Digital foot-binding

It’s a strange confluence of circumstances. On the one hand is the way content creation – and, in particular, content permission – works in SL. Designers often don’t want customers to have modify permission on their work, because then the customers can, well, modify their work. It also makes them more vulnerable to forgery and cheap knock-offs. On the other hand is the tradition (habit? trend?) of making shoes that are designed to fit the “size 0” avatar foot.

The result is, as everyone who’s into these things knows, the size zero shoe. You purchase a pair of shoes, and they look fabulous, and they’re designed for size 0 feet, so you adjust your Foot Size slider to 0 so they’ll look right. And, in theory, there’s nothing wrong with that – to a point.

In fact, though, it’s systemic. It’s institutionalized. It’s become accepted practice. And there is something seriously wrong with that.

How is this different from virtual foot-binding? Avatars are being asked to change their bodies in order to fit social norms or fashions. No, they’re not even being asked. In some cases, they’re being politely reminded, but often the bodily deformation is simply taken for granted. And, as we know, it’s not just shoes. There exists a whole host of clothing items that are designed only for avatars that are designed within a relatively narrow (both literally and figuratively) size spectrum. And, I recently learned, the same goes for poses and animations.

Now, this isn’t the case for all designers. When it comes to shoes in particular (but also for other size-sensitive items), there are a handful of creators who for their own reasons give us mod perms. Some of those who don’t will still sell their shoes in two sizes (such as 0 and 10, or 0 and 30), which is at least a little accommodating. And there are starting to be designers who cater specifically to “plus-sized” or otherwise non-standard (as if!) avatars.

But in a world that prides itself on diversity, where even a basic avatar can have any of dozens of attributes sized from 0 to 100 (you should hit the Random button sometime and see what happens), this strikes me as simply insensitive. It’s no different from FL’s neurotic and neurosis-producing insistence that beauty and taste are a single vision that must be administered in a top-down manner. We know better than that, don’t we? How is it that this kind of thinking found its way into our virtual world?

And worse, how is it that we as residents put up with it?

Song of the moment: "Put Your Top Down," Tré Little

2 Responses to “Digital foot-binding”

  1. HA HA — How is it? How did this happen? Simple and (ohhhh I’ve waited so long to say this) I’ll tell you why.

    SL was designed as a virtual world by FLers was it not? The “people” whose avatars populate SL are FLers, are they not? How could the good, the bad, and the ugly NOT infiltrate SL? You honestly didn’t expect it to be completely non-biased did you? No, i didn’t think you did B,.

    As two people on the opposite spectrums of weight management and neither of us fulling fitting into societal norms of weight, size, shape or beauty it shouldn’t come as a surprise. It would be NICE if that weren’t the case but I think anything created out of the biased and twisted views of our current cultural norms, is going to have at least a remnant of that — size 0 shoes and deformed avatars is perhaps your first exposure but I suspect you’ll find more.

    Remember I asked you about your wings and how people react to you in class both as a black man, and a man who has wings and wears heels… (you never answered by the way). Aversion and manipulation and bias I fear are part of the human condition (not that it’s right and you know I feel that way).

  2. Isn’t that exactly the same as RL? If you want something unique/special to own or wear, or have special needs, you either have to search ages to find it, or pay dearly for it? 😉

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