Mszczuj of Skrzynno
The Broader Problems of "Baby, It's Cold Outside"
In the small village of Kije in southern Poland, you will find a statue of a Medieval knight outside the Pińczów County government building. His name was Mszczuj of Skrzynno. The statue is a bright, white stone, and it makes Mszczuj look like a superhero. His broad shoulders carry a cape, his sword in right hand by his side, his helmet visor up so he can stare into the distance. On his chest is a swan, the centerpiece of his coat of arms. In his left hand he is holding up the standard of Poland.
Mszczuj was not from Kije. The lands he owned were in modern day Ukraine. And the act for which he would earn his fame took place in another small, Polish village, roughly 250 miles to the north.
To understand the monument to Mszczuj, we first need to go deep into Poland’s history and introduce the lord he served, King Władysław II Jagiełło.
Written in the mid-1940s, the duet acts out a conversation between a woman and her date who's desperately trying to get her to stay. The subtext is obvious enough.
Many feminists, especially young ones like me, are concerned because the woman's words are being ignored. She's stating, quite clearly, that she needs to leave and he's arguing with her. At worst, it sounds like he might be trying to over-intoxicate her or even drug her to commit date rape.
But other feminists contextualize the song. In the 1940s, a woman couldn't quickly accept his advances. She needs to make excuses first, and gradually get talked into it, all to keep up appearances. And non-feminists who vigorously defend the song brush off the concerns altogether, suggesting the whole debate is a ridiculous overreaction to innocent lyrics.
The debate essentially boils down to this question: What does the woman want to do?