A Controversial Christmas

TW: Discussion around rape.

There was some controversy this year in Canada when a radio station/broadcasting company “banned” the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. I put “banned” in quotes because choosing not to play a song isn’t really banning it, otherwise I’d have been banning a song every time I chose “next song” when my music was on shuffle. People were still allowed to listen to the song, it would just be off the Christmas playlists for this company, which is understandable when you consider how poorly the lyrics have aged.

Now, there’s a historical context that an English teacher wrote about the song which went viral recently, although I distinctly remember reading and appreciating it over a year ago. Many people have used this a justification for the song’s lyrics. In my opinion, the context is pretty clear even without this viral history lesson. People complained and the song was un-“banned”. After all, anyone who didn’t like it could just switch stations or something, right? So no problem.

“Baby It’s Cold Ouside Is Not Offensive” —seen on someone’s Facebook wall

But then (and maybe I’m just unlucky in who I have for Facebook friends) I started seeing post after post insulting, attacking, and belittling those who don’t like the song. I haven’t seen any posts from people who actually don’t like the song, and I’ve yet to see anyone as upset about the song as these people are about these supposed overly-offended “special snowflakes”. Maybe I’m only seeing one side of a conversation, but to me it looks like a bunch of angry people yelling at nothing. And here are my thoughts on this, if you care enough to read them:

I quite like “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and appreciate the context it was written in, but I’m worried about how many haven’t even stopped to consider that the lyrics could be concerning and the concerns may be valid.

Like, I like the song, but if it was playing at a Christmas Party and a friend asked me to skip it, I wouldn’t turn up the volume and play it on repeat, nor would I complain about having to skip it. My friend probably has a good reason for not wanting to hear those lyrics, even if they know the context. Whatever that reason is, it’s probably bigger than me not wanting to compromise my musical preferences.

I don’t think the song should be banned (which, again, I don’t really consider it to have been), but I understand where the concern regarding it comes from. I don’t mind listening to it privately instead of with others or on the radio, and I’m most certainly not going to go online and complain about those who don’t like the song.

When people dislike any other song, it’s met with a shrug and a “to each their own”. But this song? The response has been to stuff it down the throats of others and complain about their opinions.

People are allowed to dislike the song for its lyrics. It did not age well, and that’s a shame. You cannot fault people for not liking it, and in fact it’s concerning when you do. Because the overwhelming reason people don’t like it are because the lyrics sound like the lead up to rape. This isn’t a small thing. On paper, through the lens of the modern day and without the teasing smile of the female singer, it looks bad.

And so, when I see people wildly defending the song and complaining about those who don’t like it, I take note. Someone on my Facebook said “‘Baby It’s Cold Outside’ is not offensive.” My response is: “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is not offensive to you. It’s not offensive to me. But it could be offensive to someone who’s heard those same words from someone in a different context.

The defending people have not thought about what it might mean to others. They’ve instead dismissed serious concerns in favour of their own view. And if they’re so publicly dismissive and insolent towards strangers and hypothetical enemies over a song that can be construed as it has been, imagine their handling of real people in real situations that mimic the lyrics of the song in a scary way.

You can like the song, you can hate it. But to dismiss valid concerns out of hand, to not consider what it might mean to some people, and how heavy the song might be in another context, that will make me notice you.

As I scroll through Facebook while listening to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” on my earphones, I quietly take note of these posts and who posts them, and I trust them a little less.

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