Pop Culture
Dec 22, 2009, 05:44AM

How the Feminist Stole Christmas

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Call me a Grinch or a Scrooge or a Jew (the last one is true), but I’ve never really understood the appeal of Christmas music. I remember being astounded when, in December of my first year in the US, my freshman year roommate started playing her Christmas music playlist, and it contained over 50 songs. Outside our dorm room, things sounded much the same: I was totally befuddled by the fact that there was enough recorded Christmas music for entire American radio stations to play nothing but this swill beginning in late November and persisting through early January.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good carol or Christmas hymn, especially if you’re in a place where carols and hymns are appropriate, like a place of worship. But I’m not talking about hymns or carols; it’s about “White Christmas” and “Jingle Bells” and all the other Christmas standards that are covered and re-covered every single year by an endless parade of syrupy-sounding pop starlets and played ad nauseum in Starbucks and CVS and Grand Central Station.

In fact, I hate Christmas music. I hate its ubiquity. I hate that Christmas albums are so lucrative a way to sell out that a once-respected folk legend like Bob Dylan would make one. I don’t really care that Rudolph’s genetic aberration made him the Lance Armstrong of sleigh-pulling, and I think that marrying a snowman, as is suggested in “Winter Wonderland,” is downright creepy. But my least favorite Christmas song of all, without a doubt, is that ode to coercive sex, the date rape duet “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.”

The song has been covered by everyone from Bette Midler to Rod Stewart, and I’d never given it much thought until I was forced to listen to the Jessica Simpson-Nick Lachey cover that was recorded a few years ago. The singing cover was appalling, I was forced to actually listen to the lyrics, and I was sorry I did. It turns out that while the weather outside is frightful, inside, your date is plying you with alcohol and ignoring your attempts to refuse to spend the night with him.

For those who aren’t familiar with the song, it’s a duet between a man and a woman who have spent the evening together, and who are now discussing the possibility of the woman’s departure. She is keen to go home for a variety of reasons and her date does his best to convince her to stay, using every tool as his disposal, from platitudes to plying her with liquor.

The song was written in 1944 and is a relic of an era when it was accepted that any respectable woman would both refuse a man’s invitation to stay at his house drinking late into the night, and that when she said “no,” she actually meant “yes.” Why the song is still a beloved classic in 2009, when our culture’s views on consent have changed considerably, is beyond me.

By today’s standards, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” is a complete train wreck for many reasons. There’s the fact that the man—called “the Wolf” in the original libretto, as if he didn’t already sound predatory and coercive enough—ignores the woman’s explanations for why she needs to leave. There are the explanations themselves, which essentially amount to “my family, friends and neighbors will call me a slut if I stay.” And then, perhaps most problematic of all, there’s the Wolf’s attempt to guilt the woman (called “the Mouse” in the original libretto, as if to imply that she’s simply no match for the man) into staying:

Mouse: I ought to say no, no, no, sir
Wolf: Mind if I move closer?
Mouse: At least I'm gonna say that I tried
Wolf: What's the sense in hurting my pride?


Mouse: You've really been grand
Wolf: I thrill when you touch my hand
Mouse: But don't you see
Wolf: How can you do this thing to me?

You see, ladies, this discussion isn’t really about what you want. It’s about ensuring that you don’t damage a man’s ego by refusing him, even after he ignores your wishes and tries to get you drunk. As for you, hopeful gentlemen, just remember that if you ask her enough times and ignore her refusals and compliment her and guilt trip her, a woman will eventually agree to spend the night with you.

And that, my friends, is how the feminist Grinch ruined Christmas.

  • FYI: Bob Dylan's Christmas album was done for charity. "Dylan will donate all his U.S. royalties from album sales to the charity group Feeding America, and in a statement he said he hopes it brings 'food security to people in need.' Feeding America said it expects to provide meals to 1.4 million people this holiday season with the album proceeds." http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE57P4NG20090826

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  • Exactly the point I was going to make. A lot of these covered and recovered Christmas songs are for charity, so before you go Grinch on all these artists for "selling out," why don't you do your research. But really, how can you hate songs that make people so happy. They spread joy and good cheer to everyone and all you do is overanalyze them so you can find a bad message. Merry Christmas, Chloe Angyal.

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  • Also, "once-respected"? Excuse me?

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  • Just last Sunday, my grandson hung that same ornament, pictured above, on our tree. As for the article: is everything tied to feminism? I love the traditional Christmas carols, and if you can listen to "Silent Night" or "The First Noel" and feel hate, then you truly have a heart of stone.

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  • maybe she should just get up and leave. you can't write article after article about female empowerment and then complain that, oh no, that guy's trying really hard to get that girl to stay. either women are strong and smart and capable of making their own decisions or they're not, you can't have it both ways

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  • What's next Chloe? Are you going to tell us how the Easter bunny hiding eggs is a metaphor for the subjugation of all women? Is "I saw mommy kissing Santa Claus" calling all women sluts? Are the Christmas stockings another form of female bondage? Fa La La La La La, Give me a break!

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  • OK. I'm the dope here. All along I took Chloe's articles at face value. But this one is so over the top, so nutso, that it's obvious her articles are meant as parody. Does Chloe even exist?

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  • Spartan, your comment doesn't make any sense (with poor syntax to boot). You obviously missed the "I love a good carol or Christmas hymn" part of the article. Westphal, the song was written in 1944. Get a grip on yourself. Texan, you are painfully unfunny. AppleHead, you are a hopeless moron if you don't recognize the irony of questioning someone's existence whilst using the name "Applehead."

  • it's funny how you say "the song was written in 1944 get a grip on yourself" to me and not chloe.

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  • I'm sorry for the poor syntax; I'm not a gifted writer. However, I can read, and although Chloe Angyal says she "loves" a good Christmas carol or hymn, in the very next paragraph she says, "In fact, I hate Christmas music." I don't know whether she also has bad syntax, but this was confusing. In addition, as someone who is older than Angyal, to call Bob Dylan a "folk legend," is misleading. As someone who was alive at the time, after 1964 Dylan spurned the "folk" moniker given him, and turned rock and roll upside down.

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  • not everything goes to back to the subjugation of women and minorities...anti-semeitism, maybe...

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  • Wait a minute. How did anti-Semitism get involved here? That's a real leap.

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iq10bz3PxyY

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  • you are all hating unnecessarily. she's completely right and it's unacceptable that in today's society people are still so ignorant as to what they're singing or playing on the radio. women deserve to be viewed better in society and promoting things like these does not help. chloe, i thank you for this article and i really enjoy your connections to feminism in much of your work.

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  • @yoitpaul: I don't think there's a lot of "hating" going on here, just disagreement over Christmas music. And are you proposing censorship on what people sing and record and then have played on radio? If you don't like it, turn it off.

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  • you know you could also read this song as a woman who decides she doesn't care what other people will think or say, she's a strong independent woman damnit, and she's gettin some tonight! just sayin...

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  • I'm almost starting to like you, zkauf1, but for heaven's sake, your mind is in the gutter this early in the morning.

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  • Are you coming on to me?

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  • I don't think it matters if you're Christian or Jewish (I'm a lapsed member of the latter), Christmas music is fine for a limited time. But shut it off on Dec. 26! I've had so many vicarious roasted chestnuts, I'm about to hurl!

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