Monday, November 12, 2012
2012 Color Challenge: Week 46 - Juniper
Nothing I'm wearing is named Juniper - and indeed, the metallic quality of my outfit (a very old purchase from The Abyss) belies the naturalistic quality of Juniper, an enormous conifer with blue-gray berries that grows in the upper reaches of some mountains. Juniper berries are actually the flavoring gin, though I have to admit I've only drunk a couple gin and tonics, mostly because it glows under blacklight and I loved drinking something that glowed. There is glow in Second Life as well, but due to the rarity of glow offline, I think online it often comes off inaccurately - even unnatural. In a world where we fly, though, and where we can look like anything we want, what really is "natural"? One of the more common, ongoing bits of friction between people is the issue of appearance - both independent of offline reality and in reaction to it. In the case of the latter, many people do and will continue to remark on the dearth of true multiculturalism on Second Life.
I'm as much a part of that reality as anyone, being usually blond and pale skinned in Second Life. This is a reflection of my internal view of myself - my avatar is as close to an internal me as I can easily accomplish - but it is also one which is part of a large narrative about skin and hair color and how that influences culture and prejudice alike. I have a lot of "mes" in Second Life who are auxiliary, though, and their appearances are much more diverse; one is Irish, one is edging toward darker skin - not the Ghanese of Agbala but a lighter cream or chocolate color. This brings up other issues of appropriation, though; with Agbala being from Ghana but spending a good chunk of her life (she's Fae and so her life is quite long) in the Caribbean and having more of a Caribbean accent than a Ghanese one, but with me - her driver lets say - being white and growing up apart from any of those cultures, it would be reasonable for someone from Ghana or someone fromt he Caribbean being less than pleased that I not only named her after an Igbo god, but that I also write ehr with a tinge of accent (usually in an approximation of what I hear when I hear people speak who are from the Caribbean, but not exact).
I have the cultural and financial advantages to be apart from the realities of being prejudiced against; weirdly - or really perhaps not - prejudice and judgement of peoples appearance continues even unto the internet; in fact, some people seem to view that since here you have absolute control over how you look, your personality should be even more clearly reflected in online appearance. I buy into this to a large extent as well; the appearance of my avatar is very important to me - and was before I began photographing it, though photographing it has reinforced that importance. I would say I tend more toward wanting peoples' appearances to be coherent, if not realistic, but I will admit to feeling twinges of annoyance at styles like the Invisible Unicorn Riders, whose hips are so broad the mesh deforms between the legs, and who tend to have enormous pouting lips. I cannot deny, however, that often their looks are coherent - and often clearly thought through.
In reality, they put pressure on my own internal values, both of beauty but also of cheerfulness and a certain modesty of presentation which the more colorful and extreme presentations belie. The same goes for those with the watermelon butts (which also has some troubling offline implications; while IURs tend to be pale skinned, Watermelon Butts tend to be dark skinned and watermelon is strongly associated with US black culture), who often have matching enormous chests and torsos without room for organs to exist - this is the internet, though, and no one needs kidneys or stomachs, so why does it bother me so much? Part of it is philosophical; the objectification of women is a major issue in self-created media and extreme exaggeration of secondary sexual characteristics is a part of that in media-created media which often seems to move into our minds and settle there, like shadows. My realistic-except-for-wings avatar is my attempt to combat this internally, but I've been considering playing around with it more in my alts - perhaps even making an Invisible Unicorn Rider or Watermelon Butt avatar and seeing what it feels like to put on those shapes, what it calls up within me. Our prejudices, and our assumptions about those we are prejudiced against, often reveal uncomfortable truths about who we are which can only be understood through acceptance.
( More pictures here. )
Skin: De la Soul, Aestali - Cream Rose
Eyes: De La Soul, RooMee Eyes - Rainbow
Eyelashes: SLink, Eyelashes
Eyeshadow: Virtual Insanity, SPRING Cockatoo
Ears: Illusions, Seelie Ears
Lipstick: Mock, Micare - London Glitter
Hair: Secrets Hair, Cristina - Blonde (promotional item)
Wings: Fancy Fairy, Azarelle
Hands: SLink, Rigged Mesh Hands
Jewelry: Eclectica, Manhattan - topaz
Dress: The Abyss, Hydrogen
Shoes: G Field, Mesh Long Cuff Boots "Willow"
Light Settings: TOR, EUPHORIA smokey blue skies
Water Settings: Mirror Water
Photographed by Deoridhe Quandry
Post processing: Cropping, only