by Jessica Holyoke on 21/05/09 at 3:10 pm
by Jessica Holyoke
Perception is reality. Its a phrase I learned when I held a supervisory position for a large multi-national before I went to law school. For some readers, this might be a surprise because my work experience would make me older than it would seem by my avatar and my previous statements. Most people did not know that, it might change people's perceptions of me a little, but nothing fundamental.
In the past, I was attacked for supposedly supporting the People's Republic of China. In these attacks, it was suggested that I was the daughter of Chinese communist officials, which would also allege that I was Han Chinese in RL with a blonde European avatar. A very different change in race, but no one was lining the streets calling for my head because my race didn't match my avatar.
But suggest that I am a man in real life and everything changes.
And I have been accused on a number of occasions, as have other women on-line as a way of intimidation in one form or another. People will try to silence you if they intimate that you are a man in real life. People have had a problem with my writing about Gor on the Herald and have gone to my editor and myself banging on the table if I am a man in real life, simply because there must not be any women on Gor.
Typically when I am asked this question, I say pass for a number of reasons, not the least of which is because I have said I was a female before and I got stalked. Another is because I believe men and women should have the opportunity to live in the shoes of the other gender which they would otherwise not be able to do. If you believe the person on the other side of the screen is a man or a woman, then you would treat that person as a man or a woman. Once you know otherwise, it is sometimes an effort to keep that illusion going; its still there in your head that the person you are talking to is not the same as what is on your screen. I once worked with in the clubs do that with me; try to be friends both as a man and a woman, and it was an effort, not much of one, but an effort to treat one as a boy and the other a girl.
And in those same clubs, I had another co-worker that hurriedly told me on stage that she was a man in RL and it bothered me because it felt that there was something wrong with being a woman that he had to assuage his ego to tell me that he was a man. To me, having a female or male avatar say right out, I'm not the same in RL, feels like a cop out; like you don't want the experience of knowing what its like to walk in someone else's shoes, at least not completely. Which is why I am very big on, I would rather not know. Unless we are sharing what happens in real life, I would rather not have the tables switched on me.
The reason why I am bringing it up now is that people are suggesting gender verification is just another level of trust in an on-line virtual world, which it is not. Because of the above, a person who lies about their gender might be lying because they want to experience life as the opposite gender and if someone directly asks them, their only options are to tell the truth and stop the experience, lie about it or not answer, which is why I don't answer so that passing on the question will be common again.
In all this talk about verification being voluntary, the fact is that if you do not gender verify, it will be known to others, because the space will be blank or it will say "not verified." And we are presuming when someone says gender verified, that mean that the gender matches. So the system will have to place a label on the screen saying if the person is male or female, which is the only way a verification system would work. I could be "gender verified " but then switch genders between avatars on the same account if I had an androgynous name.
But this skips over the real reason people on-line ask for your gender. The reason why people ask for gender on-line is for advertising dollars. Just go to a social networking website of a friend of the opposite gender and see their ads in relation to your ads. When the Lindens publish how many women use Second Life, they aren't saying look how egalitarian we are, they are saying look how many women in this age group are using our product so you can advertise on here. When I signed up for MySpace and ticked off the female box, it asks me if I want to sell my eggs. Men don't have that ad.
For many people, SL is SL, RL is RL. The only way the immersion works is if people accept and buy into the illusion. As a community, in order to allow for the experience, we must let our eyes focus on the screen and not what is beyond.