Monday, September 30, 2013

No Matter What Shape Your Avatar's In

I don't know how long the trend for women's avatar shapes has gone on, but it is out there. The stereotypical features:
  • legs sufficiently separated that the avatar can stand astride a piano bench without bending her knees
  • gap-toothed
  • a sullen, frowning face
It's sufficiently well-known to be parodied; Iris Ophelia has written in New World Notes about a flickr image, titled "The Average Avi Body on SL", that pokes fun at it.

Do I like the trend? Not particularly; the legs would seem to require something other than a human pelvis, which creeps me out a little. Being gap-toothed has worked fine for Ali McGraw and other well-known beautiful women; I recall long ago seeing what was either a TV show or a short movie all about gap-toothed women--but I wouldn't choose it. The sullen look is the worst for me. Yes, it's hard to get a good-looking, non-phony smile in SL... but even if I can't show that I'm having fun in-world that way, I don't want to look like I can't stand it or whoever is around. I don't want to look blasé, too cool to care, or tragically hip, just as I don't want to be any of those.

All that said, what others do with their avatars is, for the most part, their business. In the immortal words of Thomas Jefferson, it neither breaks my neck^H^H^H^Hleg nor picks my pocket. Some things go over the edge for me--in which case I go elsewhere. For all I know, they may think something analogous of my avatar.

UPDATE: Thanks for the comments--and Ms. Tsiolkovsky, I hope that you are still writing somewhere. And for those of you who aren't as antique as I am, here's what the post title references:


ameira_loire said...

The pouty little girl mouth is an instant killer for any skins I look at. Those hips are just silly. 'Why yes my BF parks in motorcycle in my pussy. How did you know?"

Gatherings said...

I feel much the same way as you do Melissa, it just isn't for me. I find it terribly distracting when shopping, and I have read that in sl it did start out as just a shape for ads that was a bit over the top. But it stuck, and is considered very fashionable. All of that aside, it saddens me that there is a real life body image that is similar that women strive for. If you google 'leg gap' you will find pictures of pouty girls holding their phones out in front of them taking pictures in the mirror of their spindly legs. There are blogs filled with how to attain zero fat on your thighs and measurements of how wide your leg gap is. It is obtainable for some, but at a great cost. It requires not eating much of anything, and definitely NO exercise, as that would cause muscle that would interfere with the wideness between their legs. It is sad to me that an eating disorder in real life is personified in second life as something desirable. I am sure the majority of people behind those avatars have no idea that this exists, but they do know they want to look like everyone else, because it is fashionable. Which takes us back full circle to real life and unrealistic body image.

As far as the tooth gap, it is suppose to be sexy. yet my parents paid $3000 to remove mine ;). So I will keep my perfect teeth and my big happy smile.;)

Anna J Tsiolkovsky said...

I don't understand the shrieking I see over these avatars. As Melissa said, it's their business and they ain't hurting anyone.

I understand the point Gatherings is making, though, that accepting these unrealistic body images creates a positive feedback loop which encourages an unhealthy lifestyle in pursuit of the unattainable. But if we go down that route, there are other unrealisms in SL we need to begin investigating which may led to unhealthy real life behaviors. For example, even most normally proportioned avatars are impossibly slim (anorexia). Most men in SL are built to put body builders to shame (steroid abuse). Avatars of all shapes have completely unblemished and well tanned skin (excessive unnecessary botox). The list goes on. And let's all be honest here: I know we all shave a few pounds here, and add just a few inches to height. The guilt is a matter of degrees into which we fall into the 'perfect body' trap.

In a world with the tagline "your world, your imagination", is it our business to create an atmosphere which appends an extra clause to that: "your world, your imagination, as long as it conforms to what we think is normal and acceptable."

The problem, if you call it that (and I don't) is that you are free to do whatever you want. That has always been the biggest draw to SL. We don't want it any other way. And the 'price' we pay is tolerance of oddball avatars. So, no, I can't find it in myself to either condemn these avatars or join in making them social outcasts. If someone wants to buck that trend of "The Pony Rider" as it's called, fine. Don't get shrill when others don't want to follow you.

Do not mistake me, I clarify that no one in this post (save me) has been shrill. But I've seen posts written on forums and heard enough inworld to notice the attitude and I am bored of it.