“It’s payback time, boys” – street harassment game

June 4, 2010

Last fall, a New York City graduate student* contacted me because she was creating a first person shooter game about street harassment. We chatted about street harassment and I hoped to include her work in my forthcoming book, but alas I could not include every activist I came across due to space constraints. I will include a profile of her in a new activists section of my website this summer.

Anyway, after a particularly annoying harassment experience, she was talking with a friend about street harassment and out of the conversation came the idea to use her programming strength to create a product she calls “definitely controversial but designed to be playful and silly and totally over the top!” In the game she uses real comments harassers have said to her and her friends and family. This week she let me know that her first person shooter game is done. Here’s her description:

” Ladies, are you sick and tired of catcalling, hollering, obnoxious one-liners and creepy street encounters? Tired of changing your route home to avoid uncomfortable situations?


Tell your friends, co-workers, sisters, mothers and grandmothers.  This is the game you’ve all been waiting for…”

Hey Baby is a playful and provocative video game about street harassment. Through a 3D game and website, Hey Baby is designed to spark discussion about women’s experiences of public space. Play the game at www.heybabygame.com.

The Player encounters a series of creepy men who confront her with real comments as she navigates through the game world.  The Player can choose to shoot or to shower them with love.  Hey Baby is based on hundreds of real stories, collected from women throughout the world. Using an ironic mix of humor, violence and over-the-top graphics, this unsettling game encourages open access to public space.

Hey Baby

My pal Brittany interviewed she and featured her game at Change.org’s site and in the latest issue of Bitch magazine, and here is a review of it on Sexy Videogameland and Salon.com, so I refer you to those articles for more info.


*the game creator has asked me to delete her name because of the controversy the game is creating and how directly it is attached to her name

Tired of just writing about street harassment

May 10, 2010

Three weeks ago when I was in Oregon, a man harassed me from behind bushes during my run. He scared me and made me feel unsafe as a woman runner, a woman in public, and a woman traveling alone. I blogged about it and then fumed about what else I should have done. Should I have called the police? Yelled at him? Tried to reason with him about the inappropriateness of his behavior? Tee-peed his house? Written up a fake citation and left it in his mailbox?

The truth is, I felt too unsafe to do anything but leave and never go back and I didn’t think the police would care.

So what I did was draw on my strength as a writer and I wrote and submitted an op-ed to the Portland, Oregon, newspaper, the Oregonian. Today they published it.

I’m glad to have my story and the plight of other women runners featured in a prominent newspaper so that hopefully it will raise people’s awareness about  the crap we put up with and how we don’t like it. But I’m also getting tired of just writing about street harassment. (Especially when what I write for online publications only seems to incite ignorance and harassment in the comments section, where men try to justify why they should be allowed to harass women. Aarrgh!!)

So now I’m plotting what my action will be and brainstorming what I can do in addition to writing about street harassment. And I’m glad there are already wonderful anti-street harassment activists (featured in my book) whose projects I can look to for ideas.

Thoughts? What type of action would you like to see happen?

“Hot Pussy is No Way to Say Hello” Campaign

April 7, 2010

Image from HollaBack NYC

Imagine waking through a busy section of a city and seeing giant silhouette cutouts of men and hearing vulgar comments like “Hey girl, why don’t you come over here and ride my pony,” and “Nice pussy baby!” It’s pretty shocking, right? Would it get you thinking about street harassment, perhaps discussing it with your friends?

This past Saturday street harassment activists in New York City launched the campaign “Hot Pussy is No Way to Say Hello” in Union Square with the goals of sparking dialogue and raising awareness about street harassment. And those goals were more than met.

Sarah VanDenbergh, an art education graduate student at New York University, and Violet Kittappa, Director of Research and Development for Hollaback NYC, organized the anti-street harassment demonstration as part of Sarah’s master’s thesis on street harassment. They were kind enough to talk to me about it. I hope that learning about their activism will inspire you to think about creative ways to raise awareness about and to challenge street harassment in your community.


Sarah is from a small town in New York and moved to New York City nearly two years ago to attend graduate school. She was upset by the street harassment she experienced on a regular basis in the city. Using her skills as an artist, she decided to create a public art installation in a busy area to generate conversations about street harassment and to direct the focus of those conversations on the men who perpetuate it instead of on the women who experience it. After all, the perpetrators are the ones who must change their behavior.

Sarah shares exactly what the demonstration entailed:

“I created six life size silhouettes of men and placed them in Union Square on Saturday from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Attached to the cutouts were signs that said: ‘I grope women on the train,’ ‘I objectify women’s bodies,’ ‘I masturbate on women on the train,’ ‘I make catcalls to women in the street,’ ‘I say crude comments to women on the L train,’ and ‘I expose myself to women almost everyday.’

I had sound boxes with mp3 players and portable speakers sitting in front of the silhouettes playing a loop of 109 crude things men say to women. These quotes were directly from the HollaBack NYC website and from my own experiences.

We also passed out cards that said, ‘Hot pussy is no way to say hello.” On the back of the cards it said, ‘Sexual harassment is a crime, from crude comments and threats to stalking and indecent exposure…if you see a perv holla back, take their picture and file a police report.’ Included on the card were 2 pictures of men exposing themselves in public and a woman ‘holla-ing back.’ We passed out around 1,200 cards.”

I asked Sarah and Violet about the reaction and response of passersby. They said that overall people responded very positively toward the exhibits, especially, surprisingly men (Which shows that there are lots of male allies out there. In fact, it was male friends of Sarah’s who helped her with the audio aspect of the project by reading the crude comments she recorded and played. We need to mobilize and engage more men our efforts!)

Read the full article about the campaign launch!

Butt Slap Leads to Activism

June 8, 2009

Recently I was slapped on the butt by a teenager on a bicycle while I was jogging in my neighborhood. He simply came up behind me, spanked me, and furiously pedaled away. I was wearing sweatpants and my little brother’s oversized soccer jersey. No makeup, greasy ponytail – I looked like crap (though, even if I had been provocatively dressed, it would be no excuse for this boy’s behaviour).

After screaming profusely at the kid and his friends, who rode away laughing like hyenas, I walked home almost in tears, feeling so violated and frustrated with society in general. I can’t stop asking myself how somebody, especially at such a young age, would think that he has the right to act like that towards another person. It’s scary. I feel as though women over the age of 12 can rarely step outdoors wearing anything less than a parka without being jeered at by creepy men anymore. And I’m frustrated.

[As a result], I am working on a story for a school assignment on the subject of street harassment…Street Harassment is positively rampant in London, [Ontario,  Canada], and I think that my campus community would respond positively to an article like this. Hopefully, it will inspire girls in London to start fighting back against the creeps that scream at us from their cars. At the very least, it can raise awareness about the fact that street harassment isn’t a harmless game.

– L.O.

Need a free, safe ride home in NYC?

September 18, 2008

Then call up RightRides!

“In our RightRides program, we offer women, transpeople and gender queer individuals a free, late-night ride home to ensure their safe commute to or through high-risk areas.”

RightRides serve 35 neighborhoods (to expand in October) on Saturday nights from 11:59 p.m – 3 a.m . RightRides is volunteer run, so the more volunteers they have, the more neighborhoods they can serve and the more hours they can be available. (So if you’re in NYC and want to volunteer somewhere…!) In the city that never sleeps, many people work night shifts or are out enjoying the nightlife, but then might feel unsafe coming home so late alone, so RightRides helps them carry on with their life in safety.

RightRides was founded in 2004 by two women upset over the assault of several women in their neighborhood within a short time frame. Instead of letting depression or fear take hold of them, they took action and started making a difference in their communtiy. Using their own car and cell phone, they put up fliers in their neighborhood offering women a safe, free ride home, and drove callers home themselves. Four years later, RightRides is a nonprofit with access to 5 Zip Cars for volunteers to use on  Saturday nights, with about 150 active volunteers. This past weekend, I got to meet with two volunteers and “ride-along” and it was great to see first-hand how the program works and to meet amazing individuals who care enough about people’s safety that they give up their Saturday night once or twice a month and battle crazy New York City traffic until 3 or 4 a.m.!!

Here’s a short video by a volunteer with RightRides:

I’ve had a link to  RideRides in the resource section of this blog and my website, but I wanted to highlight it here too so people in NYC know about it and can use the service and/or volunteer and so maybe people in other cities will be inspired to start a similar program!

The website has a ton of info, so visit it if you want to learn more.