Hey Baby


Written by Heather Kennedy
25 Monday 25th October 2010
Picture the scene: You’re making your way home from a stressful day at work and a nearby chancer hollers a lewd remark to the effect of “I like your bounce, baby”. What’s an appropriate response? Hang your head and shuffle away in embarrassment? Launch into a rant about your right to a harassment-free journey home? Splatter the Casanova’s brains across the pavement with a 3' long .80 caliber machine gun?
Well now female gamers can do just this in the new virtual reality shooter, Hey Baby. The game follows a female protagonist as she exacts her gory revenge on a variety of male targets. The men approach with a range of comments from the innocuous, “god bless you” right up to bolder openers like “I wanna rape you”. Your character then has a choice; to silence their smutty mouths for good in an orgy of virtual aggression or say thank you to them and shower them in a cloud of pink hearts. That’s right readers; there is no middle ground in the cutthroat world of Hey Baby.
You’ll be unsurprised to learn that the game has caused quite a stir in certain quarters. Accusations that Hey Baby glorifies violence or, worse still, represents the man-hating feminist mafia at its most deranged have been leveled with routine outrage. The game’s creator, Suyin Looui has retaliated by saying she intended the violence to be so over the top it couldn’t be taken seriously.
Before now game creators, traditionalists that they are have relied more on male-on-female violence to satisfy audiences. The prostitute slayings of the massively popular Grand Theft Auto spring to mind. Or for those who prefer something more concentrated in theme, there is Rapelay (see what they did there), a game where you can stalk and rape a woman and her two underage daughters. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t get too hot under the collar about the barefaced gender imbalance inherent here.
But Hey Baby does offer women a gun-toting pseudo-reality, and against a backdrop of high school massacres, American males might be excused for getting a bit twitchy. However, detractors have yet to suggest that the game might pave the way for the next trend in underdog revenge fantasies come true; the Basketball Diaries for harassed women on the edge.
This is a very America response to a very global problem. In Egypt, women have plumped for a less contentious reaction to the issue of street harassment. A new initiative comes in the shape of Harass Map, an awareness raising campaign and portal for women to share experiences and provide resources. Elsewhere, campaign groups such as HollaBack and LASH (London Anti-Street Harassment) are springing up and gaining momentum.
Although Hey Baby is not to be taken literally, it does rely on the player’s all or nothing quick-fire response. This highlights the question; what is the correct reaction to street harassment? Read the discussion pages, and there is a shared frustration from women about how to deal with something that is a routine occurrence, that happens in places where they have a right to feel safe and that makes them feel humiliated and at risk.
In the arrival of Harass Map and Hey Baby we are witnessing a collective refusal to go on shuffling off and saying nothing when street harassment occurs. The sole sapping experience of remaining mute in the face of something that dehumanizes you is being rejected by women.
Those who have tried retaliation will be aware it’s a risky business. Anything from a casual “get lost” to squirting Ribena down the side of a persistent harasser’s vehicle can lead to all manner of threatening and abusive behaviour (especially if your miss-timed squirt coincides with a red light and you have to flee to the safety of the nearest pedestrianised zone). Any verbal retort and the street harasser is overcome with shock and indignation. The cheek! The ingratitude. That you found their revolting remark, levelled at you just because you are female and in public, anything other than charming! Anyone would have thought they’d politely asked you the way to nearest the public library.
A common rebuttal to the issue of street harassment is that women bring the unwanted attention on themselves by dressing provocatively. This is heard in eastern and western countries alike. In fact, 72 percent of women interviewed about street harassment in Egypt were veiled at the time. And many female readers will testify to the fact that, when it comes to clothing, UK harassers are a fairly undiscerning breed.
Because in truth, harassment has nothing to do with the appreciation of attractive females in public places. Women are not harassed because they look so pant wettingly delectable that some men can’t contain their verbal admiration. Harassment is not even about chatting up. Nothing would cause more alarm to your seasoned harasser than if women were to start taking them up on their breathy libidinal declarations. Women are expected to be mute receptacles. Harassment happens because it makes the perpetrators feel manly and leaves women feeling powerless and humiliated.
Hey Baby has helped to nudge street harassment up the agenda and underlines the fact that it pisses women off. By allowing women to escape into this false reality, it highlights the frustrations and lack of power they experience in their own. And in this sense Hey Baby leaves you feeling pretty depressed. Beyond the games’ grisly paybacks and sassy posturing lies the impotence women feel in the everyday street. Like a virtual reality game where you can fight the persistent nuisance of dog fowling in your neighbourhood: Pet owners are controlled with hefty fines and increasingly stern letters from the council on their civic responsibility, but step away from your computer and outside your door, and the offensive heaps waits, in all their real life glory.

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  • Guest: neonfacepaint
    Fri 29 - Oct - 2010, 00:33
    what a fab article, you got it exactly right.