Monday, 20 September 2010

Minutes of the SLLU Feminist Network Meeting, 19 September, 2010

The SLLU Feminist Network met on Sunday, 19 September: our particular focus was to follow up our discussions of the previous meeting concerning the imminent arrival on the SL main grid of 16 and 17 year-olds from the soon-to-be closed teen grid.

The meeting began, however, with a brief discussion of a notification from Ledoof Constantineau regarding a proposal to help establish a presence for the RL group Take Back the Tech in Second Life. It was generally agreed that establishing closer connections with RL activist groups would be beneficial, and that we should assist in whatever way possible. This will be a subject for a future meeting.

Discussion about the integration of teens into the main grid began with a general acknowledgment that there was probably not a great deal of point in debating the wisdom of this move by LL, despite some concerns, as it is now an inevitability. Instead, we agreed to devote our attention to ways in which we, as a group, might assist the incoming teens, and in particular, how we might best help "street proof" them to protect them from predators in SL, as well as from recruitment and potential "grooming" by groups likely to be attracted to the prospect of victimizing or suborning younger women and men.

There was some discussion as well as to how we might use this as an opportunity to bring our message to a new, younger audience, although there was concern expressed as well that this might seem too much like the very "recruitment" that we want to discourage other (admittedly dangerous and suspect) groups from engaging in. Overall, there was no clear consensus on the mechanics of this, although general agreement bringing the message of feminism to teens was a worthy goal.

It was noted that while teens on the main grid will be restricted to "General" areas, this will not entirely restrict their access to representations of misogyny and gender violence in SL. More worrisome still, there are no special mechanisms to protect teens from griefers and sexual predators and recruiters willing to venture into "General" areas in search of prey. The consensus was that the best way to deal with this was by educating teens on what to avoid, and how to deal with predators should they be encountered.

Over the course of our discussion, we determined upon a four-pronged strategy:

  • Revamp and update the SL Newbie Women's Survival Kit to include more information likely to be useful to teens, including a set of definitions of terms (such as BDSM) with which they might not be familiar

  • Include in any information that we make available to teens an invitation to join the SLLU Feminist Network, as a kind of low-key and hopefully unobtrusive way of attracting younger women and men to the group.

  • Create a "teen chapter" of the SLLU Feminist Network specifically for teens. One reason for this is that Flagg, and the current Headquarters of both the SLLU and SLLUFN, is on "Moderate"-rated land, which will be inaccessible to teens. We will need to address the issue of a meeting place for teens.

  • In an attempt to broaden our reach and appeal, to approach some other likely groups about partnering in our efforts to reach out to and educate the incoming teens. In part, this is in response to the general agreement that, as a self-identified "feminist" group, we are less likely to attract young men. Partnering with other groups will also extend our reach, generally, as well as allaying somewhat criticisms that we are covertly on a "recruitment" drive.
A number of potential groups were suggested, including the newbie instructional programme at Caledon Oxbridge, and VWER (the Virtual Worlds Education Roundtable). The SLLU itself will prove useful as a "partner" in this as well. It was suggested that we contact Carl Metropolitan, who has a long history of, and excellent reputation for his work educating and helping newbies, about partnership possibilities. Other suggestions included approaching some of the more "conservative" groups in SL, including possibly a few of the less conservative Christian groups operating in SL. The idea, raised at our previous meeting, of looking for BDSM groups with a record or interest in trying to prevent abuse in D/s relationships was mooted again, and dismissed as impractical and problematic.

Much hilarity ensued in the course of our attempts to imagine a joint SLLUFN-BDSM partnership, and the meeting ended.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Announcing the SL Left Unity’s “Consumer Watch”: A New Feminist Blog for Second Life.

The SL Left Feminist Network is excited to announce the launch of a new blog focused upon feminist issues and Second Life, the “SLLU Feminist Network Consumer Watch.” The “Consumer Watch” will highlight and analyze products available for sale in Second Life that tap into the lucrative market for violent pornography and role play.

Why have we decided to create this new information source?

At one time, “Your World, Your Imagination” was the sales pitch, and indeed, philosophical underpinning for Second Life. Thousands of residents took this mantra to heart, and sought to make this virtual world a place to explore their own expansive imaginations, and transcend the narrow limits of our everyday physical existence. One result has been the creation within this virtual world of unparalleled new forms of art, of landscapes of breathtaking beauty and scope, and of liberating experiments in social organization and personal identity.

But there has always been, of course, a darker side to Second Life, epitomized in the subcultures that have chosen not to see the boundless potential of this virtual world as a way of imagining something better for human kind, but rather as a means of indulging in the some of the very worst instincts that still prey upon our culture. Nothing embodies this retrograde approach to the potential of Second Life more than those varieties of role play that fetishize and indeed celebrate sexual violence. Dolcett, Vore, snuff and rape role play, sexual age play, Gor, and some of the more extreme fringes of BDSM have parasitically infested Second Life for nearly as long as the application has existed, ensuring that this virtual world reflects not only the very best that the human imagination can conjure, but also, sadly, the very worst that human civilization has wrought.

If Second Life truly were nothing more than a mere “fantasy world,” and the borders between it and “real life” as impermeable as some like to pretend, the existence of grotesquely violent sexual role play here would be offensive, but not necessarily worrisome. But Second Life is, in truth, an extension of “real life”: those who enact scenes of violence against women here are indulging their real life predilections, while those who immerse themselves in such role play are carrying those experiences and their emotional and psychological consequences with them back into the physical world. What happens in Second Life DOES matter; it both reflects and impacts upon the real world.

And for this reason, it is time to shine a little light upon the darker corners of this, our virtual world.

"The SLLU Feminist Network Consumer Watch" is committed to doing just this. Features will focus upon animations, skins, clothing, and furniture available for purchase that normalize and trivialize gender violence, or otherwise reinforce dangerous and harmful misogynist attitudes. In addition to providing an overview of such content, usually highlighting the work of an individual content creator, each blog article will include a feminist analysis of the reviewed products.

Through its examination of these products, "The Consumer Watch" will offer a frank and often deeply disturbing insight into those subcultures within Second Life that role play explicit and extreme scenarios of sexual violence. It will demonstrate that rape, snuff, and other violent forms of sexualized role play are expressions of harmful and deep-seated misogynist attitudes, and it will argue that such role play, far from being harmless "fantasy," does impact negatively upon real life perspectives on and approaches to gender equality and social justice.

Because the most democratic and effective means of responding to the sale of violently misogynist content is the consumer boycott, "The Consumer Watch" will also maintain a running "Boycott Notification" list of content creators.

We invite you to visit the “Consumer Watch,” and join in the conversations there.

The first two blog posts for the "Consumer Watch" are now online:

"Battle Royale Redivivus"

An analysis of the unresolved "Battle Royale" skin controversy that swirled around Gala Phoenix's *Curio* skin line in October of last year.
WARNING: Contains mild images of violence that may be triggering]

"In Which We Dipp into the Dark Side"

With images:

Text only:

An examination of a few of the snuff, rape, and bondage devices offered for sale by Dipp Canning's *Dip Dexines*.

[WARNING: Contains language and images of extreme violence.]

For a general introduction to the “Consumer Watch,” see:

Questions and comments regarding the “SLLU Feminist Network Consumer Watch” can be sent to:

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

SLLU and SLLUFN Birthday Party this Sunday!!

Sunday, 21 February
12 Noon SLT to 6 pm SLT

Oh, how quickly a year . . . or three . . . passes!

Yes, it’s a little belated. But the Third Birthday Party for the SLLU is fast approaching, this Sunday at the SLLU land on Flagg! This year the SLLU will be sharing birthday honours with the SLLU Feminist Network, which is one year old this February! As well, we will be highlighting the newest member of the family, the SLLU LGBTI Network.

The festivities will kick off at 12 Noon SLT with some brief (we promise!) opening remarks. Then we have a schedule of poetic and musical talent that should keep everyone happily engaged for hours to come:

12:05 SLT: Radical Poetry

1:00 SLT: Zaphod Theas

2:00 SLT: The Virtual Live Band

3:00 SLT: Wildo Hofmann

There will be dancing, and a skating rink has been set up for those who wish to showcase their Olympic-quality stylings on the ice. The LGBT Network will be featuring an art exhibit, and we have a giant birthday cake that dispenses SLLU-flavoured freebies to lucky winners!

Keep an eye out on this space for further additions to the schedule.

And don’t forget to bring friends, families, and fellow travelers: this event is open to all!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

SL Left Unity Feminist Network Conduct Guidelines for Field Activism

On 27 November, 2009, the SL Left Unity Feminist Network mounted, in cooperation with other groups, its first really large scale protest with Second Life, at the "rape sim" Hard Alley. The event, which was organized as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender Violence, featured an impressive number of participants and garnered a very gratifying amount of attention in Second Life-related news sources and blogs. The success of this public protest has led to an affirmation of the group's commitment to further activist events of this nature.

As the SLLUFN and associated groups become more engaged with protests and other forms of activism in-world in Second Life, it has become desirable to codify in something like a formal way the standards of conduct expected of our activist members while "in the field." The Guidelines that appear below are really little more than a written articulation of the actual conduct of the group that participated in the Hard Alley protest. They were developed in consultation with members of the SLLUFN during two separate meetings of that group in January of this year.

These are not written in stone, and will undoubtedly be revised as further experience and thought seem to require. Your comments on these Guidelines are welcome!


SL Left Unity Feminist Network Conduct Guidelines for Field Activism

From time to time, members of the SLLU Feminist Network and associated groups will be involved in active protests with Second Life, as for example setting up an information picket.

Those engaged in picketing or other protest actions will, of course, have their own views and perspectives on the activities being protested. It is not the intention of these conduct guidelines to restrict or censor the varied beliefs that may bring protestors together: we value a diversity of perspective.

At the same time, as peaceable residents of Second Life, we have all undertaken to abide by the rules set out in Linden Lab's Terms of Service and Community Standards. As feminists, we wish to highlight our nonviolent principles and respect for others. And, as members of a collective activist group, it is important that our individual actions reflect well upon those with whom we are protesting. If you intend to participate in the action, and regardless of whether or not you are a member of the SLLUFN, we would ask that your conduct conform to the guidelines below.

You should bear in mind that there is a high likelihood that your participation in a protest action may result in a banning from the targeted sim, and possibly also from associated sims.

  • Please do not interrupt or engage with people on the sim unless they first approach you. This includes passing unsolicited notecards to those within the sim.

  • Please do not interfere in any way with the activities of those on the sim, even if you find them objectionable.

  • For your own safety, do not exchange IMs with anyone on the sim. Should anyone attempt to engage you in a conversation in IM, insist upon it being in open chat.

  • Please do not employ abusive or vulgar language.

  • Please do not wear clothing (e.g., tee shirts with slogans) that might be construed as abusive, vulgar, or constituting a personal attack upon anyone in the sim.

  • Please do not file an Abuse Report against any objects or behaviours on the sim, unless they constitute a direct attack upon yourself.

  • Please do not record the names of anyone present on the sim, as this can be interpreted as threatening behaviour. We are not there to compile a registry of people engaged in objectionable activities.

  • Please do not employ push weapons, HUDS, or any other objects that impact or disturb others against their will.

  • Please to not employ chat or notecard spam, self-replicating objects, or anything else that might deliberately and severely the performance of the sim.
Although it is not obligatory, we recommend that if you are a member of the SLLUFN or associated group you wear the group tag for the purposes of identification. There two main reasons for this. First, it will link you to group IMs, better facilitating communication within the protest group. Second, it will make it easier to find and identify you should you require assistance of any sort.


For your convenience, a few relevant excerpts from Linden Lab's Community Standards document are reproduced below. Please note that these can be quite vague, and are open to the interpretation of any Linden Lab official who may respond to a reported violation.

1. Intolerance

[...] Actions that marginalize, belittle, or defame individuals or groups inhibit the satisfying exchange of ideas and diminish the Second Life community as a whole. The use of derogatory or demeaning language or images in reference to another Resident's race, ethnicity, gender, religion, or sexual orientation is never allowed in Second Life.

2. Harassment

Given the myriad capabilities of Second Life, harassment can take many forms. Communicating or behaving in a manner which is offensively coarse, intimidating or threatening, constitutes unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, or is otherwise likely to cause annoyance or alarm is Harassment.

3. Assault

[...] Assault in Second Life means: shooting, pushing, or shoving another Resident in a Safe Area (see Global Standards below); creating or using scripted objects which singularly or persistently target another Resident in a manner which prevents their enjoyment of Second Life.

6. Disturbing the Peace

[...] Disrupting scheduled events, repeated transmission of undesired advertising content, the use of repetitive sounds, following or self-spawning items, or other objects that intentionally slow server performance or inhibit another Resident's ability to enjoy Second Life are examples of Disturbing the Peace.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

SLLU and SLLUFN Birthday Party!

Right, everyone pull out there calendars and pencil in a new date! Set aside 21 February, because that is the day that we celebrate the SLLU's Birthday, and the third productive and exciting year of its existence in Second Life.

The party will be held at Flagg, and will commence at Noon SLT. There will, of course, be live entertainment, dancing, skating, and all manner of good things to do and see.

This year, the party will be hosted by the SLLU Feminist Network, which will be celebrating its first birthday in February. We are delighted to have this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the SLLU for its committed support throughout what has been, for us, a wonderfully exciting and successful first year.

This year's celebration will also see a birth of a kind too, as we highlight the newest addition to the Left Unity fold, the SLLU LGBT Network. So there's another excellent reason to join with us in recognizing the achievements of the past year, and looking ahead to what promises to be a eventful and dynamic future.

We'll be posting more details about the upcoming party here as we near the event, so keep an eye on this space!