Catcalls and sexual harassment have always been a woman’s burden, but now men can experience the terror of being the opposite sex from the safety of a controlled environment. A group of feminists have developed WatchOut, a virtual reality experience that allows men the opportunity to experience misogyny for ten horrifying minutes at a time.
Feminist activist Susan Carr developed WatchOut as a tool to help bridge the gender divide when it comes to public harassment. “I don’t think men realize that being a woman in public is like living under the Gestapo, and I speak for all women” said Carr. “The virtual experiences we have created are not easy, but I think it’s an excellent way to spread awareness about the state of women’s rights in the Western world.”
WatchOut is designed to simulate real-world situations that women encounter through the use of VR headsets and a fully immersive audio system. Male participants are asked to remove their shoes and put on tight-fitting high heels before entering the simulation to complete the experience of being a middle-class female college student. Multiple scenarios can be pre-selected by the user, including walking past a 7-Eleven at midnight, not smiling while snacking at an office party and texting “where is this going?” to a guy after the first date.
“The insults sounded so real – I felt like I was really there,” said Tommy Bronner, a college student who learned about WatchOut in a Gender Studies class. “The virtual black guys were calling me ‘snow-white’ and trying to give me their phone numbers, and I was just minding my own business trying to order an apple martini.”
Another WatchOut user, football player Marcus Freeman, was impressed by the realism of the experience. “I picked the one night stand simulation and was blown away by how realistic it was. After we had sex, the guy said he was tired and that I couldn’t use his phone charger on my dead phone because he ‘needed it.’ Then he asked me to leave and, of course, I started my period a week early while walking home.”
WatchOut is still under development, but Carr hopes that her creation will find a distributor in the coming months. “I want all elementary school boys to see the impact of catcalling and slut shaming while they’re still young, so I’m hoping WatchOut will one day be incorporated into the public school curriculum.”
Carr has also said that she will be adding new scenarios to both enhance the simulations and attract a broader audience. “I challenge men who think sexism is dead to put on a sexy dress and walk past a group of hispanic construction workers.”