Baby, It’s Cold Outside

You might have noticed a lack of blog post last Monday. I’d been planning to write something about a book I recently read called A Return to Modesty by Wendy Shalit, but came down with pneumonia. The only reason there were posts on the past two Saturdays is that they were already written (it seems like whenever a Bible study comes together really well so I have an extra Sabbath post ready “just in case,” something comes up that gives me a reason to use it).

It’s been nearly two weeks now and I still don’t feel fully recovered (much better, though!). So instead of a thoughtful book review, I want to talk to you about a song that’s been stuck in my head. Or rather, a specific version of the song.

You’re no doubt familiar with the song “Baby It’s Cold Outside.” You might even have heard Idina Menzel and Michael Bublé’s new cover already, but if you haven’t seen the video yet please take a few seconds to at least glance at it, since that’s a big part of what I want to talk about.

Apparently they’ve tried to turn this song into a cute family-friendly version for the holidays. If you close  your eyes, though, it still sounds like a man trying to seduce a woman. But then you open your eyes and see a cute little pre-adolescent kids acting out the roles. In the words of Jubal Early, does that seem right to you?

In the original score, written in 1944 by Frank Loesser, the two singing parts are called “wolf” and “mouse,” with a male voice usually singing “wolf” and a female voice usually singing “mouse” (thought not always — did you know Joseph Gordon Levit could sing?). Actually, it turns out we can talk about Wendy Shalit’s book after all, since she mentions “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” in her modesty book.

Now this song is very stereotypical because certainly not all men are hungry wolves and not all women reticent mice. Indeed, I’ve known quite a few hungry woman and mousey men. However, the simple fact remains that a young woman in 1948 had a hundred and one reasons to say no to sex, if she wanted to say no, and those reasons were credible. The story we are told today is that all these reasons, such as a father waiting up for you, were oppressive to women. And yet in their absense we can appreciate how an earlier generation of girls was made powerful by them. (A Return to Modestly, p.55)

If she’d seen this music video, though, I’m not sure Miss Shalit would have put her discussion of it under the heading “Girls Who Can’t Say No” as a contrast between today’s culture and that of 1948 (the year Loesser sold the rights to MGM). I think she might have moved the discussion to one of the many passages in her book where she talks how much we as a culture sexualize our children. For one thing, she draws a parallel between assigning sex-education classes to younger and younger students and increasing levels of student-on-student sexual violence in schools.

The associative link between the disenchanting of sex and increased sexual brutality among children works like this: if our children are raised to believe, in the words of the New Jersey kindergarten teacher, that talking about the most private things is “no different from talking about an elbow,” they they are that much more likely to see nothing wrong in a certain kind of sexual violence. (A Return to Modestly, p.19)

Now, I’m not saying this cute little music video is going to lead to increased levels of sexual assault among children. Rather, it bothers me as part of a trend that portrays young children in more and more sexualized ways. Most people I know would hope their 10- or 11-year-olds didn’t understand what’s going on in this song — they wouldn’t be encouraging them to sing it. And if this little boy was older, I’m not sure which interpretation of the song this performance would make me lean towards. Does “mouse” want to stay but feels she should leave, and “wolf” is persuading her to do what she wants? Or is “mouse” really trying to get away, and “wolf” is blocking her escape? Depends on how you sing the song, and how you feel about the line “What’s in this drink?” that was cut from the video, but not the version on Idina Menzel’s CD.

Am I over-thinking this? Perhaps. But it saddens me how many people think this is just a cute little video and don’t seem to see the potential implications of two children singing what is a rather adult song. Sure they’re adorable and talented, but was it a good idea for the adults who were in charge of creating this music video to use them like this? I really don’t think so.

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Shy, Frumpy Doormats

The subject of Godly femininity has fascinated me for a number of years. It’s well nigh impossible to be a woman in the church without reaching the point where you’re comparing yourself to Proverbs 31, and if we’re honest we rarely (if ever) feel we measure up to that standard. The picture of a virtuous woman is not meant to discourage us, but that can still be how we feel.

Similarly, reading  New Testament verses addressed to women can make us feel like it’s impossible to be a godly woman, or even make us angry that God’s idea of femininity has so few elements of feminism. It is not always easy to hear, much less heed, admonitions for women to have “a meek and quiet spirit” (1Pet. 3:4, KJV), submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22), and wear “modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety” (2 Tim 2:9).

Meekly Modest

"Shy, Frumpy Doormats" marissabaker.wordpress.com. Blog post about Godly FemininityMany of the words used to define Godly femininity in the Bible have come under attack in modern times. When we hear “submission,” we think doormat. When we hear “modest,” we think frumpy. When we hear “gentle and quiet,” we think shy. Often, this type of reaction shows a misunderstanding of God’s intention for feminine conduct. As discussed in “Redefining Meekness,” our current definitions fall considerably short of the Biblical standard. The Greek words translated meekness carry the idea of strength of character that balances our emotions, expresses anger properly, behaves with gentleness, and helps establish our relationship with God.

The subject of modesty has been thoroughly covered (perhaps “done to death” would be a better phrase) by many other writers. So all I’m going to say about it is, check out Olivia Howard’s Fresh Modesty blog for proof that you can dress modestly and attractively.  And honestly, even if modest does sometimes look “frumpy,” would we rather be looked down on for being too covered than for dressing slutty?

Content With Quiet

In Western culture, gentle meekness and silence are seen as negative qualities. They may be okay in principle, but in practice it holds you back from reaching your full potential (whatever that means). It is generally the loudest person in the room who gets the most attention, and we often assume that is an ideal we should strive for.

"Shy, Frumpy Doormats" marissabaker.wordpress.com. Blog post about Godly FemininityI’ve touched on this subject before, when writing about introversion. Both shyness and introversion are generally considered “bad” traits (though that is starting to change in regards to introverts). In Susan Caine’s words, “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.” They are not the same, but share quietness as a trait. Many people assume this quietness is a sign of weakness.

 Also, shyness implies submissiveness. And in a competitive culture that reveres alpha dogs, one-downsmanship is probably the most damning trait of all.

Yet this is where the shy and the introverted, for all their differences, have in common something profound. Neither type is perceived by society as alpha, and this gives both types the vision to see how alpha status is overrated, and how our reverence for it blinds us to things that are good and smart and wise.

Forget Society

All too often, we hear people twisting Godly traits beyond recognition to make them seem less appealing. We also see traits that God hates exalted by society. I have a hard time finding balance between these two extremes. I struggle with shyness, but I can also speak before I think and wish I had exercised the virtue of silence. I intend to dress with modesty, but sometimes settle for frumpy or wear something a bit tighter than usual because I know guys will notice. I seem to go from walk-all-over-me peacefulness to stereotypical red-head temper with nothing in between.

We can’t let ourselves pick and choose qualities we admire (I like this trait from the Bible, but I like this idea from feminism) to make a “self” that we feel comfortable with. Christ calls us to get outside our comfort zone and follow Him, not matter what outside pressures say. In many cases, our challenge as Christian women is to move past the negative reactions society has to Godly traits and follow His teaching in spite of what the world says. God doesn’t ask us to be shy, frumpy doormats, but neither does he want us to hold on to worldly ideals that conflict with His way of life. He wants daughters clothed with strength and dignity who submit their lives to Him and know when to keep silent and when to speak.