Avatars & Avatar Police in Second Life

Cadenza (general)

Today’s post will include a rant – sorry! It also has a series of odd photos, but that’s because I’m really awful at portraits and I thought the silhouettes would be easier to look at. :)

I was thinking about our virtual beings, their diversity and expressions of self. We can be tall, short, fat, skinny, feathered, scaled, or furred. We can be pink or grey or tattooed or whatever we damn well feel like. In the middle of this I was lucky enough to have a conversation with Eupa↑. One of things I love about him is his eclectic inventory of really cool avatars↑.

Cadenza (general)

Before I do vent I’ll share some news he gave me, then I’ll explain the photos. A while back I told you that there are free avatars at Petrified↑. They are still available, but the project has moved into a new phase. Capcat Ragu↑ and Meilo Minotaur↑ are now inviting you to contribute your creations – you’ll find the necessary explanation and instructions here↑ or on their blog↑. All of the photos after the first one are of some of the avatars on offer now.

Back to my little tantrum. That top photo is of my everyday avatar – she is about 1.91 m tall (that’s 6’4″) and she’s pretty skinny. Apparently, on a “scientific, anatomical level” she is “distorted and wrong”. I’m not going to link to the source of those quotes – I’m not trying to diss the person (I actually like her), but I am going to disagree with the point she (and others) are making.

Cadenza (general)

This is a much subtler campaign than the despised (on my part at least) fuginistas↑. There are a lot of the latter (of course, I think one is too many). It takes a lot of smug arrogance to set yourself up as an arbiter of what’s acceptable in a world which facilitates unlimited personal choices – however, proceeding to hold those you find below your standards up to public humiliation is evidence of an ugly soul. I’d rather people thought I had an ugly avatar.

The other campaign isn’t all that new. It worries about “realism”. It seems that female humanoid avatars should only be 1.7m tall (5’7″). When I read realism I actually hear “normal” or “average”, but it’s the jarring concern about reality in a virtual world that is totally bizarre. Each of the avatars in this post are different heights, shapes and skin tone. Not one of them would satisfy the group’s definition of “realistic”.

Cadenza (general)

The height police used to base their campaign and argument for realism on the number of prims required to house (and sit) “oversized” avatars. With prim sizes expanded they’ve changed tactics. Now, we’re scaring newbies with our “disproportionate” bodies. Apparently all newcomers think they’re coming to a place where everything is like the real world – and nobody in the real world is anything but average.

I have to tell you that, although I spend considerable time with newbies, I’ve never had anybody say “ewwwww” and logoff. In fact, I’ve gotten a lot of compliments and people asking me how to achieve this look.

Yes, new avatars are by default very tall. I think that’s a good thing – it helps people realize they AREN’T IN REAL LIFE. But, for those who cling tightly to the idea that people on the grid should follow their rules, I suggest they set up their own group of islands or continents. Pattern yourself on Gor, make your own little corner of the virtual. Then, just like those clubs or sims that ban furries and tinies etc., you could ban anybody whose proportions don’t fit your world view. I’ll just consider myself unwelcome. :)

Cadenza (general)
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  1. I have to agree totally… what does “too tall” mean? Is my hair “too blue”?.. actually there is a good deal of research (I can’t link you to it) that shows that avatars that are “too realistic” are considered rather ‘creepy’ by the general public, which is why cartoon characters are markedly quirky.
    But the general attitude which allows someone to pass judgement on a culture is very similar to the Cultural Imperialism that allowed the British in India or Yanks in Mexico to comment, condemn and generally criticise the “Natives” for their value choices.
    It is, as you said, an arrogant standpoint, and best ignored.

    • I suspect it’s a way of feeling better about themselves; it confirms personal superiority, or justifies their own choices and behaviours. Condemn those who are different and people will see that you’re obviously the one who should be in charge. :)

  2. The only problem with our wide variety of avatars is for content creators. This is not the real world, where tall people would not think of buying a tiny car. This is SL, so they buy it and demand enjoyment of it (nobody actually thinks of themselves as very tall anyway). Therefore the creators make everything bigger than in real life – but then if you *are* a realistically sized humanoid, everything is too big and you look silly.

  3. Bravo! There is no “norm” in Second Life.
    Personally, I like being 5’2″ one day and 7’4″ the next day. And the day after that, I may be a 10-inch tall fairy.

  4. The “Will you AV me” flickr set with the avatars I use(d)

    On the strange idea of “normality”
    Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention - King Kong (1968 at BBC) 1/3

  5. I tend towards the short end of the spectrum… both rl and sl. It is just something I am used to. Unfortunately, being 5 foot nothing in sl tends to get you labeled as a child by some.

  6. I intentionally use a completely boring avatar because as a curator, well, I don’t want to scare the horses. The resounding success of this strategy is demonstrated by the fact that L1Aura Loire hasn’t visited Split Screen in almost a year :-D

  7. I totally agree with you and this has touched a nerve. In real life I’m often mistaken for someone with MS and my mind works about as well as my body. I’m not in virtual worlds to deal with the same misunderstandings and impatience that I forgive in real life. (The real disabilities are bad attitudes.)

    When I log on I don’t want to fiddle with my avatar or mess with any kind of settings that seem to be easy for many other people. I’ve been in roleplay where people have nagged me to fix the color of my feet because it doesn’t match my body, like it has caused them distracting anguish. I bought an avatar, picked out four hair styles for her and I’m DONE.

    As for other residents, I’m all about how they treat me and not about the technical skills of their appearance. I read the posts you’re referring to but for me they’re just more of…ummm..guess I’d better stop.

    I appreciate when people have fantastic talents and skills that I’ll never have but that doesn’t mean I’ll freaking give up and go away because my involvement doesn’t measure up to someone else’s standards. And yeah, I wouldn’t want to have a cold, shriveled heart and a ignorant fugly soul. I’m kind of sorry for doing this on your blog; I can move this to mine for my tomorrows post if you wish to remove it. :-).

    • pffft – it’s very appropriate. I have friends who still use their newbie avatar from 7 years ago. One of the things I love about SL is that the inner person is much more apparent than in rl. Your avatar is your choice. And all the choices are valid. *hugs*

      And by the way, the people whose first priority is the matching of feet to legs have very small minds. They can’t handle larger issues. You have value no matter what you look like. And to me you look just fine. :)

  8. As I read this post I’m in-world attending a meeting with two avatars that have not even changed clothes since 2004, a couple others are wearing mesh, and two are of ethnicities that I hadn’t seen in SL until I was almost a year old – black and asian. Oh, and I’m a furry kitty cat at the moment and and a child avie is being well-behaved in the meeting.

    What folks don’t understand is that their lives would be less fulfilling and far less interesting if everyone conformed to a single standard. On this Veteran’s Day / Remembrance Day we think of those who fought so that we could maintain and flourish in our diversity. If only these sacrifices and that for which they stand can be remembered every day.

    Be who you are.

  9. Inara Pey

     /  November 12, 2012

    I don’t agree with any form of “height enforcement” or “policing” or anything else. People should be allowed to chose how they perceive and adjust their avatar. Period.

    That said, for me, I have been “downsizing” for some time, purely because I want to – and by-and-large- it works for me. I’m not sure why this is; a possible sense of asthetics in house / building design? Possible. I do know that I’d been dissatisfied with a lot of things in SL scale-wise since switching to a set of better camera defaults than those supplied by LL, which in turn not only vastly improved my in-world experience (in my opinion at least, but with perhaps two notable exceptions), but also lead me to realise just how much space I waste on my personal builds in constantly allowing for the camera.

    I initially reduced from around 7ft to 6ft 4in, recently I reduced further – to 5ft 8in (my rl height in bare feet), and adjusted my shape proportions a little to match. Doing so revealed to me that such experiments can have their drawbacks, as I’m back up to around 5-10 / 5-11 in bare feet in-world, topping-out just over 6ft in heels. The problem wasn’t so much being taking for a minor or anything – it was finding that the majority of my preferred shoes and boots no longer fitted my legs without me looking like I Bozo the Clown’s older sister & requiring leg shape adjustments which tended to reverse the point of reducing my height in the first place.

    I’m still happier being the “economy sized me” in-world – and that’s my personal choice. I’ll run with it, and hope those who want to be tall, thin, wide, short, top-heavy, bottom-padded, long-legged, rotound, tiny, disproportioned, well-proportioned, “anatomically proportioned”, or whatever they want to be and are comfortable with continue to do so as well :).

    Let IDIC rule!

  10. Trying to recall the last time someone was denied access to a region for being too tall.


    Had an alt denied from a place for being under 5’10” the other day. I think the term “Height Police” is getting used backwards here – being applied to the wrong side of that debate.

    • I don’t know why somebody would ban somebody under 5’10” unless they’re overly paranoid about child av’s. It’s wrong in either direction. I wasn’t saying people “are” kicked for being too tall – but they are dissed. And I think it’s one thing to decide certain proportions or looks are right for “you” (or each of us) – it’s arrogant to proclaim that everybody in a human avatar must follow the same rules. We all make our own decisions and they are all valid.
      My point about banning tall avatars was that if somebody’s rules are so important they want everybody around them to look the same – then they could set up a location where it was mandatory. The rest of us will go our own way. :)

  11. I don’t think it’s about banning tall avatars–it’s just that if everybody’s tall, then nobody is, because then tall is the new average. All I’d ask is that if you don’t want to be tall, then please don’t, so those of us who do want to be tall can be.

  1. Normal in Second Life « Rezzing Beauty

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