I come to you today, my congregation, to talk about competition, titles, and recognition within Second Life.
We are a fractured society. Not just by gender, race or religion. Not by only geography, social class, or name your own label here. We are fractured. Deeply. Like flawed gems, we band together amongst “our own” be that simply us Science Fiction geeks gathering to argue SW vs ST or, as I’m about to focus on more closely, the queer community.
With Pride recently behind us, I am again reminded of the fractured nature of our community. We come together to celebrate, once a year in June, all the things that bring us together: the fight for equality, the struggle of coming out to family and friends, the pain of having to ask for acceptance for being a human being, and lets face it, to leer at hot guys in speedos. But outside of June, we are a splintered, vicious bunch.
Turning that microscope of thought into Second Life, it has the same flavor as it does in real life. We are split into sub communities of bears, leather daddies, twinks, cubs, otters, drag queens, and of course lets not forget the ladies and their women-only clubs. Is there anything wrong with it? Not on the surface. We want to be with those that understand what its like to be us. Would a really butch, stogie smoking leather daddy want to listen to two nancy boys talk make-up tips? Probably not. Similarly, I don’t think my attention would be drawn for very long while two gym queens talked about their workout that morning. well, ok, except for the shower part. They can talk about that aaaaaaaall they want. Preferably with a demonstration. Or at least pictures.
So when it comes to competition, and recognizing a single person to represent a community, it stands to reason that you would want to include people from all walks of that community. Can you really pick one Mr or Mrs Queer without casting a wide net across the queer spectrum and inviting all to participate? With the vast diversity of our community, is that really possible? I say no, but in the interest of discussion, lets look at it closer.
There is an ambassadorship that comes with such a title. Look at BOSL and their Mr and Mrs competitions. They celebrate the diversity of men and women from around the globe, choosing people to represent their country and spending months with various competitions for fashion, community awareness, and social responsibility. They are chosen to speak for the community at events year round. To bring understanding to those not part of the community. To bring the community together. The rules are posted well in advance and adhered to stringently. The competition is judged by a panel of 12 or more people with no direct relationship, personal or business, to the contestants. Votes are tallied. A winner chosen. Congratulations all around.
Now lets cut to one of the more factioned communities within SL. To protect the innocent, I won’t be specific. Its just not what I do. I may claw your eyes out when you work my last gay nerve, but direct mud slinging does no one any good. So lets call it “Mrs. Jeans 2012”. Sure, people who were involved in this specific thing will instantly recognize themselves but really, their guilty conscience is not my problem.
The creators of the competition ask a handful of Blue Jeans’wearing club owners to send a representative from their club to compete for the ultimate title of Mrs. Jeans 2012. The competition was not open to the community at all. What about the people who like wearing black Jeans? Or Acid Wash? They’re all denim lovers. They should be included. But no, Mrs. Jeans 2012 only truly represents a handful of clubs in a specific subdivision of our community. The title, however, would indicate otherwise. Wouldn’t it? They should have just cut to the chase and called it “Mrs. I Fucked A Judge 2012”
Some contestants had a pay to vote win in their club- others were nominated- some were selected without any form of compeition- judges removed part-way through- rules changing on the fly- judges having personal and business relationships with either contestants or the clubs they represent-contestants promised that they’ll make the finals- none of these things can happen. Most certainly, gosh, you wouldn’t want to host the Competition at a specific club that was involved, have an employee of that club be a judge, and have the winning contestant be in any way tied directly to building it or something. Gosh, that would look awful wouldn’t it?
Perception is everything.
We are creatures of perception. We are victims of the “Grass is Greener” syndrome. We see something we want and when we don’t get it, we cry foul and look for reasons to be angry and throw stones into the glass walls that surround us. It is part of being a human. And it is for this reason exactly that any competition granting a title and recognition amongst the SLebrities of the virtual world must be above reproach. And when you are in a community such as ours, for example, where we have to fight, every day, just to be recognized and allowed to marry the one we love, we can not afford to be anything but transparent and able to proudly stand up and state, unequivocally, that the competition was fair.
“Nigel?” you may ask, “What are you bloody well rambling about?”
It comes down to this. SLEbrity, just like in real life, comes at a cost. Everyone wants to own the hottest club, the sim with the highest traffic, offer what no other sim can do to bring in the money and the people. And to do it, not everyone is going to be honest. We are vicious, competative animals trying to get up the evolutionary ladder. Most of us don’t step on the heads of our community to do so but strive to bring the community with us. Competitions bring out the worst in us. They make us cheat, lie, coerce and beg. It brings out the absolute worst in us when we are trying to be our best to win.
We lose sight of what it means to have a community around us that supports us. That celebrates our diversity and comes together.
Next time? Include the black jean wearing, acid wash kids and make a competition that brings us together instead of setting us apart and crowning a winner based on anything BUT their well-rounded representation of the community as a whole. Or don’t call it Mrs. Jeans 2012- but call it what it truly is so there is no misrepresentation.
Be Excellent To Each Other.
p.s. When styling for a competition, slapping on a costume out of a box without adjusting prims to fit or accessorizing is just tacky. Like, Julia Roberts Tacky. And since I was already asked, no, I did not compete nor am I part of this particular event or subdivision of blue jeans wearing folks. I merely listened to several people, looked at several sides of the story (both positive and negative) and posted my thought process on the much larger picture at hand. I, in no way, am stating the particular competiton was or wasn’t fair nor am I passing any judgement on the particular winner. I’m focusing on perception, community, and the state of the human being.