Airbrushing, the excesses of the fashion industry and larger SL avatars.

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The photo above, from an historical German naturist magazine (I’ve no idea of the date) is obviously airbrushed.

Airbrushing was a big thing in the past. It was not permitted to show a genital area, or pubic hair, so many vintage photos have genitals and pubic hair airbrushed out. While this doesn’t look particularly strange on females, in the sense that the basic shape of the anatomy remains the same, doing so to vintage male naturist photos is just…strange!

Indeed, in contemporary times, many (most?) females have ‘airbrushed’ their pubic hair away through shaving, waxing or laser treatment. I’ve written about this before. While shaving or waxing can be a current fashion statement, the opportunity exists to -when the fashion wheel turns full circle, as it generally always does- let it grow back. Where does that leave ladies (or gentlemen) who have opted for permanent removal? The same goes for tattoos. Currently vogue, they’ll be another fashion style that will eventually be ‘out’ and their permanence will make those who sport them look dated, notwithstanding the fact that age, gravity and middle-aged weight gain is going to make these tattoos look like ugly bruises more than a vibrant reminder of culture in the early 21st century.

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While airbrushing was, perhaps, necessary to ‘not offend public morality’ in the past (I still maintain that a nude body, at any point in history, is much, much less offensive than nationalistic propaganda, see below)

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I won’t even get into ludicrous, ridiculous far right wing ‘propaganda’ campaigns that have blighted humanity for thousands of years, from the Roman era right through to today.

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My Little Pony

None of us believe this nonsense anymore, and it’s an easy target for satirists. So why bother?

Yet many of us do buy into not dissimilar fashion industry propaganda quite readily. In the photo of the bikini model above, we can see how the original shot (on the left) can be manipulated again and again to subscribe to a fashion-driven propaganda campaign, every bit as disturbing as Lord Kitchener‘s ‘Your Country Needs You’ poster, or some North Korean idiot riding a white charger through wintry wastelands (and what an apt turn of phrase that is for the entirety of North Korea).

Satire? It’s proper title is The Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea. Where you can vote for one person. And wear the same hairstyle as him. Stop it already, my sides are splitting.

The pressure is always on young women, in particular, to adhere to certain fashion tropes. Fake dyed blonde hair, fake tan, fake nails, fake boobs, all body hair removed, and all driven by an industry deseperate to sell razors, wax strips, hair dye and the rest. The only thing left that’s real is a profit margin, and if you look carefully enough, a propaganda as deeply unpleasant as that perpetrated by a mentally unstable demagogue.

While I’m railing against the fashion industry in particular here, it needs to be noted they aren’t alone. The food industry is another whose propaganda (‘this chocolate is healthy because it contains fewer calories’) is equally disturbing. We’re on the slippery slope to ‘frankenstein foods‘ because -the propaganda runs- we can feed the world. Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t we already producing enough food each year to feed the entire world? Isn’t it simply a case of bad distribution, massive (Western) waste and the Agro-chemical industry’s needs to de-stabilise food supply? Isn’t it because it’s more profitable for the armaments industry to sell guns than it is to sell rice, wheat or anything else?

And governments, the world over, are part of this sleight-of-hand con-trick too. ‘Take more exercise’, my government keeps telling me. Well, I would if I wasn’t a hamster on the work wheel, forever going around, chasing my tail. I would if you could invest in some infrastructure that really does make cycling safer. But that’s not happening because money is being pumped into more and more roads. For juggernauts. Not for cyclists. I need to stop, as I’ve clambered onto my soapbox 🙂

Back to the story in hand.

It seems that ‘airbrushing’ is a kind of body fascism, placing undue pressure on women, and in particular younger girls, to live up to unrealistic ideas about themselves. I look around to see pre-teen girls in the UK already being sexualised while still being children, dressing up in clothes entirely unsuited to their age range.

This also reflects itself in Second Life, where we conform to the needs of fitting in. If my avatar reflected my actual height, I’d probably be accused of age-play on the grid, because my avatar would look so tiny compared with others. Thus, Ella stands six foot tall, half a foot bigger than in RL. And we’re all thin. Now, that’s not such an issue for me because my avatar shape is a realistic representation of a collection of real life skin and bones 🙂 But what if I was size 12? Size 14? Even larger?

OK, SL is a fantasy world experience, so in that respect it’s acceptable to live a fantasy, never growing old, never having blemishes, never putting on weight. But there are some who do try to accurately reflect their RL size and are almost forced to ‘airbrush’ -downsize with the ‘appearance’ tabs- to fit into mesh clothes.

At least two of my RL friends adopt ‘larger sized avatars’. One -and if we were describing her we’d be suggesting she was ‘bigger boned’ rather than ‘fat’- says that the XL size for mesh ‘just about’ fits her. Another has given up on mesh entirely, and thus has a limited wardrobe because, she says, XL mesh isn’t even close.

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A mesh bikini in its largest size fails to cover a plus sized model.

So come on, designers. Lets see mesh created to suit all sizes.

My larger sized friend, also a RL naturist, says that ‘in real life, no one is judgemental about body shape or size within the naturist community…we’re all the same, essentially. And my SL skin fits me perfectly, as does my RL skin. I don’t feel any pressure to conform to anyone else’s ideal in RL, and SL is the same. While ill-fitting clothes make it awkward to look great in SL, due to the fact that almost everything is mesh nowadays, I don’t have that problem in SL’s naturist community. In fact, the RL ethos of naturism, that we’re all the same, seems to spill over into the SL variant. I do feel that those with larger sized avatars can feel comfortable in SL’s naturist communities by not having that fashion pressure to ‘slim down’.

Ella

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