Christmas radio stations have tall orders to meet, filling 24 hours a day with purely Christmas content for an entire month. Some even start in November. They play obscure songs and repeat classics more times than you can count.
But a radio station in Cleveland, Star 102, WDOK-FM, has cut one popular holiday song from its programming. The station will not play “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” this season, a song which has fallen under scrutiny in recent years for promoting rape culture. More stations should follow their lead.
When one takes a closer look at the lyrics, they are undeniably troublesome. With lines like “Say what’s in this drink,” “The answer is no” and “At least I’m gonna say that I tried,” the song trivializes some of the most basic principles of consent.
Of course, this song was written in 1944, when the standards for what is acceptable to portray in pop culture were quite different. A song with sexist undertones probably did not turn any heads.
It is also important to note the way the implications behind the song can change as well. In 1944, when female sexuality was still quite guarded and repressed by the media, the song was most likely read as a tongue-in-cheek example of a woman trying to express her desire to sleep with a man without outright stating it.
Whatever the true intentions of the song were meant to be, it does not change the fact that the lyrics express sentiments of rape culture almost exactly.
When these attitudes are found in pop culture, they spread. Whether or not we’re conscious of it, we internalize aspects of the media we consume. So when we listen to this song, this way of thinking about consent is normalized in our minds.
Even if we recognize it and it upsets us, this mindset becomes closer to normal in our heads.
In the age of the #MeToo movement, this song is no longer greeted with the enthusiasm it once was. Banning the song avoids the risk of offending and puts Star 102, WDOK-FM at the head of the curve, as others are likely to follow suit in the coming years.
But some are upset by the station’s decision to refrain from playing the song. They deem it "politically correct culture" gone too far — just another example of people being eager to be offended. A quick Twitter search for the song shows all kinds of angry responses.
This mindset is incredibly disrespectful to survivors of sexual assault. To suggest that someone ought to continue to hear a song that romanticizes this predatory dynamic and could be potentially triggering is impudent.
Furthermore, it promotes a culture wherein ignoring “no” and trying to convince others is seen as acceptable, even cute behavior.
Impressionable children listen to Christmas music, and if they grow up with the idea that this is acceptable, the results are more problematic than any sort of cultural preservation this song could be worth.
While the song may have been a staple of Christmas pop culture, things change. Culture changes. Everything we consider unacceptable in our culture was fine until we decided that it wasn’t. Now is the time to decide that “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” isn’t.
The station’s choice is a statement. It’s one that stands with survivors, that hears their voices, and says, “We are with you.”
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