Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Obama Letter, and notes from latest Feminist Network meeting

Dear President Obama

You must know that all around the world there are great expectations that you will deliver the changes you promised and more.
It’s not just that your election signals the end of the Bush years – any Democratic victory would have achieved that – and it’s not only that you are the first black US President – although I don’t under-estimate the significance of this particularly for black Americans.
Your campaign has raised hopes throughout the world.
Hopes that you will lead an end to American false imprisonment, torture and military aggression and unconditional support for the aggressive acts of the state of Israel.
Hopes that you will discourage the demonisation of people of the Islamic faith.
Hopes that you will ensure that American foreign and trade policies do not continue to contribute to death, disease and poverty in many parts of the globe.
Hopes that you join the rest of the world in combating climate change.
Hopes that you will bring peace to the people of Iraq.

I found the assertion made during your campaign that your election somehow proves that any American can achieve their dreams by mere application of hard work difficult to swallow. You know that the existing inequalities and lack of access to basic rights mean that for many of your citizens the so called ‘American dream’ is nothing but a cruel myth.
They don’t even have a basic right to health care!
I appreciate that your priority will be finding a way through the current economic crisis. As you may have guessed I am one of those who remain convinced that the capitalist system is inherently flawed and is being, once again exposed as corrupt, anti-human and to be based on greed rather than on our proven capacity to co-operate with each other for the benefit of all.
However I am not one of those who would wish for life to get worse in order to encourage the desire for change.
I hope that your election and whatever you are able to achieve will prove that engagement in politics can make a difference and that once people embark on that journey .... who knows .... they may want more.
Yours in hope

Zoe Parness

Notes of the meeting of the SLLU Feminist Network on 1st February

This was part two of the discussion on ‘Virtual rape ...fact or fantasy’ and again lots of people came to contribute.

We were given the link to the Women’s Resource Hub where the discussion is also featured

This also includes links to Linden’s official policy on this issue (and the interesting subsequent debate). To quote ‘ other depictions of sexual violence including rape, real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of extreme or graphic violence, and other broadly offensive content are never allowed or tolerated within Second Life.’

One well argued viewpoint was that some of the role play within SL should be viewed within a similar framework to pornography, which contributes to a culture of harm or potential harm and that this was not a moral position but raised concerns about the normalisation and validation of certain attitudes and the impact this can have.

While there seemed to be broad agreement with this view there was also a discussion about women being empowered to develop erotic fantasy and about how far even these fantasies have been determined by unequal power relationships and social conditioning.

The following views were added:-
‘I remember a time when women were not able to freely express their sexual fantasy and to explore erotic stimulation’
‘Yes, it is one of the things I like about SL’
‘I don’t want to see all erotic play defined as pornography’
‘ I think it's important not to impose on a woman’s desire for sexual expression in the name of morality...there is of course a balance to be struck so as to avoid exploitation’
‘I think it's important to have more openness about sexuality and sexual desire: but I also think it's important to reflect on how desires are sometimes shaped’
‘I have never been sure about how far women's sexual fantasy has been governed by a kind of sexual conditioning ...e.g. how far our fantasies are still about pleasing men ... and how far SL might actually be a way of exploring this question further’


We realised that we didn’t really have a working definition on any distinction between pornography and erotic material.
The following were offered:-
‘pornography has more to do with power over a target person whereas eroticism is more mutuality of pleasure’
‘the vast majority of pornography is about a power dynamic’
‘Erotic material is the use of words or images to enhance sexual pleasure while pornography is using similar images but they are primarily for sale and usually exploiting those involved in their production’

The main concerns expressed about the rape role play sims were:-
-That there were no warnings given
-That this activity desensitises those involved
-That there are links between such enactments and rl sexual violence
-It was felt that the mere rating of a sim as ‘mature’ was an inadequate description.

We discussed other possible ways of warning about the content of sims supporting sexual violence and how such a suggestion might be received since it admits that such sims exist and we talked about the impact these activities might have on rl victims of sexual abuse and about how far rape role play reinforced and legitimised
negative attitudes.

The following ideas were generated:-
-A campaign for an in-world rape crisis and counselling service and/or information about existing services
-Sims supporting such activities being required to publicise support perhaps in the form of a kiosk or an automatically dispensed note card
-Linden being required to acknowledge the problem and contribute to support systems
-A conference on these issues (a grant for such a conference has been applied for)
-The need to collect information about resources and landmarks for sources of support


There was further discussion about our responses to sexual slaves appearing in clubs shops etc, the whole Gor thing, going undercover as an ‘investigative reporter’ and bringing these activities into the light of day, the nature of sl marriage, reclaiming the night activity and a discussion about other oppressive behaviour which might take place within a relationship and which may result in intolerable behaviour including stalking activity.

An interesting theme developed on the level of emotional immersion in sl and how differing levels of immersion might colour behaviour and lead to emotionally disturbing encounters.

As well as following up on action and after various suggestions were made about next week’s topic the following was agreed for next Sunday.

'When sl love turns into obsession ... a feminist perspective'

Same time (12 noon)
Same place,
Sunday 8th February

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