Revising "Baby It's Cold Outside" Makes Sense To Me
The classic song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” has long been under fire for its messaging. It features a rather persistent male vocalist who repeatedly rejects a female vocalist’s discomfort and attempts to leave an encounter. He cites the harsh weather, his pride, and her beauty as reasons why she has to stay. At one point, the female vocalist even wonders what is in her drink. It’s only natural that some would take aim at a song that is ostensibly about a man pursuing a woman despite her objections in the post #metoo era; but, truth be told, I’ve heard people complaining about it for the entirety of my career as an anti-violence advocate.
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There have been quite a few covers of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” since its 1949 release and the latest is a collaboration between John Legend and Kelly Clarkson. This version reworks the lyrics and features a man who recognizes that he needs to obtain consent for his advances and who lends his assistance when the woman asks to leave. And some have heard this version and are…mad.
I’m sure that many of those who are upset view the song in a context that sees men receiving unprecedented scrutiny for their words and actions. They see the song as one more battleground to stand against political correctness run amok and to defend innocent men and their ruined reputations. Legend himself seems to shy away from accusations that he is disturbing the status quo too much by stating that his rendition is meant to be “silly” and not “preachy”. (https://thehill.com/blogs/in-the-know/in-the-know/473931-john-legend-responds-to-backlash-over-updated-baby-its-cold)
I see the song revision as part of a larger movement to find the appropriate balance between male accountability and men’s freedoms in a nation that has historically erred too far towards giving men the benefit of the doubt. If you prefer the original version, then it is still out there for consumption. There’s also still an awful lot of men out there who have faulty ideas about consent – who routinely push through the hesitations of potential partners. If a silly song on the radio gets some men thinking about their behavior when faced with a partner who might not see things the same way, then that’s a good thing in my book.