“Don’t hate me because my avatar is beautiful”: Discourses of Femininity and the Body in Second Life


Next week I am presenting at the Discourses and Cultural Practices conference as part of the “Discourse and Popular Culture” symposium. I am speaking about my favourite topics – avatars, identity, feminism, desire, pleasure, sexuality and the body.

I just finished my conference presentation but as I used hundreds of images, the file is too large to upload and share! But here is the abstract:

Title of Colloquium: Discourse and Popular Culture

Title of Abstract: “Don’t Hate Me Because My Avatar is Beautiful”: Discourses of Femininity and the Body in Second Life


In Second Life, a 3D virtual world, there exists a new ‘body culture’: the avatar, a visual representation of self in the form of a virtual body. This virtual space is a theatrical space, a space of fiction and fantasy. Yet it also the site for real business, and more and more professional women are entering the space for work purposes. This blend of reality and fantasy is creating a murky domain for traditional feminist ideologies. There is a guilty pleasure associated with having an aesthetically beautiful body given that it contradicts genuine concerns about media and body image. Many women who also work inside Second Life feel trapped in their offline identity roles and conform to traditional discourses of femininity, appearance, beauty and fashion. Yet in some contexts, people who resist these discourses are discriminated against. Using feminist notions of the body as a text (Grosz, 1994; Kirby, 1997), this paper will explore the ways women encode (Kress and van Leeuwen, 2006) and perform (Butler, 1990; Threadgold, 2003) discourses of femininity, desire, and identity through their avatars.

Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. New York, Routledge.

Grosz, E. (1994) Volatile Bodies: Towards a Corporeal Feminism. St. Leonards, NSW, Allen and Unwin.

Kirby, V. (1997) Telling Flesh: The Substance of the Corporeal. London, Routledge.

Kress, G. and van Leeuwen, T. (2006) Reading Images: The Grammar of Visual Design. London, Routlegde.

Threadgold, T. (2003) ‘Cultural studies, critical theory and critical discourse analysis: Histories, remembering and futures’, Linguistik Online. 14, 5-37. Available at: http://www.linguistik-online.de/14_03/index.html, accessed 5 March 2005.

I’m using or linking to a number of videos, and for ease of participants finding them, here they are:

I am also presenting a critical discourse analysis of the posts and comments associated with these blog stories (and additional linked blogosphere discussions):

Op/Ed: RL/SL Fashion Faux Pas


The Voice of Pixeleen Mistral


Where is Swirly, Lacoste?


No Anorexia Second Life

And, as usual, I am stealing a heap of images from the wonderful Stephanie Misfit to illustrate the points I want to make, such as this amazing one of her and Swirly:

dont hate me because my avatar is beautiful

That’s one of my intro slides – I am assuming nobody in the audience will know anything about Second Life, but still I am hoping to cover a lot of ground in a short space of time. I figure people will know a lot about feminist theory and discourse analysis, so its more about me linking it all to an unfamiliar culture for them in my presentation. I’m looking forward to it a lot 🙂

One thought on ““Don’t hate me because my avatar is beautiful”: Discourses of Femininity and the Body in Second Life

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s