The Proposition: So, Hey Baby Then…

By Kieron Gillen on June 3rd, 2010 at 5:20 pm.

So yesterday I posted a pretty snarky link to the black satire of Hey Baby, presuming that everyone would get it. Checking back in later, I realised that people really weren’t. Since some of it was pretty noxious, I thought it best to close it. Leigh’s written about her personal experience, but I’m going to explain the joke. Apologies to our female readers, but this one’s going to be written for a male audience.

Okay: the game isn’t about mowing down men. It’s about male privilege and what male privilege feels like.

The game’s rubbish, of course. But the one thing it does well is show how what you may think is an innocuous compliment feels in the context of a woman’s life. You approaching a woman in the street and being what you think is politely flirty is a different thing when, down the street, someone’s suggested that maybe you’d like to suck my dick and you’re a fucking bitch if you don’t.

From her perspective, it’s a culture of harassment she has to either politely deal with or ignore.

From your perspective, you’re just showing how you feel.

That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege.

If you’re a man, and you’ve acted like this, the woman you do it to, beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying.

That’s what the game’s about, and why I did the snarky tongue-in-cheek intro to the original post.

You can file it with any of the games which suggest that hyperviolence is an acceptable response to an everyday frustration – from jumping red lights in GTA, to mowing down cues in Postal to Sam ‘N’ Max or whatever. Occasionally, after a bad day being hassled, someone is going to think “You know – cutting up men? Not that bad idea at all, the bastards”. And then laugh to themselves, swallow it and carry on.

Because they have to, unless they want to turn their whole lives into picking fights, shouting matches and being dismissed as an uptight feminist bitch. And why would they do that? Either way, they’re still having to deal with men who think that her walking past is an invitation.

You don’t think it’s a major problem or it doesn’t happen “that often”? Well, it’s possible that you live in an area where it doesn’t happen. It is possible. Or maybe it’s because people don’t get catcalled when they’re with male friends. It doesn’t matter – it happens in some places. We know because someone felt strongly enough to make a game about it.

Put it another way: you should be glad that someone has spent the time to tell you about it, because it’s something you didn’t know about before. And if you don’t do it…well, great. The game’s not about you. There’s no need to be offended – though you shouldn’t expect a medal for just asking decently. It’s not a game about fantasising about blowing apart men. It’s a (blackly satirical) game specifically about blowing apart men who act in a socially unacceptable manner. You may as well get annoyed of the next Medal of Honor, as all the Axis forces you mow down are men. And if you’re a shy guy feeling intimidated and worried they may have transgressed in the past… well, there’s plenty of socially acceptable places to hit on people. Middle of the street almost certainly isn’t one of them. If you don’t do, what you got to worry about? And if you have done it… well, you know now and hopefully won’t again.

But you should be disturbed by the game. You should be disturbed that we live in a world where a woman feels the need to make the game – and for other women to smile at it, recognising it. And I’m disturbed that so many of the original posters didn’t seem to understand that, preferring to make it about them. Which is another sort of male privilege.

The reason why I’d keep the comments shut would be because the people who have to deal with this don’t get an option to debate it. Go to the forum if you want to chat. For the women being catcalled, this is just how the world works and all they can do is tell their male friends how it makes them feel.

That’s what Hey Baby is doing.

Be a friend. Listen.

Image is by the wonderful photojournalist Ruth Orkin.

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