Is there discrimination in Second Life based on your avatar appearance? You bet. Last October an avatar was banned from a popular music club, seemingly solely based on his appearance.
Yesterday, somebody made a post to the official Second Life community forums bringing up the topic:
People asking for friend but only if you are mesh. This maybe not full racist to you, but just sub the word mesh to an ethnicity or religion.
One person replied:
Well, mesh isn’t a race, but I understand where you’re going with it. Those people tend to state that they’ve put a lot into their avie and don’t want to look at a sub par one (in their opinion)…I usually just scroll on by if it’s just the mesh thing mentioned. I can’t get butthurt over every stupid thing people write. If someone is that picky about what sort of pixels they want to associate with, that’s on them. There’s too many real issues in the world to worry about, why create more?
And someone had the idea:
Let’s just call it meshism and meshists. It’s a brand new discrimination!
You might be surprised to know that there are actually some places in Second Life that explicitly ask their users to use a mesh avatar. For example, this note appears in the rules notecard of the popular FMD club, which describes itself on its Flickr group page as “Second Life’s sexiest club and lounge”:
No noobish looking avatars. It’s 2017. Get mesh. FMD Staff determines your appearance and if you feel we’re being too harsh, take it up with someone who gives a fuck.
Now, I have been to FMD many times, and I don’t think I have ever encountered a classic SL system avatar there. Everybody has a mesh avatar head and body, and many obviously have spent a lot of time and money pulling together their look. I don’t really know if they do toss you out if you don’t have a mesh avatar, but it’s a bit intimidating.
And the thread in the community forums made me realize that perhaps I, too, am becoming a bit of a meshist. When I visit Frank’s Place, one of my favourite things to do is to right-click/inspect what the other avatars nearby are wearing. (That’s how I find some really great items to buy for myself.)
But I now notice that I am beginning to critique—in my head, not verbally—some rather dated-looking classic avatars. (“2007 called. They want their avatar back.”)
And it’s not fair. Many people who use Second Life can’t afford to shell out forty bucks to get a full-blown mesh avatar head and body, plus associated shoes, hair and clothes. Catwa Bento heads cost L$5,000 or US$20.00. The popular Maitreya Lara mesh body sets you back L$2,750, which works out to about US$11.00. (Honestly, Onyx LeShelle must be taking home money by the wheelbarrow from her Maitreya Lara mesh body sales! Maitreya must have seventy percent of the female mesh avatar body market. And as a result, everybody designs for them. It’s a bit of a vicious circle.)
Avatar fashions change over time. I still vividly remember the pre-mesh days, system clothing and flexiprim ballgowns. In fact, I sometimes pull them out and wear them to Frank’s. Stuff that Nicky Ree made a decade ago still holds up very well today:
(All I did here was upgrade to a Bento mesh head—Catwa Kimberly, ka-ching! there’s twenty bucks right there!—and Bento Slink hands.)
What I’m saying here (and what I need to keep reminding myself, as well) is to try not to judge other people by the quality of their avatar. Don’t become a meshist!