As my third favorite holiday comes around (Fourth of July and Halloween are obviously first and second), the age-old debate of whether or not “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” should be played on the radio has arisen once again. The explicitly creepy lyrics of “Say, what’s in this drink?” and “Ah, you’re very pushy you know?” are clearly alarming to many. For years I resisted singing along with Dean Martin’s beautiful voice out of protest.
However, everything changed one insomnia-fueled night when I began to research the true meaning behind what appeared to be a perverted jingle.
Taking into account that the original song was written in 1944, expectations for women were entirely different than in the present-day. During this time, it was extremely frowned upon for an unmarried woman to spend the night with a man. The female voice even states that “There’s bound to be talk tomorrow.” The fear of society’s opinion makes her hesitant to stay the night until eventually she decides “Okay fine, just another drink then.”
Was the male voice in the song just being a pushy prick? In accordance with the era, he was, in fact, offering the woman an excuse for her to do as she pleases without the guilt of societal judgment. She explains how various members of her family would disprove of her staying, but “maybe just a cigarette more.”
Let’s be honest; society hates that women have, want, and need sex. This was particularly true in the 1940s when women had received the right to vote only 20 years before. By using the excuse of it being too cold outside, the woman in the song is taking control of her body away from society. She is breaking all expected norms, and is “at least … gonna say that [she] tried.”
However, the biggest issue most opposers have with the song is when the woman says, “Say, what’s in this drink?” At the time the song was written, this line was commonly used in the media. It implied that an alcoholic drink would make someone act in a way they normally wouldn’t while sober. It did not mean that the drink had been spiked, it was simply a common excuse for someone to act upon their impulses without criticism. It’s like when your friend acts drunker than they actually are in order to dance-floor make out with their block crush.
So yes, the lyrics are disturbing at first glance. However, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a feminist anthem of a woman saying screw society, giving in to her own desires, and cozying up next to her man with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
At last, I can sing along in peace.