CLEVELAND — A Cleveland radio station has stopped playing “Baby It's Cold Outside" this holiday season after it says listeners voiced concern about the song’s predatory undertones amid the #MeToo movement.
WDOK Christmas 102.1 pulled the song from its around-the-clock rotation of Christmas music this week after receiving a call from a listener who suggested it is inappropriate in 2018.
The call-and-response song written in the 1940s includes a woman singing that she has to leave a man’s house as he tries to lure her to stay.
In the song, the female sings “I really can’t stay,” to which the man responds, “but baby, it’s cold outside.”
Other lyrics include the woman singing “say, what’s in this drink?” and “I simply must go… the answer is no.”
“It wasn't really our decision. It's the decision of our listeners,” WDOK midday host Desiray told WJW, noting that the Christmas lineup is decided by the station’s listeners.
The station said it posted a poll about the song on its website and a clear majority of respondents supported the decision to remove the song from the station’s lineup.
Poll results were not visible on the station's website. However, a poll on the station's Facebook page showed that among more than 600 votes by Thursday night, 94 percent of respondents favored playing the song while just 6 percent felt it was inappropriate.
“People might say, ‘oh, enough with that #MeToo,’ but if you really put that aside and listen to the lyrics, it's not something I would want my daughter to be in that kind of a situation,” Desiray said. “The tune might be catchy, but let's maybe not promote that sort of an idea.”
Cleveland Rape Crisis Center President and CEO Sondra Miller said the organization supports the decision.
“I think it's taking a 2018 lens on a song that was written a very long time ago,” she said, adding that the move reflects evolving values.
Societal norms were different when the song was written. An unmarried woman staying at a man’s house was scandalous, even if she wanted to.
In the song, the woman expresses concern about what others may think of her spending the night, as the man tries to convince her to stay.
While some might view the song and its lyrics as a playful, coy back-and-forth from another time, Miller said it may have a different meaning to a rape survivor.
“It really pushed the line of consent,” Miller said. “The character in the song is saying ‘no,’ and they're saying well, ‘does no really mean yes?’ and I think in 2018 what we know is consent is ‘yes’ and if you get a ‘no,’ it means ‘no’ and you should stop right there.”
Miller said the song is an example of the rape culture in which we live, and the first step to preventing sexual violence is to change that.
Here are the full 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)
But 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)
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 dawn)
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 aunts mind is vicious (gosh your lips are delicious)
But maybe just a cigarette more (never such a blizzard before)
I've gotta get home(but baby, you'd 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 out)
Baby, it's cold
Baby, it's cold outside