I was surprised by the quality of Bob’s discussion of the portrayal of women in video games, if only because I haven’t generally been led to expect reasoned opinions about feminism from gamers or even gaming journalism. And while it’s true that this is a topic that has been discussed to death, Bob does make some novel points about the way body language is used in designing video game characters. As he says, the root problem isn’t putting sexy people in video games; the root problem is that male video game characters can be sexy and still have personalities, while sexy female video game characters’ personalities often don’t extend beyond “likes showing off her cleavage.”
…and that’s how you miss the point. (I have no idea what the original source of the image is, but I stumbled upon it in the comments to this Kotaku article.)
There are many things wrong with the reasoning, and I use the term loosely, behind this image, but as with all things conservative, reasoning is rather beside the point. The basic message is, “Shut up and quit whining about the status quo.” Still, it’s important to articulate why this is such a terrible point, because it’s something you’ll come across quite a lot as you navigate the non-leftist swaths of society – namely, people asking, “Why should I be pissed at large corporations when they give me so many nice things?”
(I’ll leave aside the question of whether or not large corporations are even necessary to provide us with our current technology-driven quality of life, because I’m not going to pretend to know whether or not you could have an iPhone in a socialist utopia.)
The most important point, of course, is that the Occupy Wall Street protests aren’t necessarily interested in bringing down all corporations; the argument, such as it is, made by the image is a total strawman. Wall Street is not the center of every corporation in America – it’s the center of the financial industry, and it’s the financial industry specifically that the Occupy Wall Street movement is targeting. That should really be clear enough from the name. Canon, Proctor & Gamble, and Sony (only one of which is even an American corporation) didn’t cause the financial meltdown, but Wall Street financiers did. This is all that really needs to be said about this image in particular, because it’s a pretty open-and-shut case of some reactionary twit swinging wildly at hippies without actually thinking about what he or she is saying.
But looking at this image, I can’t get my mind off the underlying argument, this notion that we should be grateful to corporations for giving us cameras and cell phones and razors and makeup and even the shirts on our backs. That’s now how it works. We are not the beneficiaries of corporate largesse; we give them money in exchange for those cell phones and razors and shirts, which is precisely where our obligation to them ends. You’d think conservatives, being such champions of capitalism, would understand this better than anyone.
Furthermore, the fact that these corporations are so incredibly generous as to sell products at profit doesn’t give them any right whatsoever to act however they please. If a corporation is acting contrary to the interests of the people at large, as corporations so often do, people have a right to complain about that and demand intervention. “But they give you cell phones!” is no better an argument than would be a defense of an abusive husband that amounted to, “But he buys you such nice things, like makeup and sunglasses!”
When it comes down to it, individual people navigate the world as best they can – they need clothes to wear and they need “luxuries” like phones, and if they have to buy them from a corporation that treats its employees like shit, operates sweatshops in Southeast Asia, and drains the lower class dry, they’re going to do it because they don’t have a choice. They do not, in doing so, exempt themselves from the democratic right of demanding progressive change in a fucked up system.
It’s understandably difficult for conservatives to mount an opposition to the Occupy Wall Street movement that doesn’t rely on heavily reshaping reality, of course. They seem to have taken to pretending that there’s not a recession happening, for example. But when it comes down to it, it’s a matter of identity for them, not reality.
Case in point: in response to the OWS-related “We are the 99%” campaign, conservative pundit Erik Erikson launched a competing “We are the 53%” blog, ostensibly featuring the 53% of American households who pay more in income tax than they receive back in income tax credits. What’s particularly hilarious about the 53% blog is the number of contributions it gets from people who almost certainly do not pay net income taxes, but even though these people fall under what was essentially Erikson’s original definition of an unproductive leech on society, they get a thrill of self-righteousness out of the fact that they have the decorum not to complain that they’re getting fucked over by the status quo. They quietly accept the scraps they get from the upper class’s table, and in doing so exempt themselves from being seen as the lazy, handout-seeking layabouts they believe everyone else at their income level to be.
No, to authoritarian conservatives, it’s always those other people – probably those people less white, Christian, and suburban than they – who are the leeches, even though their situations aren’t markedly different. And that’s why authoritarian conservatives will never have anything of value to contribute to political discourse – since their worldview is based on prejudice rather than fact – but also why they’ll unfortunately never go away – since there will always be a segment of the population that wants to find someone lower on the social ladder than they are to stomp on.