Today, we are talking about controversy. I’m not one to get really controversial and try to intentionally ruffle a bunch of feathers. It’s just not how I roll. But we are in the wake of the holiday season, in January 2019. We just came out of the holiday season with Christmas music playing everywhere. There was a huge controversy around the song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” I know you know this song. You have heard it, whether you love it or hate it. Whether you are for keeping it on the radio or you are for banning it on the radio, I want you to open your mind to a third perspective for the sake of this episode. Stay with me. Don’t send me hate mail yet. I want to invite you to explore the lyrics of this song in a way that you might not have. I say that because I have been listening to the radio and I’ve been hearing the debates about whether it should be removed because the lyrics are suggestive of your typical date rape scenario. There are several lyrics of the song that I completely agree. They could be construed as offensive if you’re not familiar about the song.
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Baby, It’s Cold Outside
It was written in 1949 and it is about a date. A man invites a woman over to his home and they are having a nice evening, drinking cocktails and smoking cigarettes. It is snowy, cold and gruesome outside. As it’s getting late and she’s saying she has to go, he is doing his best to convince her to stay. If we really dig into the song and analyze it lyric by lyric, there are a lot of arguments that really do have validity regardless of which side of the fence you stand on.
You might be in the camp of, “Dude, it was written in ’49. It’s completely innocent. It’s flirting. This is what young people do. Every guy is thinking ‘Hey baby, I want you to stay,’ and girls sometimes play hard to get.” A lot of the lyrics in the song suggest she’s more worried about what other people are going to think. When she is saying, ” My sister will be suspicious / My maiden aunt’s mind is vicious / There’s bound to be talk tomorrow.” There’s a lot to be said about the fact that it is a simple, innocent song and she’s more worried about what people would think.
But if you look at different lyrics of the song. Lyrics that say “I really must go / the answer is no;” and in a different part of the song she says “Say, what’s in this drink?” So those lyrics are clearly stating, if you are on the side of the fence where it is offensive because it is suggestive of date rape. It is sending the wrong message to young people that this behavior is okay. It is sending the message to young men that it is okay to ignore a woman’s no. Instead of taking it literally of what it is and what it means, to take it as an invitation to continue pursuing her. The lyrics “Say, what’s in this drink?” could be suggestive of roofies.
I can see both points. I think regardless of where you stand on whether this song is innocent or inappropriate, you are right. Here’s how I know you are right. Your experience is going to lend itself to the way that you perceive this song. I am not here to sway your opinion in either direction. I am here to introduce to you a 3rd option, an option where we are not standing on either side of the fence but where we are straddling it, where we are using this song for a really good purpose. We can create a conversation around possibilities and, instead of running away from the fear or the way this song triggers us, use this as a tool for personal empowerment. Both for you and for any young woman or girl who is listening to this. I want you to share this with her.
The #MeToo Movement
We are well into what we now know as the #MeToo Movement. This has been a very empowering movement for women who have been the victims of sexual assault, where women who have not had a voice for years and years are ow coming forward. Women who have been slut shamed are now able to come and talk about their experiences. These women many times did not feel like they had a choice. They felt like they were pressured or coerced into some kind of sexual act against their will. They were guilt-tripped or pressured into saying yes when they really wanted to say no.
We are discovering now that so many women are coming forward with their experience is that they were in a situation they were not prepared for. They did not have the tools or skills – at that time – to handle the aggressive pressure in a man in a way they wish te would have. Women now are coming forward saying “I wasn’t wrong. I did say no. I tried.” They have lived with guilt for years where they have played that situation over in their minds so many times. “Could I have done something different? What if I had said this? What if I had done this? What if I had made a different choice at a different time? Would the results have been different?”
That’s tough. That’s a very heavy burden to bear. This movement is allowing women to lift that weight. For the first time ever they do not feel alone or shamed for their experience. They don’t feel like they have to hang onto the guilt and shame they have living with for so long. I think that’s beautiful. I think it’s so great that women come together in this way and to collectively realize this has been happening for years. The reason we don’t know about it is because people have not been publicly talking about it. This is something that rarely gets talked about because unfortunately so many women have told a parent or a friend and the reaction was less than desirable. So they learned it;s not a good idea to talk about it and to bury it and move on with life. Which sucks.
Lessons to Teach Our Young
For the first time ever we are holding space for these women to release all of these toxic emotions. I want to take it one step further in this episode and suggest we become really proactive about talking about the what ifs. We should teach young women how to handle an aggressor. Self-defense classes exist to teach women the physical skills to defend themselves during an attack. Do we ever teach classes and talk about how to emotionally and verbally handle yourself in a situation like the one suggested in the song “Baby, it’s Cold Outside?” I know while i was growing up, nobody – not a teacher nor a mentor – nobody had a conversation with me where they said, “Honey, you might find yourself in a situation one day, where you think it’s a date, you’re flirting, things are going swimmingly and then all of a sudden he gets a little handsy. He gets the idea that it’s going to go further than you want it to. He doesn’t take no for an answer. What will you do if that,s the situation?”
Nobody ever said that to me and I’m willing to be that no one had this conversation with you either. If you did, you were one of the very, very few. This is a conversation we need to be having with our young girls. This is a conversation that will help to prepare them incase a situation ever presents itself. Will it be bulletproof? No. Women are still physically not as strong as men and there is still the potential that we are going to find ourselves one day in a situation that we can’t get out of. But for all of those other situations that are common and the ones that we freak out inside and freeze when they are happening, we can be prepared.
Rather than letting a song like, “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” trigger us into freaking out and feeling fear and trying to make ourselves to believe that taking it off the radio keeps the bad guys from getting any ideas. The idea is already in the bad guys’ head. They already exist. Taking a song off the radio isn’t going to stop a guy from being aggressive. Putting a woman mentally into this scene and asking the question, “What would you do? What would you do if you were on a date in some dude’s living room and he was pressuring you to have sex with him? What would you do if he was getting a little too close to you on the sofa and he was making you uncomfortable? What would you do if he were to put his hand on your knee? What would you do if he started to say certain things to you? What would you do if he made you feel guilty? Told you that the only way that you are going to get ahead is if you sleep with him? How would you handle that situation? What would you say? Physically, what would you do? How would you behave? What would that tone of voice sound like? would you use your quiet, meek, nurturing, loving voice? Would you find it inside of you to use your assertive, aggressive, I’m not taking no crap from you voice? During that situation are you making sure that your body language and your words are in alignment? Are you saying no but your body saying yes?”
These are all things that a woman looks back and thinks to herself. “Did I say no loud enough? Was my body language insinuating that I wanted him to continue to advance on me?” This is why so many women have lived with this shame and regret for so long. While we can’t fix what has happened in the past, we can prevent how things will happen in the future. There are still ways where we can empower ourselves to maintain our own control. We can give ourselves that gift. Nobody else can give that to us but us. That’s what I want to invite you to do here with me today. To use this song instead of as a good or evil or as a tool to fight with the people who don’t share your values. Use it as a tool to have this conversation with somebody who is important to you. Somebody you love and want to help protect and armor with the skills, tools and confidence to feel powerful in a situation such as this.
Talk to the Women in Your Life
Talk to the women in your life about what the word no means. Talk about how sometimes other people don’t see it as a no. No doesn’t mean no to a lot of people. If you’ve ever been in sales training, you know that we hear it all the time. They tell you when you are learning how to sell stuff that if people say no to you it means not yet, not right now. It means you haven’t stated in their terms what the value is. It means you need to figure out what they want and meet them where they are. It means keep going. It means keep convincing. It means keep negotiating.
A lot of men have that mentality, where if they hear “no” from you, they hear keep going, keep trying. They see it as an invitation to test their skills. They really don’t understand or respect – maybe because they’re never taught or it’s their culture – that a subtle no is the same as a strong no. Some men don’t take no for an answer even if it is blatant.
I’m not saying this song will speak to everyone in the same way or to solve all of the problems. There are many situations we need to be prepared for but this is a great tool to start the conversation. It’s a way to break the ice and to talk to our young women about their intuition and how to know what the red flags are when you start to feel uncomfortable and what is it would you do in that situation. The only way to be prepared for anything is to experience it. Of course, physically, we don’t want to put ourselves in the situation, but mentally we can be armed and prepared.
Think of when you go on vacation, you don’t just show up and ask for a ticket anywhere, getting on a plane unknowingly. No, you do some planning. You look at photos, you do your research. You look at an overview of the land You know where you’re going. You’ve mentally been there in your mind. You have prepared before you’ve even left your house. You know what to do if it rains, if you can’t get an Uber, if the tour guide doesn’t show up.
This isn’t any different. This is life. We can conquer life as long as we’re prepared for it and this is just one way to do that. You can apply this concept to anything else. It doesn’t have to be this song or strictly sexual abuse or date rape that we are talking about. Anytime there is controversy, there are going to be two groups of people on either side of the fence. Two groups that have very different opinions. What I love about observing these arguments is that there is always some middle ground that is a very valuable lesson. People get so passionate about defending their values and beliefs, they sometimes miss the lesson. The lesson is gold.
Start the Conversation
That’s why I’m bringing this onto the podcast. It isn’t something I usually do. Empowering women is something that is very near and dear to my heart. I have personally never been the victim of a sexual assault but I have coached hundred of women who have. It’s way too prevalent for comfort. It happens way more than it should. It angers me. We can’t go out there and screen the men that are going to do it, though that would be great. We can empower women to be prepared, and that’s what I’m doing with this episode.
Please don’t let this episode stop with you. Please share it with your daughters. If you’re a teacher, please share it with your students. Please share with your niece, sister, neighbor and friends. Invite them to use this as a jumping off point to start having the conversation.
It can all start with a simple question, “what would you do if…?