Wednesday, April 4, 2012

I still press your letters to my lips, and cherish them in parts of me that savor every kiss

There are moments of pure fandom awe in my world, where someone comes up with something that is so beyond stunning, I almost wish the original makers of the loved work would stand up and applaud the innovation involved.

This is one of those--a (fairly) historically accurate rendition of Snow White's dress, in a similar color palette. The embroidery is beyond belief, and while it's not the drifting, swirling lighter dress seen in the original animated movie, it's close to something a king's daughter would have worn, at the time (with the lighter, forest-made peasant dresses seen later with the dwarves). And it's absolutely gorgeous.

Last year I was involved with Wear Grey for a Day project, because I still had a store; at that point, I'd been involved with them every year of their existence on the grid. Wear Grey is a two-week fashion event dedicated to raising funds for the American Brain Tumor Association. This is a cause dear to both the organizer and myself; she lost her sister, and I have a close friend who has a brain tumor. Recently, she went in for surgery, and they removed 80% of it, and the prognosis looks good that the rest will go dormant; but, because of where the tumor was location, she still has some motor-control issues, and she lost a bit of memory next to the site of greatest damage.

Unfortunately, I don't have a store this year. While there are feeble reconstruction efforts, they'll take a while to manifest, and I just don't have it together to create an outfit this year.

But others have. Including the House of Rue, who has a lovely set of skins for the event, and Blue Blood, Beauty Killer, Favole, A Netherworld, Discord Designs, Rozena, SN@TCH, Mock Cosmetics, Weather! Or Not, and a whole bunch of others. Wear Grey has an entire sim donated, so for the two weeks that this event runs, believe me, there will be plenty of shopping opportunities.

Go when you can; give what you can; it all goes to a good cause.

A while back, I ran across an article from an educator in Taiwan, on how much she doesn't like Second Life. Now, she is something of a Luddite (she doesn't even own a cell phone, something she and I have in common), but she did make at least one stunningly accurate point.

One of the links led to a screen capture of the new avatar creation screen. This is what she says about it:
Your avatar can be customised later on but I immediately took real exception to the prototype avatars that were presented for customisation. These include a slightly scary rabbit, a robot and lots of white kids who clearly resembled extras from a 90s vampire film. The only black woman present is wearing a short dress with a flower in her hair and high heeled shoes - a very different aesthetic to the white women presented. One of the men has a shirt open to show rippling pecs but generally, the male figures are covered up. For me, it doesn’t represent an acceptable aesthetic to present to students in my care, particularly young women.

There are two strands to my misgivings: firstly the absence of ethnic diversity and secondly, the overt sexualisation of young women, in the Second Life avatar choices.
Now, traipse by the Marketplace any day of the week, you'll find exactly what she means in under five seconds. In fact, there are stores that offer make-your-own slutwear--with templates, texture packs and even full-perm fashion for resale. This is not news. The fact that the avatars to create at login have updated is also not news--though I will admit, the airship avatar still weirds me out--and, for the most part, I don't have a problem with the new avatars. As far as I was concerned (already being a resident in SL), anything that helped newcomers integrate, and didn't cause that sense of separation (like the loss of last names,
FOR INSTANCE)--well, that can only be a good thing, right?

But I'm now looking at this image, and it's making me think uneasy thoughts. Your initial choices, logging in, today, are:
  • Vampire avatar "Petrik" (white man, chest exposed, otherwise fully clothed in black)
  • Robot avatar "Sani" (squat little steroidal 'bot, the shortest avatar offered)
  • "Animal avatar bunny" (charcoal grey, red eyes, male, aggressive animations)
  • Vampire avatar "Jayde" (white woman, black hair, sheer grey belly shirt over a darker grey bustier, dark jeans)
  • Vampire avatar "Xyla" (white woman, black hair, cleavage-exposing short flirty dress, black scrunchy legwarmers)
  • "Animal avatar unicorn" (white hair, pink tail, feminine in animation, but generally sexless otherwise, looks like a cross between a cow and a horse, barring the one horn)
  • "Female party outfit" (the one black woman in the bunch, dark hair, peach-colored hair flower and cocktail-length dress, tennis shoes)
  • "Vehitar Sebastian" (the airship)
  • Vampire avatar "Ulrik" (white hair, white man, striped V-neck shirt under a V-neck sweater, dark jeans)
  • "Male Goth outfit" (white man in a black frock coat, button-down tan shirt with collar, black hair, leggings and riding boots)
  • "Female Goth outfit" (white woman, high-collared black coat closely cut, long half-skirted cream-colored tunic with buttons, leggings and high fetish boots in shiny black leather with laces)
Now, that's if (as the educator did) you just look at "Random". And by her count, there's one black face and no other non-white races represented at all. And this is a game with more international players than American ones.

But what do the other options show?

(from the miscellaneous album)

The "People" tab shows:
  • "Female Designer outfit" (white woman with red hair and green eyes, blue shirt, black capris and flats, carrying a large black handbag)
  • "Male Party outfit" (dark-haired man of vague and unspecified ethnic descent, wearing a denim-colored button-down shirt and corderoy jeans)
  • "Female Party outfit" (the Southern belle mentioned earlier)
  • "Male City outfit" (Carson Kressley from Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, complete with tie, sweater vest, button-down white shirt, and tailored pants)
  • "Female City outfit" (white woman, close-cropped dark hair, t-shirt, skinny black jeans, high heels and Michael Jackson's "Thriller" jacket, carrying a shopping bag)
  • the "Male Goth outfit" mentioned earlier
  • the "Female Goth outfit" mentioned earlier
  • "Male Student outfit" (white man, nearly shaved head, glasses, jeans, dark t-shirt and sneakers)
  • "Female Student outfit" (white woman, blonde, burgundy sweater, autumn plaid short skirt, grey leggings and fetish ankle boots)
  • "Female Rocker outfit" (white woman, brunette, black leather jacket, grey t-shirt, heavy leather belt over leggings and combat boots, aggressive animations)
  • "Male Designer outfit" (quasi-Asian male, t-shirt, grey check overshirt, dark grey jeans, white sneakers)
So by my count, that's three non-white faces out of the eleven "People" avatars offered. Wau.

Then it gets weird. Under "Vampires" you'd expect to get a rash of white faces, right? Even though all vampires are not Eastern Europeans with a fetish for blood and pallor. But no, you'd be wrong:

(from the miscellaneous album)

So, counting from the main girl, we have:
  • Vampire avatar "Jayde" (mentioned earlier)
  • Werewolf avatar "Tsuki" (Large hominid black werewolf avatar,, werewolves are vampires? Since when?)
  • Werewolf avatar "Ookami" (fuzzy white dog-like wolf I mistook for a sheep with fangs at first)
  • Werewolf avatar "Mahina" (beige hominid werewolf avatar)
  • Werewolf avatar "Lykos" (black dog-like wolf)
  • Werewolf avatar "Luna" (white hominid werewolf avatar, vaguely female)
  • Vampire avatar "Ylara" (albino vampire woman, white skin, white hair, red eyes, white dress, and her animations feature her floating)
  • Vampire avatar "Xyla" (mentioned earlier)
  • Vampire avatar "Ulrik" (mentioned earlier)
  • Vampire avatar "Petrik" (mentioned earlier)
  • Vampire avatar "Mitnik" (taller than Petrik, long black hair, low-cut black t-shirt under what looks for all the world like a charcoal grey cropped cardigan, with brown leather belt, black jeans, and brown leather boots)
Huh. I guess vampires and werewolves get grouped together because they're all supernatural creatures? Doesn't make sense to me, but I'm not the Lindens.

The "Animals" tab is all animals, and I'm fairly sure they were all designed by Damien Fate; the "Robots" tab is just odd, but they're all robotic; and for anyone who longed to be a mechanical object that wasn't a robot, the "Vehicles" tab features planes, tanks, a short yellow schoolbus, muscle cars, hover cars, the bike from "Tron", and of course, the airship.

The problem comes in the fact that if you're newly registering for an account, and you aren't a white girl who wants to show a ton of cleavage, or a white guy...your options for representative avatars are limited. And believe me when I say this, I'm not blaming the designers who revamped the login avatar choices. I know, for example, that Adam & Eve did many of these avatars--but I also know they had hard-etched design specs from Linden Lab they were told to follow.

Ultimately, the buck has to stop at the door of the Lindens. For whatever reason, they wanted a mostly white world, populated largely by women who don't like to wear a lot of clothes. Now, past the login process, the fashion choices are exactly that--choices. You can dress like a spinster, you can dress like a rubberdoll with a ring gag--it's entirely up to you. But at the login process, these are your choices.

And your choices, invariably, point you towards the underlying message: "It's better to be white."

And I'm with the educator on this one--that is not a good message to send out.


Anonymous said...

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Emilly Orr said...