Can a video game actually teach about street harassment?
When I first heard about this online video game “Hey Baby”, which is a game where you get to blow away dude who harass you on the street and that’s about it, I fully expected the internet to be rife with butt hurtness about it from dudes who probably then logged off to go kill prostitutes in “Grand Theft Auto”. But when I googled around about it, I mostly saw feminist blogs hand-wringing over whether or not this game is a good idea. Not that the butt hurtness isn’t out there, but I didn’t see it with a cursory Google search. But hey, it’s always possible that the miscreant feminist-haters out there have enough self-awareness not to get hypocritical about this one.
I played the game a little out of curiosity, and found that it felt like being in a zombie movie, except the zombies yell “compliments” at you of the sort that most women are quite familiar with. It did feel good to blow a couple of dudes away for saying those scary sexual things guys on the sidewalk often say to women, but it got boring fast. But perhaps women aren’t supposed to be the audience for this game:
Yet over several hours my initial alienation and annoyance gave way to a swelling appreciation of Hey Baby, not as a game but as a provocative, important work of interactive art as social commentary. The people who should really play Hey Baby are men, even if you have never said a word to a woman you didn’t know on the street…..
And that is the point of Hey Baby. The men cannot ever actually hurt you, but no matter what you do, they keep on coming, forever. The game never ends. I found myself throwing up my hands and thinking, “Well what am I supposed to do?” Which is, of course, what countless women think every day.
As Sarah at Feministe noted, for men who don’t harass women, a lot of what goes on really is invisible to them. Not as invisible as some men like to front, of course—we’ve all seen dudes we don’t know harassing women we don’t know, so you can’t pretend you’ve never seen it—but it’s certainly true that men don’t see women get harassed when they’re with them. If this game had such a profound response in this one guy, I can see the value in it. Not to say that women generally find that every man on the street is hollering at them, but I do think the game approximated the stress you do feel when even a few guys do it as you try to go about your business.