Debunking the "profits come first" myth

If you have ever criticized an ad campaign, commercial, or anything that’s even remotely related to marketing for pushing a bigoted viewpoint, you will undoubtedly have come up against the argument that of course the reason the product is being marketed that way is because it’s more profitable. A company would never do anything to compromise its profits!

Which is, of course, bullshit. Many people have demonstrated how such campaigns hurt profit margins, rather than help them. The response is, of course, “but it doesn’t make sense for companies to put bigoted agendas over profits (and therefore they must have some secret knowledge about why it’s more profitable to discriminate against non-privileged groups)”. Before now I had never really had a good response to that argument (I was too busy being shocked at the leap of faith required to continue to believe that marketing is doing the best thing in the face of pretty damning evidence). But, thankfully, BetaCandy has recently blogged about her experiences learning to be a screenwriter, which has given rise to a discussion about how a non-profitable system perpetuates itself among industries that are supposed to be driven by profit.

In her post Why discriminate if it doesn’t profit?, she takes on the mindset that explains why the “profits come first” argument is, in fact, a myth:

The question this brings to mind is: why would they discriminate against a group when there’s more profit to be made by doing the right thing? That’s a good question, and one that deserves an answer.

n comments on the above-linked entry, I explained that I think it boils down to ego. Even greed is fueled by ego – it’s the ego that wants more than enough so it feels safe or better than its neighbors. It’s the ego that wants to feel important, unique, successful. Eliminating entire clumps of humanity from the “race” your ego thinks it’s in is a quick way to get rid of competition. It’s the same question you have to ask about store owners and restaurateurs who refused to serve African-American patrons whose money was as green as everyone else’s. They sacrificed profit, and for what? Ego.

But that’s not necessarily the only answer. Laziness is also a factor.

I would highly recommend reading the full post.

No, I don't deserve that cookie

The response that I’ve gotten to this post has been overwhelming (yes, 28 comments on a blog that typically gets 0-5 is overwhelming). Most of it is praise. Heck, I’ve even got an e-mail or two thanking me for writing the post.

If I said I wasn’t happy to get the praise, I’d be lying. But it also makes me uncomfortable, because I feel like I’m getting a cookie for reiterating what feminists with disabilities have been saying forever. I am happy that my post has reached people. I hope that it helps to cause a change for the better in the more mainstream movement. But I was just doing my duty as an ally and calling out others in my group.

What I did wasn’t revolutionary. It wasn’t exceptional. Heck, what I did wasn’t even particularly brave. As an able-bodied person, the risk I was taking was that of being dismissed or called names. Not fun, but also not something I don’t have experience dealing with. It was what every person who believes that people with disabilities deserve equal treatment should do. If anyone deserves praise, it should be all those disability activists out there who write, blog, and otherwise speak out against ableism. They’re the ones who are doing the real work.

And, while we’re on the subject of cookies, guess what group is not on my sidebar? Yup. That would be Feminist blogs that focus on disability activism. I intend to rectify that oversight ASAP, but I need to think of a name for the link category. It needs to be short, so right now I’m thinking, “Disability Activist Feminists”, but if y’all can suggest something shorter that doesn’t sound as awkward I would be much obliged.

Feminists are fine with being bigots if it's just ableism

This is a subject that’s been sticking in my craw for a long time now, ever since it became an issue on Iris’ forums over a year ago. It was from the conflicts that arose there that I realized that most feminists — even ones who are aware of intersections such as racism and homophobia — are steeped quite deeply (and happily) in their able-bodied privilege. A rundown of what happened on Iris’ forums can be found in my Ableism thread, but suffice it to say that it prompted me to create other posts to help promote a better understanding of ableism: Yes, it is offensive to the targeted group and Guides to using non-bigoted language.

However, I haven’t really talked about ableism on this blog or elsewhere. Except for sometimes linking the above threads to some of my LJ friends who have used “crazy” or “retard” or whatnot, I have generally avoided calling people out because, well, it’s harder to deal with people’s able-bodied privilege in another person’s space, especially because I am able-bodied myself.

But today I broke with that pattern. Jill of Feministe, a blogger I very much respect, used ableist slurs such as “crazy” and “nutbag” in a post about an anti-choice leader named Jill Stanek’s bizarre, inflammatory, and racist language. Since I respect Jill, and know that she understands that fighting bigotry with other kinds of bigotry is bad, I made the following comment:

I agree that what Stanek said was both ridiculous and vile, but the sheer number of times you casually threw around ableist slurs like “crazy” and “nutbag” really doesn’t sit right with me. Whether or not Stanek actually has a mental illness, it’s still not cool to use slurs degrading people with mental illnesses to attack her. I would recommend reading the quotes and visiting the links in this post: Yes, it is offensive to the targeted group

Jill replied graciously with, “Thanks for pointing that out, Tekanji. I will check that in the future.” However, the other replies I’ve received so far were not so encouraging.

A commenter named “ThickRedGlasses” quoted most of what I wrote and then added:

Are you confessing something here?

Although I’m not entirely sure what was meant by the comment, I am confident that it wasn’t an agreement or show of support, but more likely intended as an insult or a way to invalidate/discredit what I was saying.

“Dana” took the standard approach of denial:

Wow, that woman is insane. And yes, while I hate the word retarded I don’t see “crazy” or “insane” as ableist. Maybe I should, but I really don’t see people using “insane” or “nutbag” for that matter to insult people with actual mental illnesses. Whereas retard is a bloody hideous word that is used as a weapon against disabled people. That’s the difference in my head.

Her reply makes me wonder if she followed the link I gave, which specifically cites the people who are actually directly affected by ableist rhetoric explaining why slurs such as “crazy” and “nutbag” are, indeed, harmful to people with mental disabilities.

As of yet, no one else has directly responded to my comment. Maybe no one will. But commenters continue to attack Stanek by conflating her illogical and inflammatory arguments with being mentally ill (in addition to the words used in the original post, another commenter added “lunacy” to the mix). I have to say that the unwillingness of many feminists to address their privilege — especially when the type of privilege is not one usually discussed, even in feminist circles where intersectionality is valued — continues to disappoint me.

I believe in feminism. I respect the history of the movement and am grateful for all the hard work that feminists have, and continue to, put in to the struggle for equality.

But it’s getting harder and harder for me to identify and ally myself with feminism when so many feminists don’t fucking care about any oppression but their own. It’s not just all the casual ableism that hardly ever gets called out, or that feminists like Linda Hirshman get paid by well-known newspapers to revel in their privilege. It’s everything.

I feel like I spend more time trying to educate other feminists than anything else. How can I in good conscience continue to ally myself with people who are so fucking selfish that they are more than happy to let other groups get run over as long as their own issues are addressed?

Maybe it’s time to stop trying to work from the inside; maybe I need to just drop the “feminist” label and declare myself an anti-oppression activist and nothing else. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s looking more and more to be the only acceptable one.

Theme problems

I just wanted to make a note that I am aware of the problem with the theme and intend to correct it. Truth be told, I’ve been aware of this flaw in my design since a reader wrote in to inform me about it……. more than 6 months ago. Unfortunately because of computer problems, then moving, and now school I haven’t had time to fix it. I still don’t, but I promise that this weekend I’ll do something better than the temporary fix I’ve implemented for the moment.

Sorry for any inconvenience this causes.

On RE5 and claims of "American-centricism"

In this past week I’ve gotten an influx of commenters on my Resident Evil 5 posts decrying me and my posts as “American-centric”. I did consider writing a detailed post debunking this, but I’m very busy with school and there are better things to spend my time on than engaging with commenters who are trying to use the tools of anti-oppression activists to silence activism.

So, I’m going to make this brief and say it once, and once only.

Deconstructing something from an American perspective doesn’t automatically make it American-centric. Nor is it American-centric to work within a frame that happens to involve American history where American history is relevant.

That there are other racial issues with this game does not invalidate the fact that there are also issues that involve America. Picking certain issues that I find logically or emotionally relevant to the point I am trying to make is not the same as denying the existent of other, equally relevant, issues. That I don’t mention every single possible problem with Resident Evil 5 in every single post I make on the issue does not mean that I am not aware of other issues. Indeed, a simple search on this blog for “Resident Evil 5″ would produce my link roundup which links to posts addressing those issues and more.

Lastly, while I do believe that there is a valid conversation to be had regarding American-centricism and RE5, that conversation is not to be had with people who are leaving comments with no other purpose than to try and silence me by labeling me a hypocrite. It doesn’t work with the “no, you’re racist for seeing race!” arguments, and it won’t work simply because you’ve changed the language into something that hasn’t already been debunked by a thousand other anti-oppression activists.

I don’t know where y’all are coming from, but your playtime on my blog is over.

Because the only women who matter are white ones

Linda Hirshman — who, on top of thinking of herself as the matriarch of all women/feminists is responsible for making up the term “choice feminist” so she could have a convenient strawfeminist to attack — thinks she knows what’s causing division among feminists. And, unfortunately, what she sees isn’t people like her.

No, what Hirshman thinks is hurting feminism is any anti-oppression activism that acknowledges that gender is only one of the factors that affect women. Jill summarizes Hirshman’s argument as:

Linda seems to be arguing that feminism has lost focus by way of intersectionality — because we’re so busy looking at things like race and class, we’ve forgotten about women.

I can’t bring myself to quote Hirshman’s actual arguments because I feel like displaying such words from someone who calls herself, and is regarded as, a feminist would dirty this blog. If you can stomach long quotes full of racist, classist and other bigotry, Jill’s takedown is probably worth a read. I would say “definitely”, but I wasn’t able to read it myself because I got as far as the first paragraph of the first quote and had to leave the page. If you’re like me and can’t tackle this subject without the filter of someone else who has graciously read through the shit, I would highly recommend BfP’s post on the issue.

There are people trying so fucking hard to create a semblance of unity within a diverse movement and it’s people like her who get to be the well-known feminists. What. The. Fuck.

No, Ms. Hirshman. Just… no. Get off of my side because you’re making my side look like a bunch of bigots.

At this rate, there won't be any games left for me to play

I have been feeling rather unhappy with Capcom for a while, but this takes the cake:

Resident Evil 5 producer Jun Takeuchi tells Kotaku that calls of racial insensitivity haven’t affected the game’s design. Takeuchi tells the site that the team didn’t “set out” to make a racist or political statement and he feels there was a misunderstanding about the initial trailer.

Takeuchi says there are Arab and Caucasian targets for Chris Redfield’s bullets in RE5 and insists they were always going to be included in the game — despite the initial trailer showing a less ethnically diverse group of zombies. We’ll have to take a “wait and see” approach on whether Japanese developers will continue to fuel the fires of black/white racial tensions across the ocean.

I know Japan is pretty racially ignorant (from my experiences, but here’s a wikipedia entry on the matter), but Capcom is an international company, serving an international audience. The fact that it seems that their research only involved going to the location (without, you know, spending like 5 seconds looking into the history of black/white relations in the US, where their protagonist is from) is bad enough. Takeuchi’s tactic of “it’s not racist because I didn’t mean it!” is infuriating, but expected. I am also not appeased by the inclusion of Arab and Caucasian zombies, because:

  1. An American killing an Arab. UH, HELLO? How is that not problematic given the current anti-Muslim (which, to the average anti-Muslim American translates to “Arab”) climate in America? And, I mean, with the Afghanistan and then Iraq wars, which made international news, it’s not like Takeuchi has an excuse not to know about those tensions.
  2. Adding a sprinkling of whities to get gunned down isn’t some magical panacea for racism. It doesn’t address the What These People Need Is a Honky problem, and it doesn’t change the way that the black people, even pre-infection, are portrayed as savages.

I have loved the Resident Evil series, even with all of its problems. I have done my best to play the games, even though I suck at survival horror (mostly because I spend most of the time thinking, “OH NOES TEH ZOMBIE IS GOING TO GET ME!!!111eleven”). I could tolerate stupid shit like Jill being sexualized and put in a dress for RE3, Ashley being completely useless in RE4, and the fact that they apparently thought there’s no difference between Mexican Spanish and Spanish Spanish. I didn’t even mind so much that all of the protagonists were dayglow white (after all, it isn’t like that’s unusual). The abominable trailer for RE5 wasn’t even enough to convince me to not buy the game.

But I can’t take it anymore. I feel like I have no other choice but to boycott Capcom because I simply cannot support what they’re doing.

Capcom/Takeuchi no longer have an excuse. They can’t claim ignorance, because they’ve been made aware of the issues and still chose to ignore it. They quite simply don’t care that their game is problematic from a racial angle. And I can’t support that. I can’t support people who willfully engage in racism even after the racism is pointed out to them by multiple people because they can’t fathom that, in their lack knowledge regarding racial tensions/issues, they could unintentionally create something racist.

I’m about to be twenty-six fucking years old. I’ve grown up. Is it so wrong for me to wish that the games I love would grow up with me?

Give that man a cookie, er, Klondike!

Wow, a man refrains from violating the terms of his relationship agreement with his wife? Totally worthy of a reward. Give that man a cookie Klondike! <insert massive eyeroll here>

Actual analysis of Klondike’s latest series of commercials can be found over at The Hathor Legacy, in sbg’s post, Normal Behavior Rewarded as Extraordinary.