Archive for discrimination

No on Proposition 8

Posted in General with tags , , on October 3, 2008 by Bola C. King-Rushing

OK, it’s been a while. I could give you all the excuses reasons for that, but in the end what’s important is that I’m writing again. At least right now.

In any case, I live in the land of the political initiative, referendum, or proposition, and it seems we’re called to the polls at least a couple of times every year to cast votes on the welfare and direction of the Golden State. Which, if you ask me, is pretty cool, though it takes a little getting used to.

This November, along with the national ballot, we have several state and local measures to consider. The two of these that I think are of greatest import are Propositions 4 and 8. I might talk about 4 some other time, but for right now my concern is Prop 8.

Put simply, Prop 8 if passed would ban same-sex marriages in California. You may or may not know that this is an issue that’s gone back and forth in this state; most recently, a California Supreme Court ruling held that it was unlawful to limit “marriage” to strictly man-woman couples. This means that same-sex marriages are valid and recognized in California at the moment, but Proposition 8 aims to add wording to the state constitution to the effect that only a man-woman marriage would be valid and recognized here.

That’s just wrong. There are a whole host of reasons that I hold that opinion, and I may go into them another time. What interests me right now, though, is that this issue – both locally and nationally – points a giant, sore finger at the massively gaping hole in the supposed wall between church and state. Half the problem here is the blanket use of the term “marriage.” If you stop to think about it, you realize that agents of religious authority (clergy) are given permission to perform a ceremony that affects the status of a couple in the eyes of governmental / civil authority. If we’re supposed to support the separation of church and state, isn’t that whole setup in direct conflict of the principle?

There should, from the very founding of this nation, have been a distinction made between the union of two people in a religious context and a similar (though not identical, and sometimes completely different) union in a civil context. The fact that some religions or denominations recognize same-sex marriage while their local governments do not points to that as a basic truth. Or how about this  one?: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (yes, the Mormons) once allowed and recognized polygamy (some fundamentalist groups not affiliated with the mainstream church still do), but the federal government of the USA has never recognized polygamous marriages. This demonstrates quite clearly that marriage does not mean the same thing to religion as it does to government.

But those who support Prop 8 – that is, those who wish to ban same-sex marriage – conflate the two contexts. They claim that if the state recognizes same-sex marriages, then their religious beliefs will be in danger. But wait: if we really have separation of church and state, then no state decision can impinge upon their beliefs. So what’s to be afraid of? The Catholic Church supports Prop 8, but the state is not going to force Catholic priests to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. So the Catholic Church (and all who support Prop 8) is not really defending their right to do things their way; they’re specifically hoping to restrict the rights of others to do things a different way.

I think civil union (marriage in the civil context) should be separated from matrimony (marriage in the religious context) altogether as a matter of principle. It would make sense for those who are religious to have the two be combined or overlapped in some way, but we now live in a time where there are lots of people who for many differing reasons have or want nothing to do matrimony, while still desiring the rights and responsibilities of civil union. Not to mention many who are married in name but don’t really live that way.

It’s to the benefit of the state to allow same-sex marriages. Just as with heterosexual marriages, it promotes social stability and contributes to economic stability. Beyond that, though, it’s straight-up illegal for the state to discriminate against people on the basis of religion or sexual preference / orientation (among other things, of course). By banning or prohibiting same-sex marriage, for whatever reasons, the state is by definition treating one group of people (homosexual couples desiring to be married) differently from another (heterosexual couples desiring to be married) on the basis of sexual orientation and possibly religion. These two sets of people are otherwise indistinguishable: in each case you have two people who are probably in love and want to publicly and socially declare an intent to commit permanently to each other and obtain all the rights and responsibilities that accompany such a declaration; the only difference is that one pair has different plumbing, while the other pair has the same plumbing. The state should not be in the business of discriminating between people on the separate or combined bases of sexual orientation and religion.

Wait, isn’t that basically what the California Supreme Court said?

Come on, people. How hard is it, really? Do you want to live in a land where discrimination is ok? I probably shouldn’t ask that question – too many people, if they answered truthfully, would say “Yes.” But if you don’t, then oppose Proposition 8 this November. If you live in California, vote against it. If you don’t live in California, urge any Californians you may know or come into contact with to vote against it. It’s that simple.

Song of the Moment: "Hawaii Five-O," The Ventures

Digital foot-binding

Posted in Second Life with tags , , , , on August 12, 2008 by Bola C. King-Rushing

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