“Meat Shield”

Posted: September 23, 2009 in Gaming, Humans

dtIt’s a term used in gaming a lot:  Meat Shield.  In such a context, the Meat Shield is a character like the Tank, or Brute, or upfront fighter who can just take it forever and keep dishing it out, whilst occupying the attention of all the baddies so the rest of their team can also get some ass-kicking in.  That’s their whole job, running head long into the fight, grabbing all the aggro, and keeping it while everyone else just mops up amid the mayhem. 

And whilst in gaming, a Meat Shield is not necessary, but damn if they do not make things go smoother. 

But I’ve noted in real life there are a lot of folk, who willingly or not, serve as Meat Shields.  Often, they support or are involved with a contraversal cause:  trans rights, gay rights, sex workers rights, women’s rights, racial equality, disability rights, rights for kinky people, you name it.  Within all those groups, there are people who, as they say, draw the aggro.  I’ve done it.  I can think of several others who have as well:  Trinity, Ernest, AntiPrincess, Gin, Jill B, Snowdrop, Kim, so on.  Often times this aggro was not wanted or needed, but it was drawn, and held, anyway.   And sometimes that has been part of the plan- sage nod at Jill B- someone is designated the Meat Shield, dives in head long, draws all the aggro, and whilst doing so…others are ignored and left alone so they can get shit done.  Finish the job.  See that things come to fruition.  Everyone else is so busy trying to bring down the Meat Shield, they have no idea what the rest of the team is doing.  I’ve noted that- ahem- due to my style and all- like it or not, sometimes with sex worker rights related things, it has not been a question of who will be the Meat Shield, it’s just a given that it will be me and a matter of how much aggro will be coming.  Sometimes I am totally cool with this and realize it is a part I am good at playing.

Other times?  Well, it leaves me feeling like that time Mr.E really wanted to level his Mastermind so I did not have more level 50 CoX characters than he did so he begged me to play my 50 Brute to power level him. 

And I wonder about a lot of the other Meat Shields out there, you know, the people held up as poster people for whatever cause or agenda?  I wonder if they consented or actually “like” being the Voice and Image of ——–  (insert cause here).  Was it a chosen, calculated thing or did it just happen?  Did those people just wake up one day and realize everyone was quoting/linking to/heralding them as the Voice/Image of ——-?  Hailing them as the true face of ——?  I wonder how they feel about it?  Not in public I mean, hell, in public, a Meat Shield has to be at their best, but elsewhere, when no one else is watching or waiting to see what they do or how they react?

Because you know, being the Meat Shield can suck.  There are times you end up face down with the baddies stomping all over you while the rest of the team runs for their lives.

So yeah, sometimes when I am out there, in RL and on the Net and I see someone put out there as the meat shield, I wonder if it is a chosen thing, or if others have just tossed them out there because they, themselves, do not want the aggro.

  1. antiprincess says:

    heehee “meatshield”. sounds like dinner.
    “hey ma, what’s for supper?”
    “meatshield and rice.”
    “yuck I hate it!”

  2. Ernest Greene says:

    Personally, I am deeply ambivalent about the gig. Since I first took up the whole thing about testing in the porn industry, there have been many times I wished I just hadn’t raised me hand. The problem is that once somebody agrees to take the meat-shield position, instead of using the cover that person provides to actually do useful shit, the rest of the gang just holds his coat and stands around watching while he gets pounded.

    However, sometimes it works, and then it’s pretty gratifying. That doesn’t mean it’s fun. In 2004 I had to face an entire auditorium filled with skeptical, often unfriendly, media people and explain the complexities of our small but highly publicized HIV breakthrough in the industry’s primary line of defense. It was really quite scary, but I think I got the point across and the tone of the press coverage really did change for the better. As my brother, the PR whiz put it: “You did manage to rearrange the furniture in the room a bit.”

    But basically, the job always sucks, and while I think some people get picked for it, and I hope they get paid better than I do (as I get nothing at all for the gig, which I suspect is pretty typical), most are volunteers. They feel strongly enough about the issue, whatever that may be, to get out in front and take the hits. But it’s exhausting and burnout is virtual inevitable. Gamers see plenty of meat shields go down in the scrum, and in real life, that happens too. Northern California is filled with “retired actrivists” who just couldn’t handle it anymore.

    Mario Savio, who led the original Free Speach Movement at Berkeley during the ’60s basically went into hiding and didn’t give a mediia interview between 1970 and his death in 1985.

    I guess the thing about meat shields is that you don’t know how long they’ll hold up, so it’s best to have the next one waiting to come out when the need arises.

    Personally, I’d rather be hanging out with my old crew back in Colorado than engaging in shouting matches with various anti-porn types out here. One of these days, I’m going to pull the last couple of darts out of my hide and do something else with the rest of my life. I keep warning people I work with about that, but i don’t think they believe me, and that’s a worry. I’d hate for all the heavy lifting I’ve invested here to go for nothing, but at some point, if others don’t step up, it will turn out that way no matter what I do.

    The whole meat-shield strategy only works on the assumption that others are busy getting important things done while the designated diversionary force draws the fire.

  3. rootietoot says:

    I think being the meatshield would wear a body out…one could only do it for so long before one had to simply back off and let another person take up the flag. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’ve never been the sort of personality who could do that, and admire anyone with the moxie to do it.

  4. Heh – Shakespeare’s Hamlet didn’t know what he was talking about when he said “To be or not to be – that is the question. Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them”. The Meat Shield’s job is both to absorb the slings and arrows, AND take arms against a sea of troubles.

    I just had a thought – is there an argument that Barack Obama is some form of meatshield in US politics?

  5. Ernest Greene says:

    Alas, I fear he’s turning into one. The question is, what is he shielding? Is it something worth taking the hits for, or is it just more of the same with a new front man?

    It’s early to be certain, but so far, I’m not optimistic. Obama seems to hae a lot of the right instincts, and a willingness to take the hits, but is the cause worthy? I guess we’ll find out in due course.

  6. Roy Kay says:

    I’ve taken it up from time to time, but remotely as intensely as you. Being a meatshield isn’t just a matter of taking abuse, but also a matter of charting a better way through life for others. You have done more than take abuse, you have also sought honest and fair documentation and provide guide to what an honest and fair life looks like. It takes longer to support on fact than to counterfeit a score of lies. That’s why I am glad you are taking a break. Too much energy as well as strength has been drained. I can’t step forth remotely as adroitly as you have, but I have been working on a few essays for my blog that you can gank when I post them.

  7. Kim says:

    You know, Ren, if not for you and I finding each other online (Biting Beaver’s was it?) I likely never would have read so many other sex-pos, trans-positive blogs/gender queer sites. Previous to entering gender queer cyberspace, I certainly had tolerance and acceptance for transfolk but never, ever the level of understanding that I have now. There are a number of transfolk I encounter on a near-daily basis at work: as a direct result of the compassion and respect the blogosphere has taught me, I am able to give much better service to these folks, both as a professional and a human being.

    So give yourself a pat on the back for that!

  8. Erik says:

    Just discovered this blog. Fascinating content. I enjoyed the “Meat Shield” post and ensuing comments. All new to me since I am not a gamer. My only contribution to the colloquy is that those who are most literally meat shields might be the combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. Troops doing their 5th and 6th tours may share Ernest’s feelings. Oh, and one more thing: I doubt President Obama fits the type. He is more of an “Artful Dodger” – quick and light on his feet, politically flexible and unencumbered by ideological commitments. Though he may feel a bit dinged and banged up at the end of the day, or the legislative session!

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