How ‘Baby, It’s Cold Outside’ Went From Parlor Act to Problematic

From The New York Times:

By Jacey Fortin
Dec. 13, 2018

Rock Hudson did it with Mae West. Ray Charles did it with Betty Carter. Lady Gaga and Joseph Gordon-Levitt did it with a modern twist.

And somewhere along the line, the 74-year-old song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” became a holiday standard, in heavy radio rotation, playing overhead in department stores, and covered on Christmas albums.

“I’ve got to get home,” the woman sings in the duet. “But baby, it’s cold outside,” the man replies. “The answer is no,” she protests later. By the end they’re singing the chorus together.

Now, a long-simmering debate over the lyrics has reached a boil. The annual holiday culture wars and the reckoning over #MeToo have swirled together into a potent mix. Say — what’s in this drink?

Several radio stations have pulled “Baby” from the air. Arguments have erupted on social media, and multiple panels on Fox News and CNN have latched on to the debate.

William Shatner has emerged as a vocal champion of the song. “You must clutch your pearls over rap music,” he told one critic, urging him to listen to a 1949 classic version on YouTube.

William Shatner has emerged as a vocal champion of the song. “You must clutch your pearls over rap music,” he told one critic, urging him to listen to a 1949 classic version on YouTube.

To some modern ears, the lyrics sound like a prelude to date rape. The woman keeps protesting. “I ought to say no, no, no, sir,” she sings, and he asks to move in closer. “My sister will be suspicious,” she sings. “Gosh, your lips look delicious,” he answers. She wonders aloud what is in her drink.

“I think the song has always been creepy, but we didn’t have the words to explain why,” said Lydia Liza, 24, a singer-songwriter.

But some believe this to be a case of political correctness run amok. “Do we get to a point where human worth, warmth and romance are illegal?” the conservative commentator Tucker Carlson argued on Fox News.

Faced with protests, radio stations are doing their best to walk the line. “I gotta be honest, I didn’t understand why the lyrics were so bad,” Glenn Anderson, a radio host for Star 102 in Cleveland, wrote in a blog post last month after the station pulled the song from rotation. “Until I read them.”

“Baby” is usually sung by a man insisting and a woman resisting, but not always. In “Neptune’s Daughter,” the romantic comedy that brought the song to the silver screen — it won an Academy Award for best song in 1950 — it was performed twice, and the gender roles were reversed the second time for comedic effect.

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Is the Women’s March Melting Down?

From The Tablet:

Millions of women mobilized against gender inequality and the election of Donald Trump in 2016. But only four of them ended up at the top—and the consequences have been enormous.

By Leah McSweeney and Jacob Siegel
December 10, 2018

On Nov. 12, 2016, a group of seven women held a meeting in New York. They had never worked together before—in fact, most of them had never met—but they were brought together by what felt like the shared vision of an emerging mission.

There were effectively two different cohorts that day. The first one included Breanne Butler, Karen Waltuch, Vanessa Wruble and Mari Lynn Foulger—a fashion designer turned entrepreneur with a sideline in activist politics, who had assumed the nom de guerre Bob Bland. These four were new acquaintances who had connected in the days since Donald Trump’s election, through political networking on social media. Most of them had filtered through the Pantsuit Nation Facebook group, where a woman in Hawaii named Teresa Shook had days before floated the idea of a female-centered march to protest the incoming administration.

Soon after, Wruble—a Washington, D.C., native who founded OkayAfrica, a digital media platform dedicated to new African music, culture, and politics, with The Roots’ Questlove—reached out to a man she knew named Michael Skolnik. The subject of a New York Times profile the previous year as an “influencer” at the nexus of social activism and celebrity, Skolnik held a powerful though not easily defined role in the world of high-profile activist politics. “It’s very rare to have one person who everyone respects in entertainment, or in politics, or among the grass roots,” said Van Jones, in a 2015 New York Times piece. “But to have one person who’s respected by all three? There isn’t anyone but Michael Skolnik.”

When Wruble relayed her concern that the nascent women’s movement had to substantively include women of color, Skolnik told her he had just the women for her to meet: Carmen Perez and Tamika Mallory. These were recommendations Skolnik could vouch for personally. In effect, he was connecting Wruble to the leadership committee of his own nonprofit—a group called The Gathering for Justice, where he and Mallory sat on the board of directors, and Perez served as the executive director.

In an email to Tablet, Skolnik confirmed this account of the group’s origins. “A few days after the election, I was contacted by Vanessa Wruble, who I have known for many years, asking for help with The Women’s March and specifically with including women of color in leadership,” he wrote. “I recommended that she speak with Tamika Mallory and Carmen Perez, also who I have known for years.”

Linda Sarsour, another colleague from The Gathering for Justice network, was not present for these initial meetings but joined the Women’s March as a co-chair a short time later.

“There were other activists that I reached out to, who didn’t end up getting involved as prominently as those women,” Wruble told Tablet recently, adding that the primary goal for her at that point was clear, and simple: “I was very focused on making sure the voices of marginalized women were included in the leadership of whatever we were about to create.”

In advance of the meeting, Bland suggested they convene in Chelsea Market, an upscale food court in Manhattan. When the day arrived, the women managed to find each other but soon realized that there was nowhere in the hectic, maze-like hall of vendors quiet enough to sit and talk. Eventually, they retreated to the rooftop of a nearby hotel where, less than a week after the idea for a march sprouted, the seven women got acquainted.

According to several sources, it was there—in the first hours of the first meeting for what would become the Women’s March—that something happened that was so shameful to many of those who witnessed it, they chose to bury it like a family secret. Almost two years would pass before anyone present would speak about it.

It was there that, as the women were opening up about their backgrounds and personal investments in creating a resistance movement to Trump, Perez and Mallory allegedly first asserted that Jewish people bore a special collective responsibility as exploiters of black and brown people—and even, according to a close secondhand source, claimed that Jews were proven to have been leaders of the American slave trade. These are canards popularized by The Secret Relationship Between Blacks and Jews, a book published by Louis Farrakhan’s Nation of Islam—“the bible of the new anti-Semitism,” according to Henry Louis Gates Jr., who noted in 1992: “Among significant sectors of the black community, this brief has become a credo of a new philosophy of black self-affirmation.”

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Lessons of Maria Butina: Are men too easily flattered by young women to be trusted with power?

From Salon:

Should men be allowed to have power at all? Latest scandals in TrumpWorld suggest they simply can’t be trusted

Amanda Marcotte
December 16, 2018

Overall, the various scandals involving Donald Trump, his associates and Russian agents tend not to bring to mind sexy spy thrillers so much as screwy comedy. One theme, however, would fit just as comfortably in classic film noir as in absurdist comedy: Powerful, aging men brought low by their own pathetic desire to believe comely young women are really into them.

While there’s no telling what special prosecutor Robert Mueller — or any of the other federal investigators pulling various strings in TrumpWorld — might eventually discover, much of what’s coming out right now is a direct consequence of this male peccadillo, nurtured into being by a world that offers undue flattery to powerful and wealthy men so often that they start to buy it.

Trump is personally under suspicion for a large number of crimes, but the one that’s come most clearly into focus in the past month involves his role in paying off women to stay silent about their past sexual encounters with him. His former lawyer, Michael Cohen, has pled guilty to his role in this and has publicly insisted that Trump knew exactly what they were doing. Now it appears that David Pecker, CEO of the company behind the National Enquirer — which helped pay off Trump’s alleged mistresses — also seems to be cooperating with authorities.

The most famous of these mistresses is, of course, Stormy Daniels, a porn star who has been waging a very public battle to shake off a non-disclosure agreement and tell her story.

“It may have been the least impressive sex I’d ever had, but clearly, he didn’t share that opinion,” Daniels wrote of her encounter with Trump. Instead, it seems Daniels was hanging around Trump in hopes of getting a TV deal, and acquiesced to the sex because she thought it might help get her what she wanted.

Why the Trump campaign wanted to cover this up at all has always been a bit of a mystery, since Trump has never tried to conceal that he’s a lech. But it appears the cover-up was part of a larger strategy of portraying his marriage to Melania Trump, 24 years his junior, as a love story for the ages, instead of a transactional relationship between a rich celebrity and a failed model.

That effort continues to this day. In an interview with Melania Trump on Fox News Thursday, Sean Hannity asked when she knew Donald was the one. She recited, “We had great chemistry when we met in 1998, we started dating, we dated for a long time before we got married, we got married, we had a son, but we had great chemistry from day one.” So convincing!

Why does it even matter why the Trumps are together, or at least why does it matter so much so that Trump was willing to dish out huge amounts of money to protect this love story narrative? Part of it likely has to do with appealing to the Christian right, which can be a tad touchy about the institution of marriage. But part of it probably also has to do with flattering the sensibilities of the Trump base, the majority of which is made up of older white guys who would themselves like to believe that Melania loves Trump for his dashing good looks and delightful company.

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