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As The Debate Over ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ Rages On, How Far Is Too Far?

By Ana Veciana-Suarez Tribune News Service

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) When a Cleveland station pulled the song from its holiday rotation, a host called the song "manipulative and wrong."

Tribune News Service

Has the pendulum swung too far? So far out of the park and over the horizon that we have lost our minds and our focus?

I ask this because of the recent squabble over a Christmas classic that pits the well-meaning against the confused, the righteous against the exasperated, the #MeToo adherents against the #EnoughIsEnough contingent.

The brouhaha has led to some very unseasonable arguments, including one I witnessed at a holiday party between two friends who were completely convinced of their own differing opinions.

In case you've been too busy shopping to notice (lucky you), let me offer a recap of the news: Radio stations across the country are pulling the plug on the decades-old song, "Baby, It's Cold Outside." You know it, the earworm you keep singing to yourself long after it has stopped playing. I'm humming it now, even as I pound away on my keyboard.

It's a duet in which the man cajoles his date to stay, pleading inclement weather. Back in the day, the song, which won an Oscar for the 1949 film "Neptune's Daughters," was regarded as sexy banter, a musical flirtation. Not so now. This is the era of Harvey Weinstein and Bill Cosby and Les Moonves. The era of women rising.

When a Cleveland station pulled the song from its holiday rotation, a host called the song "manipulative and wrong." He went on to note that "in a world where #MeToo has finally given women the voice they deserve, the song has no place." Other stations soon followed.

That, however, hasn't been the end of it. Complaints have poured in, and the daughter of the song's composer, Broadway legend Frank Loesser, blamed Bill Cosby for ruining the song. She told ABC News that she understood why some women would oppose the lyrics, but "I think it would be good if people looked at the song in the context of the time. It was written in 1944."

The song was composed to be performed by Loesser and his wife, but it turned out to be so catchy that numerous well-known singers picked it up, including Miss Piggy of the Muppets (pursuing ballet hunk Rudolf Nureyev) and, more recently, Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett.

Some women have called it a date-rape anthem, while others have defended it for empowering women. But all along the debate simmered kind of, sort of, in the background.

No more. Society has changed, grown more aware of a toxic culture that has allowed boys to be boys and forced girls to suffer the consequences. And yet, I ask again, at what point do we cross the boundary of logic into paranoia? How do we determine the degrees between reasonable flirtation and sexual harassment? I ask as a woman, yes, but also as a mother of four men and grandmother to six very assertive girls.

The soul-searching comes after news reports about how businesses have adjusted to the new awareness of sexual predators in the office.

Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal and others have published stories about how companies, rattled by the #MeToo movement, have adopted strategies to avoid problematic situations between male and female co-workers. They include booking hotels on different floors, limiting one-on-one meetings and avoiding co-ed dinners.

The result? Gender segregation. I don't think it was meant that way, but women, still struggling to be heard, still fighting to move up the ranks, still negotiating fair pay and opportunities, are isolated once again.

This isolation is as frustratingly idiotic as the brouhaha over "Baby, It's Cold Outside." But in hyper-sensitive times, when we fail to see the many nuances of relationships, fail to see, too, the difference between braggadocio behavior and outright sexual harassment _ reason, balance and subtlety become collateral damage. Should we next ban "Santa Baby"? "I Caught Mommy Kissing Santa Claus"? "Shimmy Down the Chimney"? ___ (Ana Veciana-Suarez writes about family and social issues)

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