Shit we need to stop saying is sexist, part 2

Yeah, so this is going to have more than two parts.  But for now, I’ll stick with just the two.  Doing the research to write these makes me lose too much faith in humanity.

I seriously hate people, y’all.  And I’ll be completely honest with you, my patience is basically gone for today.  Like, I’ve been dangerously close to psycho-bitch mode most of the day.  So this is going to be decidedly more hostile than the last one.

Deal with it, or don’t read it.

Stupid Bullshit, part 2

‘Tis the season, motherfuckers.

I’m sure you’re all familiar with the song, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”  It’s one of my favorite songs ever, and I performed it quite often throughout my teenage and young adult years, usually with the same male partner.

Every year, someone gets a pinecone up their ass about this song.

“It’s creepy.”

“She said no, and he still pesters her without her consent.”

“It’s rapey.”

“It’s a song about drugging and sexually assaulting a woman.”

“I have no idea how or am too lazy to make use of basic internet search features, so I’m going to just spout the same bullshit everyone else spouts because I’m a sheep.”

“No one hugged me as a child.  Waa.”

whining-child

They’ve done tons of shit to try and counter the supposed “creepiness” of the song (you know, because we like being offended and Google is hard).

You’ve got the “Feminist Approved” version, titled, “Baby, It’s Consent Inside.”

I’ve listened to literally only the first four lines, and trust me, it’s not worth listening to.

Glee did a version with two males singing the parts (which, admittedly, is super fucking adorable, and the singers actually fucking understand what the song is supposed to be, and portray it with the coyness and playful-banter-type tone that was intended.  The way they interact with each other is amazing.  The “wolf” is so suave and smooth, and the “mouse” is so coy, sweet, and he completely nails that not-quite-as-timid-and-innocent-as-you’d-expect attitude that is so centrato the mouse’s role.  The whole damn point is that the mouse is more than a little wolfish, herself/himself, and the feigned innocence is part of the playfulness.  This kid fucking nailed it).

I’m serious, this version is everything the songwriter wanted the song to be.  Most attempts to modernize the song would make Frank Loesser, the writer, want to puke, but I’m convinced that, even with the homophobic culture of his time, he would’ve fucking loved this version.  It’s that good.

And I think it kinda says something when two male teenagers understand coyness better than grown ass women.

Of course, they’re teenagers, and it’s current culture, so they cut out the cigarette line (and the entire stanza containing it).  “Half a drink more” is ambiguous enough.  They could be drinking fucking lemonade. But even with cutting part of the song out, it’s fucking adorable.  Every time I watch it, I can’t help but smiling at how adorable it is.  It’s definitely worth watching.

And as a side note, it’s annoying how many Glee versions of songs are actually legitimately awesome.  I really don’t want to jump on that Glee bandwagon (particularly because I’m almost 31), but this is like the millionth Glee cover I’ve seen that has been among the best portrayals of a particular song.  God damn these fucking teenagers, they’re going to eventually make me break down and watch the damn show.  It’s fine, I’ll do a Glee/Twilight/High School Musical/Hannah Montana marathon.

And my soul will shrivel and die.

But the most absurdly laughable of all the versions are the ones in which the gender roles are switched.  Because the dumb twats who have a problem with a man “pressuring a woman into sex” have no motherfucking problem with a woman pressuring a man into sex.

First, you’ve got Miss Piggy (who is notorious for being “persistent”) and Michael Buble performing it, with the gender roles switched.  Because teaching kids that “no means no” is only applicable when the man is the aggressor.  Women can “pressure men into sex” all they want, and that’s just fine.

This is made even worse when Michael changes the lyrics from “My father will start to worry, my brother will be pacing the floor” to, “My wife will start to worry, I bet she’s just pacing the floor.”  And wanna take three guesses at Miss Piggy’s reaction when he talks about his wife?

No, but that’s okay.  She can pressure him into not just sex, but infidelity, and that’s just fine.  Nothing wrong with that.

We’re totally not hypocrites.

Then, you’ve got Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  And at least they attempt to make it look like she’s not pressuring him into anything by making him just as forward and “aggressive” as she is.  But with the words he’s singing, it just doesn’t work.

I will say, there is a version with Selma Blair and Rainn Wilson that I actually like, but that’s because they play it up to a comically ridiculous level.  They cut out all the coy lines, all of the playfulness (their version is only a minute and ten seconds long), and just turned up the creepiness to a hilarious level.  Rainn plays the somewhat awkward, timid “victim,” why Selma plays the devious vixen/predator, and they totally had fun with the ridiculous way that stupid people insist on perceiving the song.

Needless to say, this is not a sexist song.  It’s not about drugging and raping a woman.  It’s not about pressuring her into something she doesn’t want.

It’s actually hugely progressive and empowering for women (and, to a lesser extent, gender expression and combating toxic masculinity.  Yeah, even in the 40s) when taken in context.  There’s a reason it became so wildly popular, when most other holiday songs written during that time have faded into oblivion.

When you look at actual fucking facts, you discover that this is the most anti-sexist, pro-feminism song of the first fifty years (if not more) of this century.

M’kay, so let’s get some background information.

This song was written by an American author in 1944 (I’ve seen some sources say 1936).  Not surprisingly for those with common fucking sense, this song reflects many of the nuances in US culture during the 30s and 40s.

A guy from the 40s would not understand being “voted off the island,” just as most of us don’t understand “what’s in this drink?” or the significance of “Been hopin’ that you’d drop in” and “Say, lend me a coat.”  But I’ll get to that.

Feminism basically didn’t exist in the 30s.  Things like the Great Depression took priority, and while many lower class women worked, it was discouraged, and was seen as women taking jobs away from unemployed men.  And honestly, most of the women didn’t really care all that much.  Things like feeding kids when the only acceptable birth control methods were timing and pulling out, and making ends meet, and just getting through the damn day were slightly higher up on the list of shit they cared about.

Life sucked.

Then there was World War II.  It was still a time where no one really cared about feminism, but it did have a very unique effect on women in the workforce, and is regarded as planting the seeds for the rebirth of feminism.

Rosie the Riveter was created in 1943, when there was a distinct shortage of men, and women were very actively encouraged to join the workforce, in positions that were traditionally exclusive to men.  The government put out all kinds of campaigns, urging women to break through all those gender roles and fill the holes left by the men fighting the war.  It was an interesting time, seeing all the hardship and lack of resources available, and the way such things affected society.

Particularly, dating.

M’kay, so there was a shortage of men.  So dating got pretty competitive.  Magazine articles lamented the fact that millions of women who wanted to be married would be “forced to live alone.”

But it became competitive for the men, too.  Because the most popular girls, the “good girls” were in quite high demand.

Society’s limitations on a woman’s behavior were still pretty strict, as shown in this excerpt from Amy Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette (a 700-page book about how to be an acceptable member of middle-to-upper-class society).

This excerpt talks specifically about an unmarried girl going to a bachelor’s home without a chaperone.

Social conventions can do very little to protect a girl really bent on getting into difficulties. In this case, a girl not out of her teens would do better to avoid such a dinner engagement unless others, considerably more mature than she, are present. A career girl, from her twenties onward, can accept such an invitation but should not stay beyond ten or ten-thirty. An old rule and a good one is ‘Avoid the appearance of evil.’ It is still very true that men value little those girls who have no strong sense of propriety themselves.

It’s important to note that premarital sex was slowly becoming more common, but only within committed, stable relationships.  The idea of a “good girl” having premarital sex with her longtime boyfriend was somewhat stigmatized, but not nearly as much as staying at a man’s house, alone, overnight.

The term “going steady” was just becoming a thing, too.  Couples who were going steady were committed, monogamous couples in a serious relationship.  Often, this would be initiated by the man giving (or lending indefinitely) the woman an article of his clothing (jacket, ring, etc).

You’re also looking at a period where single women lived with their families until marriage.  Family was everything, and there are entire books and informative (and pretty entertaining) instructional videos on how a young man should act around his love interest’s family.  In the 50s, the opinions of friends and peers started to carry a bit more weight, but when this song was written, family was it.  Their opinions meant everything.

So let’s look at this song.  It’s a conversation between a man and a woman, both of a higher social class, involved in a steady, committed, romantic relationship.  She is at his home, without a chaperone, and it’s getting late.  Society and etiquette dictate that it’s time for her to leave.

But here’s the thing:  She doesn’t want to leave.

That’s important, I’ll say it again.

SHE DOESN’T WANT TO LEAVE.

Quite the opposite, she makes it clear numerous times that she wants to stay, and sleep over at his house, and fuck his brains out.

How do I know?  I’ll take you through it.

Let’s take a look at the 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)
Well, 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)
(Both)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 storm)

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 aunt’s mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
Well, maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)

I’ve gotta get home (but baby, you’ll 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 doubt)
(Both) Oh, but it’s cold
Baby, it’s cold outside

Make no mistake, this song is about sex.  And it’s pretty damn obvious for the time, when sex was still taboo, and just not something talked about, or even acknowledged, in polite society.

We’ll start at the top.  As it happens, she’s already broken a pretty big rule for dating at the time, because she showed up, unannounced, at his house.

Now, that’s not as creepy then as it would be now.  They didn’t have cell phones or email.  Even regular telephone conversations were often supervised by members of her family, so if they wanted privacy, they had to meet together.  And often, particularly with younger couples, that meant showing up, unannounced, at the front door.

But, traditionally it was supposed to be the man who showed up at the woman’s door.  A woman could not do something as aggressive as ask a man out, or suggest a date, or order for herself on a date (I’m not kidding), or call on a man first.  She was supposed to be sweet and submissive, and allow him to pursue her, to help him feel “like a man.”

The girl in this song said, “Fuck that noise,” and showed up at her boyfriend’s house.  It is also apparent that this is not the first time she’s done it, and it’s apparent that her boyfriend loves how forward she is about it (even though many other men at the time would be put off by such forward behavior).

This is evidenced by the line he says, twice: Been hoping that you’d drop in.

Do you guys understand what that means?  It means that he’s okay with her being the “forward” one in the relationship (at least in this situation).  It means he’s okay with her doing something that culture of the time deemed “masculine,” while his actions (waiting for her to come by, and being thrilled that she did) were deemed “feminine.”

Do you have any idea what that means?  I’ve touched on typical gender roles within relationships before, about how, even today, it’s heavily stigmatized for a man to have a more passive (deemed “feminine” by our current culture) role in sex.  A modern equivalent of this man’s attitude would be a male celebrity coming out on Twitter and saying he loves when his wife/girlfriend/Domme/whatever fucks him with a strapon.

He doesn’t just mention it in passing.  He says it twice in the song.  He says, “Hey, did y’all hear that?  I love when she does this more ‘masculine’ thing.  Did you catch that the first time?  Here, I’ll say it again.”

Also, take a look at every single one of her reasons for saying she has to leave.  I’m serious, go through the song.  Look at every reason she gives for leaving.  She never once says, or even implies, that she doesn’t want to stay the night, and do all the things “staying the night” typically involves.

Her reasons are based on society’s expectations of her, and the very strict limitations society placed on women’s behavior.  She’s worried about the repercussions of her inappropriate and socially unacceptable decision to stay.  She’s worried about her father, her mother, the neighbors, her siblings, her aunt.

It’s not a battle between her wanting to leave and him wanting her to stay.  It’s a battle in her own head between what she wants and what society expects.

Also, take a look at these two lines.

“So really I’d better scurry (beautiful please don’t hurry)
Well, maybe just a half a drink more (put some records on while I pour)”

This sentiment is repeated later in the song.

“My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
Well, maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)”

She’s being fucking coy, folks.  It’s an art that has been lost in the decades since then.  Would you like to know how these lines are supposed to be performed?  The way they were performed by the writer of the song and his wife (who sang the female part of the duet with him)?  Isn’t it lucky, I’ve performed it, and I know the answer.

In the first line of each pair, she pulls away from him.  The first time, they’re holding hands and she pulls away, and he holds onto her, begging her, “please don’t hurry.”  She looks back, grins coyly, and moves back into his embrace, saying, “Well, maybe just a half a drink more.”

The second time, they’re gazing into each other’s eyes, their lips almost touching.  She turns away as she says the first line about her aunt, and as she does, he gently reaches up to touch her face.  She, enjoying the touch and the compliment, gives another coy smile, delivers the line, “Well, maybe just a cigarette more,” and moves back to him, holding his hand against her face and reaching up to touch his.  I’ve seen a couple of performances where the woman moves back to him but stands with her back to him, suggestively moving his hand down from her face to her waist.  Of course, there are tons of interpretations.

In both instances, there’s that coy (almost sly) smile.  She is called the “mouse,” while he is called the “wolf” in the printed score, but it becomes apparent that she’s quite a bit wolfish, herself.  She’s not as innocent and timid as the first few lines might lead someone to believe.

More than that, she’s allowing him to pursue her.  Allowing him to “convince” her, even though it’s reasonable to assume she’s already made up her damn mind, and is going to stay.

But, because women made an effort to allow men to “feel like men,” and because she loves this particular man, it’s important to her to give him the impression that he’s “convinced” her to stay.

Now, the infamous “What’s in this drink” line.

M’kay, so a very popular cultural joke of the time was to ask the question, “What’s in this drink?”

This is done in a situation where someone wishes to blame out-of-character actions on alcohol.

The joke was that there was never anything in the drink, and their actions were their own.

He didn’t roofie her.  She’s being fucking coy.

This whole song is about her wanting to stay, but feeling like she can’t because of the very sexist limitations society places on her.  He offers a number of viable reasons why she can, and should, stay.

“Baby, it’s bad out there.  No cabs to be had out there.”

“Look out the window at this storm.”

“Never such a blizzard before.”

“Baby, you’ll freeze out there.  It’s up to your knees out there.”

“Think of my lifelong sorrow, if you caught pneumonia and died.”

These are all completely justifiable reasons that would excuse her inappropriate behavior in the eyes of her relatives.  Of course she shouldn’t walk home, in the middle of a blizzard, at 10:30-ish at night, by herself.  Going out in that weather, for that long, would be a risk to her health.  And if he escorted her home, the risk to her health wouldn’t diminish, and then he’d have to go all the way back, in that same storm, and endure the risk for twice as long.

No one could argue that staying is the sensible thing to do, and no one could fault her for making such a sensible decision.

I’ve heard someone take issue with the way he talks to her, doing nothing but complimenting her looks, her features.  Her eyes are like starlight, her hair looks swell, her lips are delicious.

Come the fuck on.  That’s completely normal romantic language, even for our time.  If you’re making out with your boyfriend, and he says your eyes are like stars, and he pauses kissing you long enough to tell you your lips are delicious, are you really going to be offended?

If so, you need more help than I can offer.

This is not a sexist song.  Quite the opposite, it’s a very, very progressive song, in a time where equality for women just wasn’t at the top of everyone’s list.  It’s about the sexist limitations of the time, and how one couple crashed right through those limitations, gave society the middle finger, and fucked each other senseless because that’s what they wanted to do.

It’s not surprising that this song was wildly successful.  It was so new, and different, and so many people, frustrated with the limitations and rules for etiquette, could relate to it.

A guy may have been flattered instead of put off when his girlfriend showed up to his house, but because “that’s not what men are supposed to like,” he felt alienated from his friends and unsure of his own masculinity.  Hearing this song gave him something to relate to, something that told him it’s okay to like what he likes, it doesn’t make him less of a man, and it doesn’t make the woman he loves less of a woman.

A woman may have had this exact same conversation in her head, and allowed society to be more important than her desires, and went home alone and frustrated.  Hearing this song gave her courage to tell society to fuck off and do what she wants.

That’s why this song has endured through the last 70 years.  Because it was an anthem for progressive women and progressive relationships.  It empowered women.  It was a cultural phenomenon that appealed to young women who were frustrated by all these rules they had to follow, how their reputation had to be the most important thing, how they couldn’t have the freedom to be themselves.

That’s kind of the opposite of sexism, y’all.

*Note* Some readers may have noticed the second half of this post being quite a bit less hostile than was promised.  That may have had something to do with the fact that I wrote the second half after a nice, long, thorough decimation of Sounder’s ass.  Funny how making the sissy squirm is so effective at relieving my stress.

4 thoughts on “Shit we need to stop saying is sexist, part 2

  1. It is sad when people don’t truly understand the nuance of this song. Thanks for a brilliant analysis of the playfulness of the song.

    Oh, and the Glee version is indeed incredible! MrsL was a huge fan of all things Glee and as a musician I enjoyed the performances.

  2. Thank you! These posts are a wonderful treat. I just spent three months where people were learning how to socially deconstruct shit, and don’t think anyone in the class (myself included) could have done this good a job on this song. The only question is whether I decide to forward this along to my professor… It’s tempting.

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