever before – I was totally watching my first Christmas film the moment Halloween finished. (it was the Office Christmas Party, if you’re wondering) So, yes, I’m one of those.

My guilty pleasure

I think my two weak spots (except for the adverts, as I’m a massive ad geek) are the lights and the music. Soon as the evening streets are lit up in colours and shops get the festive sounds on, I’m feeling my vibes. Don’t you worry, though, I haven’t got Buble and Mariah Carey on just yet, and I’m quite behind some people when it comes to Christmas decorations. So as beautiful as I think Christmas is, I usually don’t go too crazy too soon.. probably because it’s not socially acceptable, but whatever. When I do get started though, I can tell you that the Christmas music does not stop.

And then we have this yearly debate on THE BEST Christmas song there ever has been. It’s strange that, at least Twitter-wise, ‘Fairytale of New York’ always wins, seen as it’s not even a festive track. No one dares to argue though, because people are just that passionate about that song. Plus, it’s not like I don’t love it myself, I have to admit. But, my favourite song has actually become a different one, in the recent years at least. My Christmas charts are topped by ‘Baby it’s cold outside’ – especially Michael Buble’s and Idina Menzel’s recent version.

I’ve always found it so sweet, flirty and sexual in a very innocent way. So, of course it immediately grabbed my attention when I saw this Buzzfeed article about it earlier:

Screen Shot 2017-11-29 at 23.51.41

Do give it a read before carrying on, as my take on it could easily be subjective.

I got confused, because I had no idea there even was a debate like this in the first place, which is not like me at all. Turns out there has been a huge problem with the song for a long time, creating a huge divide in opinions and resulting in many people completely opposing the song being used at Christmas. Once I read through the tweets that Buzzfeed pulled up, it all started to make sense. And I felt ashamed for not having seen it before.. why didn’t I?

How have I missed this?

Well, the article at first points out how there has been an argument between a feminist outlook on the song, describing how it encourages and romanticises rape culture, and people who disagree, as it’s just a playful song. Personally, I’d hate to think about anything that way, as ignorance over potential problems has never got us anywhere, even if you believe that sexism doesn’t exist (do you?). I especially found that I agreed with these opposing opinions, because it picks up on the misunderstanding of consent that we still have in the current age.

But, the main point of the article is that now there has been a third opinion – a defence of the song, but also from a feminist point of view. The person explains it as story about a woman who is trying to break out of the society norms they had at the time, where there was a huge stigma around women openly expressing their sexual desires. The point is argued very effectively, by using quotes of the song to support that it is clear that the woman in the story is trying to tell us that she is interested and even desires this man.

However, she keeps saying that she must say no, because that’s the right thing to do – what would people say, after all? This person also explains how the part in the song that talks about alcohol in her drink (where it could seem like she is being drugged by the man) is actually the opposite of what it means when looked in terms of the context. It is believed that the women used the saying ‘what’s in this drink?’ at the time as a joke or excuse for not acting like the ‘good girl’ image expected from them by the society.

Is it sexist or not then?

I think this theory makes a lot of sense, not just because the quotes said in the song genuinely support it, but also because it proves why I never seemed bothered by the lyrics, as someone who’s usually sensitive to sexist remarks. Well, yes, it could be that the song romanticises and covers it up well enough for me to fall for it, the same way many other sexist myths do in the popular culture.

However, the main reason why I’ve always liked it has been because of the chemistry that is felt between the two characters in the lyrics and the innocent flirting, as if they’re trying not to admit to the insane attraction between them. It seems that I did originally get the vibe that this person is talking about, and because of that, I never thought about it deep enough to make this point in the first place.

What I think is so important enough to write an entire post about it though, is that this is an amazing example of how the same point of view can provide different approaches and create completely opposite opinions. In this case, it’s the feminism point of view – both cases present convincing points, one as to why the song is simply sexist, and the other as to why it’s the opposite – it presents the true struggle of a woman’s sexual desires in a sexist society.

The bigger picture

I like that this article shows us both of these sides, and not just because it allows for an unbiased opinion (which doesn’t often happen with articles like this). I think it’s because, I can tell for fact.. if I saw either of these sides individually on social media, I would like and share the hell out of it – whether it was the tweets opposing the song or the post defending it. Why? Because they both link to my own views and values in the same way, and they are both well made points. Without juxtaposing the two opinions with one another, each one of them can be seen as right.

And, how many people will only see one of those sides on their social media, thus convincing them to believing and fighting on its behalf? A large amount, that’s for sure. And it wouldn’t be the wrong thing, I could totally support every person, no matter what side they were on. But it brings me to my point – that it’s very easy to fall for an opinion on social media, when you don’t think about it critically and go out of your way to actually listen to both sides. It’s so important to remember that sides of a story are just like an old photograph – nothing is actually black or white, everything is just different shades of grey.

Something I’ve learnt very recently is to remind myself that there’s always another side to every story, if not multiple. You might not believe it or agree with it, but it’s very close minded to not truly consider them. Everyone has a reason to be thinking the way they do – it’s not always a good way of thinking just because they have a reason, but there’s still something that made them think this way.

I’m just as bad

Even though I’m telling you this right now, I still get caught up in these things too – especially in some strong liberal issues that I feel passionate about. Sometimes, as soon as I see a well made argument supporting my values, I immediately stand behind it and don’t consider any other side – even though that side could easily be supporting my values too, if not more than the one I’m defending. But by then, I don’t listen anymore.. and not listening to one another is humanity’s greatest mistake.

Should it matter?

However, despite what you think the song is really about, I guess it doesn’t matter that much. Something that studying English in sixth form and Media at university has taught me, is that it doesn’t necessarily matter what a text is initially about. What actually counts is the audience’s perception of what it’s about. A text could be sexist, but if we find a way to see it as empowering and feminist, it loses that power.

It doesn’t matter if ‘Baby it’s cold outside’ is showcasing lack of consent, supporting rape culture and oppressing women, if the masses can be convinced that it actually empowers us and stands up to misogyny, then that’s what it will do. It’s the audience that (often subconsciously) decides the effect of a text in the end. And I would totally encourage taking the positive feminist stance towards the song. We unfortunately won’t be able to control it being around, or at least I doubt it. We have a much bigger chance using it to spread the message of female empowerment instead, therefore nullifying the sexism in the song, if there is any.

If you think ‘Baby it’s cold outside’ is sexist, that’s fine. But it might seem that changing the way we (as a society) see it, could be much more effective than just banning it.


What are your opinions about my take on this? Which side do you take, if you support one specifically?

Do you think it matters what the initial meaning is, if the audience perceives it differently?

I would absolutely love to hear your opinions on this. Like I said – lets start listening to each other.

 

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