A solution to the “Baby It’s Cold” problem


This is the question that is dominating social media right now. Should it be banned? But that’s censorship! And then the usual free-speech babble is combined with terrible in depth, word by word analyses of the lyrics to show the interpretation is malleable, depending on the views of the analyzer. I hate it all. I hate the song.

The only fair thing to do is ban all Christmas carols. Use objective methods to measure the frequency of play of certain songs, and if they show an unusual annual peak, no matter when, they are clearly not good enough to be enjoyed except in very narrow contexts, and therefore are abominations that should be prohibited. If you don’t want to hear it in July, why do radio stations think it’s desirable to inflict them on us in December? Just kill all the mediocre music.

I’m also considering a prohibition on all media that has “cold” in the title, which seems to be a cause of serious conflict. This would have the benefit of also abolishing all those endless arguments about Tom Godwin’s “The Cold Equations”, which used to take over certain nerd conversations, once upon a time.

Comments

  1. Dunc says

    I’m also considering a prohibition on all media that has “cold” in the title

    No way, you’d lose some great Tom Waits tunes.

  2. says

    This is the question that is dominating social media right now. Should it be banned?

    I always find that phrase to be oddly revealing about the one asking it (in serious, not you PZ).
    Because there are more options than banning and playing. The obvious one is to simply agree that maybe it should be retired. The people who always talk about “banning” and “forbidden words” simply reveal that they have never understood the difference between legality with the addition of threat of sanctions and state force on one side, and morality where you do or don’t do something because you think that it is the right action on the other side.
    No one ever forbade me to use the N word. It’s not illegal. Black people explained to me why it was hurtful and racist and adding to their oppression.

  3. whywhywhy says

    I don’t mind the discussion around Baby It’s Cold Outside. From my perspective, anything that gets folks discussing and thinking about consent is good in the long run.

  4. microraptor says

    I’d be happy if I never heard “Baby It’s Cold Outside” or “Santa Baby” ever again.

  5. stevewatson says

    Some of the actual carols are fairly decent music, notwithstanding the religious lyrics. It’s these “winter songs” I can’t stand — all that cloyingly sentimental crap about chestnuts, inane ditties about sleigh bells, rhinologically mutant reindeer, and being good for Santa Claus (I generally detest that whole style of music, regardless of seasonal relevance). I will however defend the Jethro Tull Christmas album, and EL&P’s “I Believe in Father Christmas”, just for the appropriation from Prokofiev.

  6. Chris Capoccia says

    There are all kinds of songs about things you shouldn’t actually be doing in real life. There’s a whole sub-genre of murder ballads. You should be able to like a song as a catchy tune or its art without having to endorse every theme.

  7. davidc1 says

    I consider it a happy holiday if i can avoid hearing that crap tune white xmas by that crosby bloke.

  8. stark says

    The only carol I like is White Wine in the Sun by Tim Minchin. It’s references are bit aged at this point and carry some issues of their own that weren’t out there when written (Dawkin’s is in there) but is still infinitely better than any of the religious/Santa/misogynistic/thinly veiled racist tunes.

  9. Akira MacKenzie says

    The thing is I don’t really listen to too much broadcast radio anymore. When I drive or puttering around the house, I listen to my iTunes playlist on random or the latest podcast I’ve downloaded. If I have a mad desire to listen to Christmas music (which are all seasonal novelty songs) I’ll play them myself.

    As for Baby It’s Cold Outside, I could go my whole life never listening to that damn song again.

  10. says

    8 stevewatson
    That’s kind of what I came to say. Carols are not what are clogging up the radio. (Also, not all carols have anything to do with Christmas.)

    I had my own “Bah, Humbug!” moment when the Irish jam group I play with was preparing its set list for the Christmas party next week. Greg asked “Aren’t we doing ‘Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming’ this year?” I had to tell him, no, if we did that one, we wouldn’t have time for “Santa, Bubby!” and “Rudolph Got Run Over By A Truck.”

  11. Dunc says

    I will however defend the Jethro Tull Christmas album, and EL&P’s “I Believe in Father Christmas”, just for the appropriation from Prokofiev.

    Agreed. “I Believe in Father Christmas” is a bloody great song.

  12. says

    Here We Come a Bovver Boy.
    “Here we come a bovver boy among the leaves so green
    “An’ here we come wiv’ aggro to kick you in the spleen.
    “Lot’s of ale unto us, you must give or we will cuss,
    “An’ we’ll thump you and, slag you off with words that are obscene,
    “An’ we’ll shout things that a-are quite obscene.”

  13. monad says

    The solution to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” seems really simple. Don’t ban it, because censorship, and don’t play it, because no means no. The nice thing about Christmas music is that it’s one of the few cases where older music still gets air time, but there’s no requirement that every song a baby boomer heard twice must be played every year, so there’s no conflict between those things. We can just move on.

  14. robro says

    Radio isn’t the problem with playing Christmas carols or pop music. I rarely heard any of these old saws* when I listened to the radio regularly. It’s retail outlets. Ever year during December you hear these songs repeatedly when you go into retail outlets. I generally ignore their piped in music, and occasionally even get introduced to something interesting, but this winter ritual gets to me. I don’t even mind the specific songs…well except for the Bing Crosby & David Bowie TV special mashup of “Little Drummer Boy” and “Peace on Earth” done for a TV special in 1977…but it’s listening to any of them several times in an hour.

    Actually, there are new pop Christmas songs every year, but they aren’t any better…instant pablum played repeatedly. It’s my understanding that most recording contracts for musicians include a requirement to produce a Christmas album because they sell. For example, per Wikipedia Bowie’s release in 1982 of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” with Crosby was one of his best selling singles with over 400K sold in the UK alone.

  15. says

    Good point about retail. Restaurants too.

    Not a holiday tale, but I once asked a young woman at the cash register at a Friendly’s how she felt about the continual playing of songs from the late 50s–early 60s where she couldn’t get away from it. “It’s not so bad,” she said, bravely. I didn’t press her on it, but I did ask how long the loop was: one hour. However long your shift is in hours, that’s how many times you hear the same Fats Domino or Buddy Holly tune.

    Even if I happened to love every one of the songs on there going in, I am not sure how long I’d be able to endure it. And I will just about bet that in any such group of songs, there will be at least one that I hate.

    Now multiply that by Christmas.

  16. says

    Lyke X

    So, am I the only one who sings Christmas tunes throughout the year?

    No.
    I mean, people can be as grumpy and Grinch-y and Scrooge-y as they want about Christmas and Christmas music, but it would do good if some people realised how snobbish they sound about some people enjoying some silly christmas music.

  17. Holms says

    Dear god, there are still people complaining about this song? The only thing wrong with it is that it is musically unexciting, at least to me.

    #16
    …What? I must have missed something.

  18. consciousness razor says

    Use objective methods to measure the frequency of play of certain songs, and if they show an unusual annual peak, no matter when, they are clearly not good enough to be enjoyed except in very narrow contexts, and therefore are abominations that should be prohibited.

    We should be testing for whether people to listen to crap every other day of the year as well. If you take Sturgeon’s law for granted, then you can predict how that will turn out. Another test may be to translate an unfamiliar song in a foreign language (or arrange it as an instrumental), to get a sense of whether they’re only listening to the meanings of words and/or don’t know how to listen to anything else. Really, if it’s only one month out of twelve for certain people, I’d say they’re doing alright…. Maybe they should still get a vote, although that may tilt things in favor of seasonal favorites like Christmas music in December or patriotic songs in June/July.
    But it doesn’t make much difference to our musical culture if the choice is between this specific piece of garbage or any other garbage, which is how it will go, if you think radio/streaming frequencies tell us anything about what’s “good enough to be enjoyed” and what’s not. Imagine that you suddenly noticed there was a weird tradition of kids eating tons of candy at Halloween…. Yeah, no shit they do, but their eating habits typically aren’t very good anyway, you know? So they’re not a good group to ask, if you actually wanted some kind of guidance on proper nutrition. And it would be pretty absurd to think it matters that this particular candy has ghosts printed on the packaging, is shaped like a pumpkin, or is more popular at a certain time of the year. (What, you’ve never heard of seasonal foods?) So don’t even bring it up. And if in the end you’re going to say something like “well how about that, our data indicates that kids eat frozen corndogs with ketchup year-round, which means it’s good, while Halloween candy is definitely bad,” then I really don’t know how the fuck you got from A to B.

  19. says

    As far as I’m concerned, Christmas music starts with “The Nutcracker Suite” and end with the soundtrack to “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Tchaikovski and Guaraldi are enough for me

  20. says

    Of late, the most-appropriate xmas music — celebrating the nonsense we’ve been saddled with by pockets of real ‘murikans — has been either Weird Al Yankovic’s “Christmas at Ground Zero” or the indispensible 1966 classic “[You’re a Mean One] Mr. Grinch.” Come to think of it, I know of a DC figure more commonly compared to a turtle who looks just like the Grinch… but that’s an unfair comparison; the Grinch was a great guy until his sudden (and ultimately fatal off-camera) episode of hypercardia.

  21. KG says

    it would do good if some people realised how snobbish they sound about some people enjoying some silly christmas music – Giliell@21

    I really couldn’t care less if you or anyone else thinks I sound “snobbish” when I complain about the nauseating “musical” garbage constantly spewed at me in shops, pubs, restaurants and the fucking public street for getting on for two months every year.

  22. says

    This winter, I am listening to noise rock, and drone, same as the previous month. TBH I don’t understand how other people feel so entitled to have the music they enjoy being played in public spaces, because their musical taste is just that good. I like to think my taste in music is good too, but I still don’t demand that other people endure it.

  23. robro says

    Kip T. W. @ #20 — I’ve occasionally asked the good workers at my favorite public hang out how they stand the holiday music loop. Generally, they say that they don’t even hear it. That would be a blessing. (Actually this is true any time of year, particularly when the store gets into the Frank Sinatra/Dean Martin/Tony Bennet phase. I don’t mind a song or two like that, but an hour or two every time I stop by for weeks gets a bit much.)

    Giliel @ #21 — Which is why I think the emphasis shouldn’t be on the music per se, but the use of it to create a phony “holiday” spirit in public places to get customers to spend more. Bah humbug to that.

  24. Zmidponk says

    The thing is, the only time I heard anyone saying anything about ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ is one or two friends of mine mentioning, in a pretty joking manner, about how it’s ‘the rapey Christmas song again’ (in much the same vein as ‘Every Breath You Take’ sounds like it’s being sung by a stalker) – followed by a fairly large tsunami of people on the internet frothing about how the ESSS JAY DOUBLE YOOOS ARE CENSORING THIS SONG, which, ironically, actually caused people in radio stations and suchlike to take notice and conclude that, perhaps, it’s best not to play it, given #MeToo, and similar things. Lately, there seems to be a tendency to claim that some of the rapey sounding lines are actually ways that women in the 40s sought excuses to exercise their own sexual agency – in other words, that they indicate that the woman actually wants to have sex with the man, and is just looking for an excuse that covers her for doing so. However, the only evidence of this that seems to get offered is references to other people claiming this without providing anything to actually back it up.

  25. octopod says

    Ban the one season per year when regular non-professional people still sing together in public? The one time when early-music nerds like me get to hear really old popular music played in ordinary places and on ordinary radio stations? I say hell no!

    OTOH if you want to ban all Christmas carols written after, let’s say, World War 1, I’m on board with that.

  26. Jazzlet says

    I very much enjoyed singing along to Wizard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” with the rest of the crowd, in a sun-drenched field one August. But that’s Roy Wood for you, he puts on a good crowd rousing gig whenever he plays.

  27. logicalcat says

    @Zmidponk

    Thats how I took it the first time I listened to it. As a very flirtatious winter song. Flirtatious by both the man and the woman. Been a long time since Ive heard it tho, but every Christmas I am reminded of that song, and the images it conjures up are that of the woman coyly suggesting that she wants to leave in a flirtatious tone and the man playing along. I gotta listen to that song again, maybe I’ll think differently after some years have gone by since the last time Ive heard it. Kind of like re watching old teen movies after your grown up and realizing they are fucked up (revenge of the nerds). I definitely think people nowadays do not understand how flirting works way back when.

  28. logicalcat says

    @KG

    You sound less “snobbish” and more like “miserable killjoy”. Christmas music has a special place in the hearts of a lot of people.

  29. consciousness razor says

    octopod:

    The one time when early-music nerds like me get to hear really old popular music played in ordinary places and on ordinary radio stations? I say hell no!

    OTOH if you want to ban all Christmas carols written after, let’s say, World War 1, I’m on board with that.

    Well, historically speaking, early music is basically what comes after ancient music. That’s … something else. I don’t think there is a reasonable way to draw a hard line about what’s “really old,” but evidently many people would include songs (some good ones) from the first half of the 20th century, maybe even later than that — jazz standards and the like. If it hasn’t happened already, I bet it won’t be long before “oldies” radio stations are playing tunes from the 90s. (Or perhaps the baby boomers will just die off before that happens, and those types of stations will brand themselves differently to their audiences, who think that they need to identify with a brand.)

    I don’t know how much caroling happens anymore, but it would be nice if more people are performing music, at least once in a while, rather than only being passive consumers of it. It is kind of like saying we should haven’t an annual tradition in which ordinary folks actually read something (from a book!), instead of how it is for the rest of the year when things are read to them by the aristocracy and clergy.

  30. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    LykeX @ 10:

    So, am I the only one who sings Christmas tunes throughout the year?

    No. Take my co-worker who hums them all year round.

    Please.

    robro @19:

    It’s retail outlets. Ever year during December you hear these songs repeatedly when you go into retail outlets.

    One reason I really like eating at Popeye’s this time of the year. They play New Orleans Jazz and Zydeco.

    For example, per Wikipedia Bowie’s release in 1982 of “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth” with Crosby

    Which is, I think, the only version of that song ever done which comes close to being acceptable (not more than once per year, of course).

    Giliell @21:

    I mean, people can be as grumpy and Grinch-y and Scrooge-y . . .

    I kinda like Boris Karloff’s rendition of You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch,

    drksky @24:

    I adore Guaraldi. WIfe, unfortunately, cannot stand his work.

    I used to enjoy holiday music. I still remember, quite fondly, the Burl Ives Christmas album, or all the other Baby Boomer Christmas albums my parents had. Er, still have. I associate them with decorating the tree (back before the Christian Right started their war on anyone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas their way), or making butter cookies, etc. Of course, we lived in an area where the only radio stations we could get were AM stations. And those only after dark. It wasn’t until I was 12 that I lived in an area with actual radio stations. FM. That we could receive year round. And then we had to tie the onion onto our belt loop because . . .

    Sorry.

    Now, I do not look forward to this time of year at all. Damn near every radio station, save the Classic Rock (and how can it be Classic Rock if it came out when I was in high school?) and our one Alt-Rock station, play balls-to-the-wall Christmas songs. The same fifteen songs. Recorded by multiple artists.

    Baby Its Cold Outside struck me as off the first time I heard it. This post flicked the light switch to why I thought it was off.

    It ranks right up there with Dominic the Christmas Donkey. Which I never heard until I moved to Northeastern Pennsylvania. It is execrable. But for a completely different reason.

    Shit. I have been rambling.

    I’ve noticed I tend to do that more, now. Of course, no one cold ramble like old people back when I was a kid. They could ramble on and on and on about things that had long ago dropped into cultural obscurity. I mean, Burl Ives? When’s the last time he was culturally relevant? Historically relevant, yes (his willingness to cave in to HUAC I cannot forgive (even if he is dead)), but culturally? Back then, those old people, the ones over fifty, could ramble on forever and would bore us youngsters to dea . . .

    Shit. I’m over fifty.

    I’ve become a rambling old people.

    GET OFF MY LAWN!

  31. monad says

    @36 logicalcat: Flirtaceous is plainly how it’s meant. Even so, exchanges like “The answer is no” “But baby…” present an awful version of how consent and rejection should work. I would leave it for period pieces.

  32. says

    I know the arguments about Baby it’s cold outside but issues of the lyrics being creepy aside it’s just a crappy song. Those wishing it reduced on the airwaves would do better to argue that than trigger anti-feminist opposition.

  33. unclefrogy says

    I so dislike holiday muzak and resent the manipulation attempt to get me in the mode to spend more money, makes me want to leave the store and not come back until january!
    the song in question is problematic of course as are many other things but you do not get so negative impression from Ray Charles and Betty Carter’s very sly sexy version.
    here is a favorite of mine in the category of not sentimental about christmas while being christmas.

    uncle frogy

  34. logicalcat says

    @Holms.

    I was bummed out by the video I found because I do really like this song. I am glad to see that the original context of the song is a lot less problematic. So my feelings right now is: Song okay, video about song super bad. Seriously the director of that movie missed the mark by a huge creepy ass mile.

  35. says

    Lately, there seems to be a tendency to claim that some of the rapey sounding lines are actually ways that women in the 40s sought excuses to exercise their own sexual agency – in other words, that they indicate that the woman actually wants to have sex with the man, and is just looking for an excuse that covers her for doing so.

    Perfect! Now the only way anyone can consider this song morally problematic is if they’re unwilling to accept a culture of slut shaming which rejects women’s sexual agency as an example to which contemporary adolescents should be exposed through song.

    Look, I get it that women who liked sex couldn’t say they liked sex without even more damaging consequences than women who say that face today. I get that there were codes that women embraced allowing them plausible deniability in the decision to have sex, despite the fact that embracing those codes really was an act of agency.

    But if people are really asserting that this somehow makes the song acceptable, then they’re necessarily asserting that the defense of the song’s morality is that the guy isn’t rapist, this is just the morally complex portrayal of two people, one a woman who wants to have sex but doesn’t wish to confront slut shaming and therefore leaves slut shaming intact by using codes to allow her to distinguish herself from the real sluts and another who’s a guy just living in a culture where good guys have to force themselves on women past the point where women say no in order to preserve the honor of the sluts who sleep with them while still shaming the fuck out of the bad sluts who sleep with other guys.

    Yeah. Fuck that. I think it sucks that something catchy with a bit of clever wordplay here & there has to be so morally fucked up, but it is what it is. I don’t want my kids listening to that.

    Seriously, we all accept a ton of stuff as young people that we later reject. I call AC/DC “the masters of the single entendre”, but I listened to them as a kid. I listened to “let me cut your cake with my knife” and got grossed out, but then I listened to other songs and accepted less gory metaphors for sex that still, when actually examined, contain just as much imagery of force or violence. As an adult I had to ask myself if the problem with the metaphor was the goriness or the force and violence. I concluded it was the force and violence, but no one helped me get there. I had to examine that stuff on my own.

    I’d rather not play things like that for my kids, and when things like that do get played around my kids I’d want to have honest discussions with them about why continuing the discussion after “The answer is no” is just wrong as all fucking hell.

    Other conversations can center around the complicated expressions of sexual agency of women before the sexual revolution, but those conversations don’t save Baby It’s Cold Outside because buying into those codes is fucked. The women of the time who used that avenue to express sexual agency didn’t have a great set of choices, and if I visited another universe where the social-sexual context was the same for people of some particular gender as it was for US women at the time of Baby It’s Cold Outside, I wouldn’t place primary moral responsibility on the subordinated people trying to navigate twisty avenues towards sexual agency … but even if I wouldn’t judge them I still wouldn’t endorse anything less than a rejection of slut shaming. The key is that both sluts and non-sluts have to have some level of solidarity in rejecting slut shaming, and that was damn hard to achieve (especially with the way racism complicated the gendered picture in the US).

    Which is to say that on the complicated sexual agency hypothesis, the woman in the song still isn’t doing something good: she’s just acting in a context where coercion is limiting her choices and thus is not acting morally bad. The man in the song, on this hypothesis, isn’t supporting women’s sexual agency however. A man who actually supports women’s sexual agency will actively oppose slut shaming and gain a reputation for that. Then, when he accepts her “no”, if he sees body language or believes there’s some non-literal meaning implied that might call her “no” into question, he can say – and be believed in saying – “You don’t have to speak code with me. I respect you enough to respect your agency and your choices. I hope you have a wonderful night without me, and if you ever decide you do want to hook up, you know my number.”

    Focussing only on the non-condemnatory behavior of the woman in the song who is, hypothetically, saying no without meaning no, fails to see that the song fails morally on either interpretation. The problem never was the woman’s behavior. This defense of the song requires that a woman’s no means something other than no. And maybe in certain contexts that’s even true. But it doesn’t save the song. At heart this defense is really an argument that maybe all this is really the woman’s fault for making the man LOOK like a rapist.

    Fuck that noise.

  36. kantalope says

    I don’t care. I tried to care but failed. If you like it listen if you don’t don’t at most it’ll last what three minutes?

  37. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    I’ve always seen the song as a throw-back to pre-birth control days, and the care young people needed to make about “appearances”. I felt it was about two people in serious relationship figuring out how to consensually spend the night together without upsetting people to much. I never noticed the drink reference.

  38. says

    @logicalcat re 36

    I definitely think people nowadays do not understand how flirting work[ed] way back when.

    I would wager people back then didn’t fully understand either. How things worked out in movies may not have mapped out all that well to how things worked out in real life (especially in the era of the Hayes Code).

    I would also wager the number of cases where flirting didn’t work (i.e., people getting messed up by mixed messages) are vastly underestimated, given that certain topics were just Not Talked About.

  39. says

    Also weird [or maybe not so weird] how the 2nd half of the video [where they swap the genders and it’s Red Skelton being coy and trying to refuse/escape] reads so completely differently…

  40. Matrim says

    My personal take is summarized in a galaxy brain meme that I wish I could just post here because it has a lot of text. Basically the first panel says “It’s a Christmas classic,” the second says “It’s pretty rapey,” the third says “In context it’s about a woman exercising her autonomy in a society where women can’t say ‘yes’ outright,” the fourth says “The context is no longer obvious, the humor is particularly relatable to a society that values consent more and it should probably be retired,” and the ultimate panel says “It’s just kind of a crappy song.”

  41. anbheal says

    Many women artists have covered the song, so it’s no longer appropriate to say that women can’t be horny and want a man to spend the night. They have sex drives too.

    And as for banning seasonal songs, then The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in The City, Sly and The Family Stone’s Hot Fun In The Summertime, Janis Joplin’s Summertime, The Stones’ Long Cold Winter, Louis Armstrong’s Autumn in New York, Simon & Garfunke’s Hazy Shade Of Winter, etc., all must be banned.

    I’m not tuning into your Sirius channel, dude, I like seasonal music. Because….emmmm… SEASONS.

  42. says

    Many women artists have covered the song, so it’s no longer appropriate to say that women can’t be horny and want a man to spend the night. They have sex drives too.

    It was never appropriate to say that, but there were many years when society wouldn’t admit that. Nonetheless, the appropriateness of the song doesn’t depend on who has covered it. It’s wrong to fuck with women’s consent and it’s wrong to fuck with others’ consent.

    The surface meanings are about flat out ignoring consent. The contextual meanings are mediated by a societal reality at the time of the song writing that prevented certain expressions of women’s desire.

    Since the surface reading is repulsive and rendering the meaning non-repulsive means accepting a context that denies women agency, autonomy, and human biological realities, I’m not interested in playing the song no matter which of these two most common interpretations is chosen.

  43. militantagnostic says

    Oggie @41

    Burl Ives? When’s the last time he was culturally relevant? Historically relevant, yes (his willingness to cave in to HUAC I cannot forgive (even if he is dead))

    Becoming pariah among the folkies as result of caving in to HUAC is why Burl Ives became a Christmas Music specialist. Even without that knowledge Have a Holly Jolly Christmas is an abomination.

  44. Alan says

    He song does not ignore consent if the woman doesn’t mean ‘ the answer is no” ,if what she really means is I want to so help me find a way to do it. I went through that a few times back in the 50s and 50s, sometimes,in my naïveté , not realizing the answer could have been yes and accepting no, the woman I think sorry I didn’t pick up on the implicit yes.

  45. microraptor says

    Zmidponk @31: “Every Breath You Take” isn’t about a stalker? That’s news to Sting, given that he said “I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle little love song, when it’s quite the opposite.”

  46. says

    @31 The problem is, the song it backwards. Look up the “original use” from 1959. This is 11 years after the Kinsey report, but before the sexual revolution or birth control, and women and men are waking up to the reality that, on one hand, women are still assumed, by most of society, to not “want sex”, but they do, and there is zero context for them about how to ask for it. Into this come a comedy skit in a musical, in which a guy is being dropped off by her date, who then, trying to do the “right thing” according to 1950s puritan logic, shouldn’t be there, without chaperone, with and unmarried woman, and she more or less jumps him, and tries every angle she can come up with to try to convince him to stay, while he knows a) exactly where this is going, b) doesn’t want the scandal of it, but c) actually sort of does want it, so actually ends up giving in eventually (after a lot of scrambling to try to leave, and a brief moment of wondering if the drink she offered wasn’t stronger than he thought, “why else would he even consider it?”, when what he really grabbed to “study his nerves” was the flower vase).

    Then some dimwit got the incomprehensible idea, decades later, to “update it to modern times” by switching the roles, either clueless about the original intent, or knowing precisely that it was a bad idea, and not caring at all. This is in contrast to Sting’s song, which was specifically written to highlight stalkers.

    So, really, the real problem isn’t the “original” song, its that we have no context, outside of the creepy, “It hits nearly every modern note of rape culture, including drugging someone, that is possible.”, modern reality of a woman singing the part of the person trying to leave. The original, was probably scandalous and hilarious, in its time. It still is sort of funny. The “new” updated version… its impossible for it to be.

    I have much less problem with Santa Baby. Its got the “agency” of the person singing it right, even if, from the “Santa is for kids” perspective, some people “might” find it a bit weird. But, if “Santa” is dad in a suit, and its roleplay… Not even close to the same issue.

    In any case, whom ever decided to “update” this, was… either clueless, or a creep.

  47. Rob Grigjanis says

    Kagehi @64: The song appeared twice in the 1949 film Neptune’s Daughter. First with Ricardo Montalban playing “wolf” to Esther Williams’ “mouse”, later with Betty Garrett as “wolf” to Red Skelton’s “mouse”.

    Interestingly, Garrett played a similar role in On The Town, released the same year. She spends a fair amount of time trying to get Frank Sinatra to “Come Up To My Place”.

    Re Kinsey: Sexual Behavior in the Human Male 1948; Sexual Behavior in the Human Female 1953.

  48. logicalcat says

    @Crip Dyke

    To render the song acceptable we have to acknowledge the historical context. This does not mean returing to a world where men think no means yes. It just means realizing that the song is mostly harmless in intent. And yes I know intent is not magic, but its not meaningless either.

  49. says

    @logicalcat:

    To render the song acceptable we have to acknowledge the historical context.

    No. To render the song understandable we have to acknowledge the historical context. To render the song acceptable we must consider the historical context acceptable. If it’s not acceptable to treat women as if they must excuse and downplay their own agency, then incorporating a historical context that treats women in this way incorporates an unacceptable element.

    To render the song not rapey merely requires acknowledging the historical context. To render the song acceptable requires embracing the historical context, declaring that context acceptable. You are making the mistake of thinking that if the song is non-rapey it must therefore be acceptable. There’s more than one way to be unacceptable.

    What defenders of the song do in using historical context to disprove rapey intent simultaneously proves intent to slut-shame, and to do so in a sexist way (women are deemed sluts using different criteria than used for men).

    So, great, the guy in the song is proclaiming,

    “But I’ll help you escape the slut shaming, not by repudiating it but by propounding socially acceptable lies that leave the slut-shaming cultural edifice intact while deceptively portraying you as someone who doesn’t actually have desire, someone who only stayed with her lover because she was forced to do so – by the weather.”

    Sure, that was a common enough tactic of men in that day that we shouldn’t use it to demonize the guy, to portray him as worse than he actually was, but fuck if I’ll ever declare that behavior acceptable.

  50. Oggie. My Favourite Colour is MediOchre says

    I’ve given this some thought overnight. I’ve read through the comments a couple of times. And I can see both sides of the argument (though I really cannot agree with one side).

    I am an historian. I deal, specifically, with industrial and labour history (though my education is military history). And one of the things that I noticed, long ago, is that what is acceptable changes. What was a good luck charm a hundred years ago became a symbol of hatred and genocide and evil. What was an accepted cartoon in the 1930s, or during World War II, have disappeared from Saturday morning television and are still available for educational purposes.
    WIth an introductory caveat.

    Songs change. Not the song itself, that stays the same, but the acceptability of the song changes. No, I take that back. Songs do change. Some are bowdlerized to remove extremely racist lyrics. Or to remove alcohol and tobacco references. Some songs just disappear from the repertoire (unless it is being used in an educational context to make a point).

    None of this means that the song was acceptable, or, more to the point, should have been acceptable, in the past. Meanings of words change. Meanings of symbols change. Personal agency changes. Ideas regarding intent have changed just in the last decade. As have ideas regarding consent — or at least the cultural relevance of consent.

    Yeah, there are worse songs, musically, out there. There aren’t too many holiday songs, though, that, whatever the original intent, whatever the original meaning, have become such a stand-up example of issues involving women and consent.

    Clear consent, unambiguous consent, unpressured consent, are now, to me, much more important than the historical context. The historical context is just that – historical. The context has changed. I would like to never hear the song again save for the original movie which is, today, the only place the historical context is valid.

  51. consciousness razor says

    No. To render the song understandable we have to acknowledge the historical context. To render the song acceptable we must consider the historical context acceptable. If it’s not acceptable to treat women as if they must excuse and downplay their own agency, then incorporating a historical context that treats women in this way incorporates an unacceptable element.

    I think you’re confused about the kinds of options you have here, regarding which things you may accept.

    Suppose there is a song** about a gay couple, and part of the narrative that gets established is that they are both closeted. However, using coded language and so forth, they are still able to confide to each other about how they feel, despite what others may think. There is conflict in the story from their society, and happily, the protagonists find a way to overcome it. Most stories are like that.

    If I listen to a song like that, then in order to find the song’s overall message acceptable, do I need to think it’s acceptable that there are homophobes in their society, which is why the couple is behaving that way? No, that’s not how it needs to be. I can find it acceptable that they managed to give their society a middle finger and express their feelings toward each other anyway. That’s the kind of thing I can approve of (along with the songwriter(s), etc.), and that doesn’t need to be approval of every last thing which is in one way or another represented in it.

    And if a song is about war, to give a different example, then I can still be a pacifist and appreciate whatever it may be saying about the death and suffering people have to endure in wars, how they find ways of coping with it, and so forth. I don’t have to put my stamp of approval on war, death, suffering, etc., just because that’s a part of the lyrics. The lyrics are expressing something else that is acceptable.

    ** Or it can be a similar depiction in any artform. It doesn’t matter to me that it’s a song.

  52. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @71: The examples you made up don’t have characters behaving in a way we would consider unacceptable.

  53. says

    @consciousness razor:

    Yeah, I’m with Rob. I don’t see your hypothetical queer couple as analogous, mostly because all the participants in your hypothetical song are victims who are rebelling against the injustice.

    In Baby one of the two roles is decidedly not that. I’m not contesting whether or not the woman’s behavior is okay. I’m asking how is his behavior okay?

    In order for his behavior to be understandable as not rapey you have to agree that he believes that no does not mean no. While that may be true in some sense of the beliefs of his society, a society only believes something in any sense if the individual members of a society believe that thing. Is he in any way required to buy into the idea that no does not mean no? Of course not. Is his society wrong to construct this “no does not mean no” norm? Yes. We have decades of empirical evidence of the harm it causes. Given this, is the guy in the song wrong to accept the belief and act on the belief that no does not mean no? Of course.

  54. consciousness razor says

    Rob, I don’t think they need to be behaving in an unacceptable way. You can imagine them (in my examples) saying things that we might misinterpret and consider unacceptable, if they were said in another context. I didn’t stipulate anything about that, so you’re free to do so. The gay couple uses coded language, which could be practically anything — whatever works for them is fine, if they can map their overt expressions to the covert ideas they want to communicate.

    I think Crip Dyke understands that there is a narrative context in which the lyrics are expressing an acceptable relationship, even though a naive or surface-level reading suggests otherwise. If that’s how we’re interpreting it, then it doesn’t make sense to turn around and say that we still need to put something genuinely unacceptable in there. It looks like we’ve got an unproblematic interpretation, which seems to be the right one if we look at the origins of the material.

    So it’s not true that all of our reasonable options are problematic. That pretty much sums up my response to Crip Dyke, and I don’t understand where yours is coming from.

  55. consciousness razor says

    I don’t see your hypothetical queer couple as analogous, mostly because all the participants in your hypothetical song are victims who are rebelling against the injustice.

    Why aren’t they both rebelling in the song? Their society doesn’t approve of sex outside of marriage, or sexual promiscuity in general. They’re both rebelling against that. They may have been socialized differently and express their resistance in different ways — real individuals are like that. But if they have a shared understanding that they want a consensual relationship, then your complaints about “no means no” just seem to be a way of failing to recognize that, because you merely assume it’s some other kind of situation that doesn’t resemble (except at a surface level) the actual story that’s being told.

  56. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @74: CD was talking specifically about the behaviour of one of the characters in the song. You were talking about people in oppressive and perilous situations, and making the irrelevant (to this discussion) point that finding those songs acceptable does not mean you approve of homophobia, war, etc. I’m pretty sure you, me and CD all agree on that.

    But suppose a character in your war song took advantage of the general lawlessness, and their strength or cunning, to rob another person of their food and clothes. Or to even imply that they might do this. Is this a song we want playing on the radio or at the mall?

  57. Rob Grigjanis says

    cr @75:

    They’re both rebelling against that

    Oh, bollocks. One of them is trying to get laid, and the cultural context is one in which that can have dire consequences for the woman, but not for the man.

  58. unclefrogy says

    ghee whiz it is a song not a legal document nor a prayer.
    we do not look at music in the abstract alone we look at it most often in performance.
    I have not looked nor am I going to look for a video of John Wayne singing the Star Spangled Banner but I have heard Jimi Hendricks play one that would have a very different feel to Wayne’s.
    The play “Taming Of The Shrew” is problematic in a similar way to the song in question here. It is first words on paper before it is acted on a stage there are ways it can be “interpreted” , that is what all performance is an interpretation, that can differ significantly from each other. Try comparing the Burton and Taylor version with the BBC production with John Cleese as Petruchio and tell me that they have the same feel of ‘the Stockholm syndrome” as the just the words might suggest.
    all in all much of the Christmas music is tolerable if not fine this time of year once or twice but being bludgeoned with it constantly for more than 2 months now days is just not OK with me it makes it all suck, especially as it has become just another tool of marketing. the play lists used are not chosen with great thought but to my ear have the feel of desperation and the stink of greed like a dead mouse in the wainscoting.
    uncle frogy

  59. consciousness razor says

    They’re both rebelling against that

    Oh, bollocks. One of them is trying to get laid,

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to get laid, openly and unapologetically. That’s a way to resist a society that unjustly tells you there is something wrong with that. It’s not how everybody does it, several decades ago or even today, but rebelling openly is still a way of rebelling … the most obvious one that comes to mind for me.

    and the cultural context is one in which that can have dire consequences for the woman, but not for the man.

    It’s not relevant that it “can” happen in some situations in the broader culture. If this isn’t one of those situations, then what you’re saying is bollocks.

  60. says

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to get laid, openly and unapologetically.

    Agreed.

    That’s a way to resist a society that unjustly tells you there is something wrong with that.

    Agreed.

    But I’m not talking about fucking in general. I’m talking about how a society treats women, in this case through a sexist double standard. The man in the song participates in the unethical treatment of women, not least by denying that no means no. He doesn’t resist the double standard in any way at any point in the song.

  61. consciousness razor says

    But I’m not talking about fucking in general.

    Alright, but I’ll leave it as a response to Rob Grigjanis.

    I’m talking about how a society treats women, in this case through a sexist double standard. The man in the song participates in the unethical treatment of women, not least by denying that no means no. He doesn’t resist the double standard in any way at any point in the song.

    I’m trying to understand how you’re putting all of this together. They both live in a society where there is this double-standard. How is he participating in it? The man has been socialized to openly express whatever he wants, while the woman has been socialized very differently, to conceal what she wants so as to avoid charges of impropriety. That’s the situation these people are in. They communicate their feelings differently, in order to keep up appearances, and they are both sensible adults who know this about their situation.

    There’s nothing unethical about the man saying (in effect) that the woman doesn’t need to accept this double-standard, that she can freely do whatever she wants, that she can resist societal expectations as brazenly as he does, that there are some handy excuses the woman can give to all of those other people out there who (unlike the man) will unfortunately be judgemental if she told them the truth. If she’s not ready or willing to be open to those other people, she doesn’t have to be. The man can’t change the whole society they live in at will, nor does he need to accept anything about it — but they can have a relationship, which is what he clearly wants. If you’re looking at the song from that point of view, with perhaps some understanding that the song is part of a scene (actually two) in an old romantic comedy, then it’s not clear what you’re identifying as the problem.

  62. says

    @unclefrogy:

    ghee whiz it is a song not a legal document nor a prayer.

    Agreed. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t put forth our opinions of the song, if we have such opinions.

    The play “Taming Of The Shrew” is problematic in a similar way to the song in question

    Agreed.

    It is first words on paper before it is acted on a stage there are ways it can be “interpreted” , that is what all performance is an interpretation, that can differ significantly from each other.

    Agreed.

    And if you put forth a particular performance of Baby and tell me that in your opinion it supersedes the criticisms of the original source material, I’ll happily have a look. Unlike some folks that dislike the song on artistic grounds, I (as a very, very poor musician indeed) rather like the song from a musical perspective.

    But I’m here arguing against the idea that examining the original social context within which the song was composed renders the song as originally written unproblematic, possibly even a song ennobling some heroic resistance. I disagree.

    Accepting the interpretation of those who see a coy woman persona dishonestly hiding her desire behind a web of socially acceptable lies while hoping her (very much desired) lover sees through them, we have a woman who’s not behaving badly (despite the deceptions). Rather we see a woman going through social prescribed motions to enable her to have sex without suffering the negative consequences that other women might for having the same sex after neglecting the ritual.

    This is completely understandable, but it’s not noble. It’s not heroic. It’s not even really resistance. The social codes for plausible deniability already existed. It’s not as if this character were inventing them. Thus the character is taking no action contrary to the reactionary, restrictive, and sexist social policies of the day. She’s managing to evade certain restrictions, but only by accepting certain others.

    So we have a woman who’s not engaged in morally laudatory or morally condemnable behavior – which is also exactly what we have on the surface-interpretation that naively ignores substantial parts of the historical social context.

    In either of the competing interpretations, the woman persona’s behavior is neither laudatory nor condemnable. I don’t actually think we disagree, though some may find the persona’s behavior somewhat laudatory. Importantly, however, no one is condemning the woman person’s behavior. Her behavior is not at the root of the critique, so it doesn’t particularly matter if her behavior is laudatory so long as it is not condemnable, and on any reasonable interpretation – certainly both the dominant interpretations in this discussion – her behavior is not condemnable.

    So then the only character whose behavior matters for our analysis is the man persona’s behavior.

    Now, the man persona’s behavior is, in the historically-naive interpretation, rapey. We all agree, I think, and we all agree that rapey behavior is unacceptable behavior.

    The disagreement then, has 2 parts: 1st, is it reasonable to criticize the song based on a historically-naive interpretation, and 2nd is the behavior in the historically-literate interpretation acceptable (or laudatory) behavior?

    My contention i that the first question is largely irrelevant, because in the historically-literate interpretation, his behavior is still unacceptable, albeit for very different reasons.

    In the historically literate interpretation, the man persona’s behavior is still such that the woman feels the need to go through the motions. Whatever else we know about the MP’s behavior, we certainly know that he hasn’t done anything to create an environment where she feels safe from slut shaming and able to overtly own her sexual agency. Whatever else we know about the MP’s behavior, he’s a clear participant in the behavior that makes the WP’s circumlocutions necessary. We know without a doubt that the MP supports the social context denying women sexual agency because – among other reasons – he clearly treats “no” as something other than “no”.

    Rather than a rebel, the MP is a clear and willing participant in the social endeavor that denies women agency and sexual humanity.

    =====================

    Now, with all that, what does your Taming of the Shrew comparison get us? Well, not much. In much the same way as the MP’s persona is wrong on either theory of Baby, Petruchio’s behavior (and the behavior of other masculinely-gendered characters in the play) is unacceptable in either a historically literate or historically naive interpretation. Nor is it true that there is some superseding message of the play as a whole that might make clear Petruchio’s behavior is being critiqued or condemned as part of that work.

    Don’t get me wrong, my favorite literary reference to analingus is found in Taming of the Shrew:

    PETRUCHIO
    Alas, good Kate, I will not burden thee,
    For knowing thee to be but young and light—

    KATHERINE
    Too light for such a swain as you to catch,
    And yet as heavy as my weight should be.

    PETRUCHIO
    “Should be”—should buzz!

    KATHERINE
    Well ta’en, and like a buzzard.

    PETRUCHIO
    O slow-winged turtle, shall a buzzard take thee?

    KATHERINE
    Ay, for a turtle, as he takes a buzzard.

    PETRUCHIO
    Come, come, you wasp. I’ faith, you are too angry.

    KATHERINE
    If I be waspish, best beware my sting.

    PETRUCHIO
    My remedy is then to pluck it out.

    KATHERINE
    Ay, if the fool could find it where it lies.

    PETRUCHIO
    Who knows not where a wasp does wear his sting?
    In his tail.

    KATHERINE
    In his tongue.

    PETRUCHIO
    Whose tongue?

    KATHERINE
    Yours, if you talk of tales. And so farewell.

    PETRUCHIO
    What, with my tongue in your tail?

    Note that Willie Wigglestick does not have Petruchio asking, “What? With my tongue in your tale?” and thus intending something merely joking and only vaguely sexual, instead Petruchio’s line asks, “What? With my tongue in your tail?” making very plain what the character is thinking and intending. This is not vaguely sexual, but by the clear spelling (when Wigglestick could easily have used the same spelling as in Katherine’s line) the line is made directly sexual, even obscene.

    I can enjoy the fact that Shakespeare challenged his society not merely by making the joke, but by literally and unnecessarily spelling it out. The audience of this work of art would have had the same experience of the play however Petruchio’s line was spelled. Only the literate – a minority (and disproportionately elite) in Shakespeare’s day – would even have access to the direct evidence of Wigglestick’s intent, and thus the spelling was clearly used for its effect on them, not the theater audience.

    My enjoyment of this nose-tweaking, this refusal, pardon the irony, to kiss ass, does not change the fact that the play is sexist as all hell. While many subsequent variations of this work exist (Kiss Me Kate, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc.) and all of them are at least different in how they portray and/or critique sexism generally and Petruchio’s behavior specifically, I don’t have to argue that all derivative performances are equally flawed to say that Taming of the Shrew, as written, even in its historically-literate context, is sexist as all fuck.

  63. says

    @consciousness razor:

    There’s nothing unethical about the man saying (in effect) that the woman doesn’t need to accept this double-standard, that she can freely do whatever she wants, that she can resist societal expectations as brazenly as he does, that there are some handy excuses the woman can give to all of those other people out there who (unlike the man) will unfortunately be judgemental if she told them the truth. If she’s not ready or willing to be open to those other people, she doesn’t have to be.

    While I agree with this, I don’t agree that the man persona is actually saying that. He’s not saying she can freely do this. He’s saying, “I don’t believe you when you say no, and if I’m right, and you want to say yes, then just lie to other people.” He’s not arguing she can “freely” do anything. He could say something overt at some point in the song like, “No matter what you tell other people, I’ll back you up.” The lies he’s encouraging are being encouraged without reference to some outside context where they will be used. The lies he’s encouraging are to be used within that room, between the two of them, even though no others are present.

    An ethical response would actually look something like what you’re saying: it would involve a declaration that MP rejects the slut shaming and agency-denial of wider society and supports any choice the WP makes. It would make clear that he understands her to possess a sexual humanity that is no different from his own. But that’s not at all what the MP shows us. If the MP really did respect her sexual agency, then there would be no need for the two of them to exchange socially-scripted, socially acceptable lies before she is allowed to exercise that sexual agency.

    They both live in a society where there is this double-standard. How is he participating in it?

    He never says,

    Fuck the double standard, I respect your decision to stay or leave, to fuck or not just as much whether it’s cold outside or not.

    He offers up the excuses without ever giving any indication that he resents such excuses are necessary. I don’t really see how you can interpret him as not participating in the double standard.

    I mean, on your interpretation, she sees the use of these excuses as necessary even in private, in a context where the only person who might hear her excuse is her lover. In that interpretation, how can you say that the lover isn’t participating in the double standard? What is the evidence that he rejects the excuses as unnecessary? What is the evidence that he only intends the excuses to be used for the benefit of other people? Where is the acknowledgement that ignoring her “no” is wrong, but that the social context provides him a reason to doubt it? Where is the effort to reassure her that she can speak plainly, without dishonesty, so that he can be certain when she is consenting and when she isn’t, when her words can be trusted and when she’s making excuses?

    I just don’t see any of that.

  64. consciousness razor says

    In the historically literate interpretation, the man persona’s behavior is still such that the woman feels the need to go through the motions.

    Okay, let’s go with this for now. I have a persona and behave somehow, such that you feel the need to do something. What does that mean? How do you make sense of this, as one of the features of my persona? Why aren’t your feelings just yours and not mine?

    Whatever else we know about the MP’s behavior, we certainly know that he hasn’t done anything to create an environment where she feels safe from slut shaming and able to overtly own her sexual agency.

    Where did this come from? He says nothing that indicates she should feel ashamed or shouldn’t overtly express herself. If anything, he acts like there is nothing at all to be ashamed of. If he were doing the opposite, acting as if there were something to be ashamed of, then he would be creating that kind of environment. Assuming we’re talking about things over which he has some amount of control (not the nature of society at large), like the lyrics he sings, then point at which of his lyrics are creating this environment of which you speak. And it may help if you would point at some that don’t create it, if there are any.

    We know without a doubt that the MP supports the social context denying women sexual agency because – among other reasons – he clearly treats “no” as something other than “no”.

    Watch the scene from the movie (a clip was linked above), and then tell me that she says no but he rejects this and rapes her. Or something “rapey” happens. That is a scenario you could imagine connecting with the lyrics, if you’re prepared to interpret them in a particular way, but it’s not what’s going on in the actual scene for which the song was written.

  65. John Morales says

    cr,

    That is a scenario you could imagine connecting with the lyrics, if you’re prepared to interpret them in a particular way, but it’s not what’s going on in the actual scene for which the song was written.

    Better to research before opining; as per Wikipedia:

    During the 1940s, whenever Hollywood celebrities attended parties, they were expected to perform. In 1944, Loesser wrote “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” to sing with his wife, Lynn Garland, at their housewarming party in New York City at the Navarro Hotel. They sang the song to indicate to guests that it was time to leave.

    The issue is supposed to be the song, not the first movie which featured it.

  66. logicalcat says

    @Crip Dyke and Rob

    They are BOTH trying to get laid. The only difference here is that one side has to grapple between bullshit slut shaming and the other does not, but make no mistake the intent of the song written by both a man and a woman who are husband and wife depicts two people who want to bone.

  67. consciousness razor says

    The issue is supposed to be the song, not the first movie which featured it.

    Interesting. I wasn’t aware of that, but I accept it as a friendly amendment that the song has layers I didn’t know about. I take it for granted that the artist’s intentions are largely irrelevant. But the public is (at best) aware of its context in the film, even if Loesser and Garland’s houseguests had an additional way to understand it in its original form. Telling guests it’s time to leave isn’t something that warrants a devastating criticism (if you ask me), so it makes no difference to me if that’s also something that it can be about for certain people.

  68. logicalcat says

    @Crip Dyke

    The disagreement then, has 2 parts: 1st, is it reasonable to criticize the song based on a historically-naive interpretation, and 2nd is the behavior in the historically-literate interpretation acceptable (or laudatory) behavior?

    1st answer: yes, as long as you acknowledge it. The song sounds bad today, was not back then. As a defender of the song (my fav winter song) I am not going to get upset at the criticism. Ill argue back sure, but I find arguing fun.

    2nd answer: Yes, it is acceptable behavior. Whats not acceptable are the behaviors from society back then that precipitated the need for such coy, but that’s hardly their fault. She wants sex, he wants sex. They figured it out. Their actions are fine, its everyone else from that time period who suck. I think the analogy between closeted gay people was dismissed to early. Yes its not a one to one comparison, but as far as having to protect yourself from society because what you really want to do is taboo, it fits. Gay people were very cloak and dagger back in the day. Shit, I still have to do this from time to time as I sleep with a lot of closeted men.

    I live in Miami tho. What would be my version of this song? “Bro, its raining outside”.

    I wouldn’t call it laudatory. To me I always felt it was a song by two people who want to want to seep together and be warm because baby its cold outside. The song always felt warm to me, but then again it feels less so after watching the video. That the video sucks. The movie clip is rapey.

  69. says

    @70 Exactly. Its a window to the past, but without context its like looking through that window, as a short series of framed moments, seeing someone being dunked under water, in a ritual, and not knowing the context that, way back then, people used to do this as a sort of blessing, not to try to drown them. (Yeah, people still do bamptisms that way, but.. I think you see my meaning. Presuming that, at some point in the distant future that was “no longer done”, except by some weird group of people who had a drowning cult (maybe borrowed from Game of Thrones or something), the “window view” wouldn’t tell us a damn thing about what was actually happening, it would just be, “Stuff that those crazy modern cultists do to people and most sensible people find criminal.”

    Windows are all well and good, but they need flipping explanations, sometimes, to go with them. Without the explanation, to give it context, something that merely, “showing someone the window”, won’t give them, its impossible to interpret it correctly.

    But, its a telling fact that, while they admit they know why the song is rejected, nearly everyone objecting to it no longer being played seem to value only the tradition of it, not the original context, or the more modern objectionable one. Its like.. watching one of those things from a book, in which the author is clearing describing something that is unnecessary, maybe even horrible, but because its “tradition”, the character in the novel keep doing it anyway, even as they admit, if only to themselves, that its pointless, disgusting, evil, etc., and maybe people should stop doing it. Its more important that it “is” a holiday song to them, than any other factor.

    Its a mental quirk that, sometimes, makes me despair, more than just about anything else, at our ability to think rationally as a species.

  70. says

    @71 Except, ironically, in the case of this specific song, its a woman using tactics we condemn now, for their use “on” women, to pressure a man into doing something he doesn’t want to. So.. Yeah, in a really round about way, you are kind of right, in that its talking about tactics to try to get what one wants, when not allowed to do so, but.. at the same time, its basically saying, “The tactics to use here are ones that rob someone else of agency, or trick them into giving it up, so that you can gain agency.” And.. Not sure how that can be said to contain any sort of positive. I also don’t imagine its the only song, or story, or anything else, from the time, which addressed the issue. Addressing it badly kind of undermines the gains made by stating, “Well, at least it was addressing it.”

  71. says

    People keep talking about the version where the guy is the one doing the arguing about her staying. This was the version that I ran across. I have no idea “which” version was the original. But, like I said, the problem with it doesn’t go away, it just places the woman in the position of being the one trying to trick the guy into staying. Kind of semi-funny, given the drastically different context, but still totally not, “good behavior on the part of the person being told No”.

    https://youtu.be/xpDLpz88V-I

  72. John Morales says

    Kagehi:

    I have no idea “which” version was the original. But, […]

    I infer that you haven’t read the thread to its current end before commenting.

    […] But, like I said, the problem with it doesn’t go away, […]

    Putative problem.

  73. says

    @logicalcat:
    First let’s get this out of the way:

    They are BOTH trying to get laid.

    I’m not contesting that. Where do you think I’ve contested that? I’m calling this the historically-literate interpretation (although maybe I should have called it the “historically informed” interpretation, that probably more accurately conveys my intended meaning). I’m saying that the historically-literate/informed interpretation is reasonable and that in order to decide whether the behavior of the man persona is acceptable, one either has to show that only one interpretation is legitimate OR show that the behavior is unacceptable under either/both interpretation/s. My approach is not to define only one interpretation as legitimate. My approach is to show that the MP’s behavior is not acceptable under either interpretation.

    Thus I am not, and never have been, opposed to the interpretation that both are trying to get laid.

    2nd answer: Yes, it is acceptable behavior. Whats not acceptable are the behaviors from society back then that precipitated the need for such coy, but that’s hardly their fault.

    Let’s take this to the extreme, as a form of reductio ad absurdum

    Collaborating with Nazis is acceptable behavior. What’s not acceptable are the behaviors from society back then that precipitated the need for collaboration, but that’s hardly the collaborators’ fault.

    It’s possible to say that the invasion of France wasn’t the fault of Philippe Pétain, and also say that the behavior of Pétain was unacceptable.

    Likewise, it is possible to say that the social context of slut shaming was not caused by the MP, but that the MP’s behavior is nonetheless unacceptable.

    ==============
    @consciousness razor:

    I think we’re ultimately going to find that neither of us is saying anything convincing to the other, so thank you for the discussion, but while I’ll read what more you have to say, I’m leaning toward being done. Before I officially wrap up, though, I’ll add a couple more things:

    Watch the scene from the movie (a clip was linked above), and then tell me that she says no but he rejects this and rapes her. Or something “rapey” happens.

    But I haven’t said that he rapes her. I’ve said that he treats her “no” as meaning something other than “no”. If he’s correct in his assessment that “no” means “yes” in this case, then she really is consenting and there’s no rape. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t treat “no” as something other than “no”. That’s objectively true. What’s arguable is whether or not he was correct in his assessment that “no” meant something other than “no”. I actually tend to agree that the character was correct to believe that the other character’s “no” did not mean “no”. But the question of whether he treated “no” as something other than “no” is separate from whether or not he was correct in his assessment.

    And jesus-fucking-mohammed-screaming-no-while-avoiding-his-safeword, there simply cannot be any argument over the objective fact that he treats her “no” as something other than “no”.

    The question, then, is whether in a particular woman-hating context that denies women sexual humanity, much less sexual agency, it is acceptable to treat a “no” as something other than a “no”.

    My opinion:
    If there is explicit agreement beforehand that just between them “no” will not mean “no” and if they explicitly maintain other ways for the person whose “no” will be ignored to otherwise signal denial of consent, then sure. But that’s true regardless of the social context. You can treat “no” as something other than “no” today – and there are probably hundreds of persons doing that at more or less this moment – given explicit prior negotiation.

    So then the MP’s behavior becomes acceptable as long as there is explicit prior agreement and a plan for crystal clear communication of denial or withdrawal of consent.

    Ultimately, then, I can only find the MP’s behavior acceptable if that explicit prior agreement exists, and there’s no discussion of safe words or anything else remotely necessary for this type of agreement to work anywhere in the song.

    Thus, in my opinion, the behavior of the MP is unacceptable.

    My understanding of your opinion
    There’s no problem here with the behavior of the MP. The sexist context is larger than any behavior of the MP, and there is no moral burden on any MP living in a sexist context to acknowledge, avoid, interrupt, or undermine sexism in any way. The fact that MP is not actively raping someone (because the WP in this interpretation actually wants to fuck, whatever words come out of her mouth) is enough. Treating “no” as something other than “no” is actually morally acceptable if society has previously decided to punish women who say yes.

    My analysis of your opinion
    Your opinion accepts the historically informed interpretation – which is fine, even preferable to a historically naive interpretation – but socially naive. Society’s actions are nothing but the collective actions of a society’s members. If some other member of the society of these 2 fictional personas ignores a woman’s “no” due to the erroneous belief that the “no” was actually “yes, but I don’t want anyone to treat me as if I’m a slut”, is the resulting rape morally condemnable? Why should it be? What you’re saying if you believe that particular choice to rape is condemnable but that the choice to ignore a “no” that does not result in rape is not condemnable is that what is really morally condemnable is getting social cues wrong.

    The society of the song’s personas is a society in which, “I really thought she wanted it,” is a legitimate defense to an accusation of rape. This is a morally objectionable situation, and the only moral solution is not to ignore the complications as long as you think you’re interpreting your partner’s signals correctly. The only moral solution, in my opinion, is to explicitly reject the idea that it’s acceptable to treat “no” as something other than “no” in the utter absence of any shared understanding on how to otherwise communicate consent, denial of consent, and withdrawal of consent.

    I require of the MP an overt act in rejection of society’s sexist norms. As best as I can tell, you don’t require such an overt act so long as the MP is correct in assessing the WP’s socially disguised intent.

    For you, neither overtly embracing nor overtly rejecting slut shaming and denial of sexual agency is enough.

    For me, it is not. I require an overt rejection.

    This doesn’t mean that I think the MP is a rapist – that very much depends on the WP’s consent, which was almost certainly intended to be present by the song’s writers. It also doesn’t mean I even think that the MP was less moral than the average man in the MP’s social context. I’m not demonizing the MP. It is simply my opinion that this behavior is not morally acceptable in principle, and never should have been morally acceptable in practice.

  74. unclefrogy says

    well here is another example of the duet by Blossom Dearie & Bob Dorough

    to go along with the Betty Carter and Ray Charles version I mentioned above as not coercive but are playful and teasing.
    in the performing arts it is the interpretation by the performer that for me is controlling regardless of the historical context, as interesting as that always is, that takes presidence most of the time.
    I think the Jonathan Miller production with john Cleese as Pertuchio is a different kind of a play than many of the other “normal traditional” types of productions. I mention it as a way to illustrate that regardless of the words in the abstract on paper in their historical context they are a vehicle for the expression off the artist who use them. there are other works which on the face are about some relationships and events which are very problematic that never the less are not judged negatively because of it. that probably is the result of the performances of the artists more the the situation in the story.
    I am thinking about the love duet from the Phantom of the Opera as example.
    uncle frogy

  75. Holms says

    And jesus-fucking-mohammed-screaming-no-while-avoiding-his-safeword, there simply cannot be any argument over the objective fact that he treats her “no” as something other than “no”.

    …Which is entirely reasonable in that context, given that she also meant something other than ‘no’ when she said so.

  76. consciousness razor says

    …Which is entirely reasonable in that context, given that she also meant something other than ‘no’ when she said so.

    Exactly. It’s like you painted a fucking picture, which is worth a thousand of CD’s words.

    I require of the MP an overt act in rejection of society’s sexist norms. As best as I can tell, you don’t require such an overt act so long as the MP is correct in assessing the WP’s socially disguised intent.

    It’s a fucking Christmas song — not really about Christmas, but an upbeat, romantic, winter-themed duet. Really listen to it and ask yourself how these people actually feel. unclefrogy knows how to listen: “playful and teasing” is a reasonable assessment, which isn’t totally divorced from the way normal human beings communicate and interact with one another. That’s what we’re talking about: two people, living in a world of problems, who sing a playful little tune and seem to be happy together.

    I’ve been trying to somehow put this into a similar category as the sexual assault I experienced as a teenager, because I am sympathetic and do try to take that kind of thing very seriously. But these things are not like one another. If I could detect that there was some real harm done to somebody, and the lyrics don’t just violate some abstract rule that you invented, then I would have a good understanding of why I should consider it morally unacceptable. At various points, it sounds like you don’t even think anyone was actually harmed, although they could’ve been in some other hypothetical scenario according to your rules. At other points, it sounds like you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing, which I don’t appreciate at all.

  77. Rob Grigjanis says

    Holms @95 & cr @96: Your certainty as to the inherent benignity of the song is, er, interesting. I’m sure the authors’ intent was benign, and I’m sure it can be performed in a way that makes the situation look benign*.

    Thing is, I can easily imagine the exact responses of the woman as being ways to get out without offending or provoking the man. And I don’t have to imagine it, because I’ve heard/read many stories that run pretty much that way. And I wonder how many women listening to that song have uncomfortable flashbacks about their experiences.

    cr @96:

    It’s like you painted a fucking picture, which is worth a thousand of CD’s words.

    At other points, it sounds like you’re just arguing for the sake of arguing, which I don’t appreciate at all.

    Coming from you, that’s fucking hilarious. I don’t always agree with CD, but over the years I’ve some to greatly respect her sincerity, analysis, and, you know, actually responding to points that have been made, rather than the blowing-smoke-and-death-by-typing you seem to favour.

    *When I first saw the film decades ago (I wouldn’t watch it again; it’s not very good), I saw it that way, while also thinking Montalban’s character was a pushy if harmless creep. But then I’m a bloke.

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