Paul Anka's "Having My Baby": Disgustingly Misogynist or Unfairly Maligned?
Sunday night, Red Bank, New Jersey, will host Canadian hit-maker Paul Anka for a show of his greatest hits. An interesting figure in the music industry, along with his personal array of hits, he composed Johnny Carson's original Tonight Show theme, wrote "My Way" for Frank Sinatra and had the foresight to buy back his master recordings from his record label at age 19. Currently promoting his autobiography My Way and a new album, Duets, he's parading his decade-spanning catalog of hits on tour, but one song that's been noticeably missing from his recent live shows is his controversial '70s hit "(You're) Having My Baby." His big comeback hit, it's since been lambasted by feminists and critics alike, topping several "Worst song of all time" lists and even earning Anka numerous dubious honors and allegations of chauvinism. But could a song that was once performed on "Glee" and by Anka himself on Howie Mandel's "Bobby's World" really be that bad?
Taken at face value, it's a song about a guy who is glad his wife is having his baby. At first listen, it seems harmless enough. Written at a time when Anka, a former teen idol, was transitioning his career into primarily a touring performer, it was released as a tribute to his wife Anne after birthing four of their eventual five children. While he had tested the waters with DJs a few years prior with the concept, Anka eventually recorded it as a duet with his Gospel-based protege Odia Coates. The song topped the charts on August 24th, 1974, the timing of which lead to a tidal wave of controversy.
At the time of its release the women's lib movement was in full effect, and "(You're) Having My Baby" managed to alienate and outrage listeners on both sides of the political spectrum. While some critics, like Rolling Stone, blasted it at the time (and today) for being overly sappy and sentimental, the song went beyond standard critical scrutiny into the wider conversation about sexism and misogyny.
One of the main points of contention to feminists was Anka's use of "my" instead of "our." To some, singing the lyrics "having my baby" and "what a lovely way of saying that you love me" implied that mothering a child for a man was the pinnacle of achievement women could reach, or that the act of having a baby together somehow wasn't a partnership. The National Organization for Woman gave Anka their dubious "Keep Her In Her Place" award, and Ms. magazine named him "Male Chauvinist Pig of the Year." While Anka himself defends using the word as more of a song-"craftsman" choice, claiming "our baby" doesn't sound right, he did eventually begin ending the song live by altering the lyrics to "having our baby."