Prejudice in Second Life

Kara Trapdoor has written an article titled Role Play Prejudice Much? Her writing was inspired by a thread on Facebook. Seems a guy Nick Morgan was getting crap for some of his role play… not his technique, but the character types he chose to play.

Fantasy Faire

Fantasy Faire by Kara Trapdoor, on Flickr

There is no doubt people are prejudiced. It isn’t just a Second Life™ thing. In all of human history people have been prejudiced and that has not changed. Nor do I see any evidence humans will give up their prejudices in the future. People form their opinions and from that point on it is very hard to give them up, no matter how much proof piles up they are wrong. But, there are those that deal with their prejudices and overcome them.

A serious part of perpetuating prejudices, beyond just basic human nature, is that it is to the advantage of political leaders to keep people divided and thus manageable. America is being internally divided by politicians on; class, race, gender-ID, and religion.

As an example take Baltimore. The black community there is supposedly angry at its oppression by law enforcement. Never mind that for about 50 years the supposed progressive/liberal Democrat Party has controlled the city or that they have had a Democrat governor for 30 of the last 46 years, a black mayor and long line of Democrat mayors since 1971, a black chief of police, a black state attorney, 43% of police officers are black, and 63+% of the population is black. As a group the black citizens can vote whoever they want into office. But, yet the political word is they are oppressed… Doesn’t make sense.

In Second Life there is prejudice. When I made my first male alternate avatar I hated the default duck-waddle-walk. I used a free AO while I looked for a better one. I admit it was a bit of an effeminate looking walk. I got some your-gay-harassment from other males in SL.

Unfortunately education and financial status are not remedies for prejudice. They may contribute to which prejudices we have, but they don’t eliminate the behavior and thought process of prejudice. We can however deal with our personal prejudices once we recognize them. The problem comes in being able to see them. We often just think our prejudice is how the world is. We seldom question how we see the world.

I find an interesting part of Second Life is being able to experiment. I’ve tried picking up men and women as both the same and opposite sex. It is an interesting experiment. I have found out that there is a portion of the SL population that is really concerned about what sex my real life self is, whether I appear as a male of female. I don’t share RL information. There are those that think they know. I tend to cater to their belief whatever it is, but in general I spend little time with those people that find my RL sex an important factor in our relationship.

If you watched Showtime’s The L Word (2004-2009) there is a character named Shane played by Katherine Moennig. She plays the more male side of a series of lesbian relationships.  She portrays having many of the problems a male has with women especially when she tried to have a committed relationship with a character Carmen de la Pica Morales played by Sarah Shahi (gorgeous – Also played Shaw in Person of Interest).

While the sexes are different, it isn’t really gender as much as it is how we learn to think and see the world. I think that is well portrayed in The L Word. While our thinking is shaped by our gender and hormones those with gender identities different than their physical gender reveal what is and is not real male/female differences. While The L Word dramatizes the nature of these relationships and forces most of the problems of relationships into just a few people, I recognize these behaviors and problems from RL scenarios. So, while the show is not proof of anything, it does portray what many of us have experienced.

I’ve also tried being white, black, Latino, and Asian. I have never been able to decide how much difference it makes. I do notice differences in culture as more prominent. Outside of North America and Europe males seem to have a need to dominate women. As a woman, tell a Middle Eastern male ‘no’ or disagree with them and you may spend the next hour debating the point and have them leave all bent, especially if you are winning the debate. Women can’t be smarter than a male… sure.

I can’t get a handle on the racial issues. I do find people who are bigoted about race. But, those that are are also usually bigoted about more things than just race. In America I find that racial issues are deteriorating in RL. I expect to see that deterioration reflected in SL, but I don’t run in circles where race is an issue or problem. So, I have yet to see any change.

Then there is the furry thing… There are regions that do not want furies in their role play. The reasons can be prejudice or practical. When trying to build an immersive experience like 1920’s Berlin furies break the immersion. Is restricting the region to human avatars prejudice or practical? My point being that prejudice gets tricky.

Transference, projection, new age mirroring… these are things that can let people see another’s practicality as a prejudice. They can paint another’s behavior by projecting our prejudice on them. They aren’t as the prejudiced see them. But, to the prejudiced one, it is real.

Scary. Even more so when one realizes there are those that take advantage of prejudices.

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