Quite likely in relation to our last entry, a reader writes:
I wrote none of those. I love all of them.
Thank you very much! Just to give credit where credit is due, I wrote them all myself. *8)
Tonight's Second Life picture, to lead into the discussion:
That's me (dark red hair, black clothes, slightly left of center) and friends F (bright red hair, red and white clothes, center) and E (blonde hair, salmon and brown clothes, right of center) dancing at a recent live-music charity event (for Virtual Angels) somewhere in SL; I found it on the Events page and teleported in three or five friends over the course of the afternoon.
(If it looks oddly like we're floating up in the air as we dance, it's because we are. It's an immersive 3D environment, after all, and gravity is more or less optional. Although everyone else is down on the ground, the hidebound traditionalists!)
The unusually perceptive reader will notice that I'm a girl in this picture, whereas other times I'm a boy (or a panda). This launches all sorts of thoughts that I find fascinating, but that I haven't been able to put into words profoundly enough to write a good weblog entry about.
So I'll write a mediocre superficial weblog entry about them instead. :P
The first thought, inspired additionally by two stories on the radio this evening on the way home, is that we as a society are absolutely obsessed with gender identity and gender preferences.
The first story was about a convention of the "ex-gay" folks, and good old Exodus International ("Freedom from Homosexuality through the Power of Christ"), primarily famous in my mind for various prominent ex-gay leader-types turning out not to be really that "ex" after all. But anyway the news story was about their convention, and the protestors outside, and the parents who'd dragged their gay teenage son there to try to "plant seeds in his mind" and all.
Now in a rational world neither of these would have happened; gender preference would be a relatively minor and fluid matter, and if some group somewhere wanted to offer courses in not being gay anymore it would be worth no more than an "oddly enough" story on the same page as the organization offering courses in I dunno overcoming your obsession with owning Pomeranian Poodles, and reacted to with only an amused headshake by the president of the American Pomeranian Association, and certainly not worth protesting about or anything.
But of course this isn't a rational world.
The second story was about the town board or whatever of Armpit (excuse me, I mean) Largo, Florida, who when they found out that their City Manager of fourteen years was going to have a gender reassignment operation, held a noisy hearing and, naturally, fired him. Because, well, obviously, um, because um....
... because, presumably, they're total morons.
Again, in a rational world, the reaction to someone wanting to flip the bit would be "so?", or "hm, cool", or "I hear that's expensive", or whatever; and firing (or vainly attempting to fire) the person would again make the Oddly Enough column, on the same page as trying to fire the long-time Fire Chief for owning a prime number of pairs of boots.
But here we are. (Largo, Florida: our motto is, "We're Irrational!")
So why do I sometimes go around as a girl in Second Life, anyway? I'm not trying to fool anyone (I was toying with the fooling-people idea for awhile, but I'm so uncomfortable with anything that looks like dishonesty that my SL profile now clearly states my RL gender on the RL page). The Duchess asked me the question in IM the other day, and these were the best things I could come up with:
It's phun. I have no idea why it's phun, but it is. Heck, in Mario Golf I always played Plum, a lil teenage girl, and that was phun too. This is I think the most important, but the least choate, reason.
It's possible. Sorta like flying, being a panda, having a 200-meter flagpole on one's property, wearing a blue tentacle on one's head, or whatever. It's possible, so why not try it?
If I'm gonna be sitting staring at an avatar moving around on the computer for like four to eight hours a day for weeks, why not stare at a sexy female avatar? I am a dedicated gynophile, after all.
People are more comfortable around girls, are nicer to girls, talk more easily to girls. I'm not positive that this is true, but it definitely feels true, and it feels true even in the case where the people know intellectually that the girl in question is "really" (heh heh "really") a guy.
(You'd think that girls would also tend to get hit on more by men, also, but while that does happen now and then when I'm a girl, I actually seem to get hit on mostly by other girls. I have quite a number of SL-lesbian SL-friends now; v nice ppl. I imagine the effect is probably because, again due to gynophilia, I subconsciously encourage the flirting girls more than I do the flirting guys.)
Lastly but very significantly, the shopping in SL is so insanely much better for girls! I have various sets of girl-hair that I like alot, and lot and lots of girl-clothes that are really nice. On the other hand every male prim-hair that I've ever tried on has looked either stupid (the vast majority look like it's designed for the Back Street Boys or someting), or "okay I guess but Not Me"; and good guy clothes are few and far between (and again suffer from the Back Street Boys effect).
And that's it. It really feels like I should have something deeper and more profound to say about it. I have no interest in being a girl in real life (various people have asked me that question, and I've had some cool discussions). Although if it were as easy and reversible in RL as it is in SL I might give it a try. *8)
I do worry sometimes that, with all the guys playing girls on SL and other virtual universes, there may be some undesirable gender politics going on here; that in some ways being a girl is becoming just another thing that guys do. That online males are in some unpleasant way colonizing femininity. I'd love to see some good feminist theoretician take a crack at that idea, so I could read it and see if I agreed with it at all.