You Mean You Chose to be Fat?: Body Image in a Virtual World

I’d like to preface this article a little before you get to it. This was an idea I proposed in November or December to the Fat Studies panel chairs at the National Popular Culture Association/American Studies Association Conference that was held in March of 2008. The project itself began in January and I stopped collecting data in February. Everything you see here was presented to around 20-25 people in the panel to which I spoke in March. I wrote this essay and got around to posting it in the beginning of June 2008. I hope this clears up any confusion on my intentions and about the purpose of this project.

- Marissa


 It’s pretty easy to be skinny in Second Life. In fact, because it’s so easy, why would anyone choose not to be? In pretty much all westernized cultures around the globe, being svelte and attractive (you can’t forget attractive) are some of the most desirable traits to have. No, your sense of humor does not matter here. Even if someone had a choice between a skinny ugly person and a pretty fat person, I guarantee the skinny ugly person would be chosen. What’s up with that?

I admit I bought into the lure of being skinny in this virtual world, while I was not so in real life. It’s about acceptance for me now, however, as I’ve broadened my avatar – and I don’t mean her horizons. I went into Appearance Mode and slid those sliders to fatten myself up. I wanted to look more natural and better represent myself. My best friend was excited to see the new and “improved” me, so much so she took it as an opportunity to fatten up her own avatar. Now that she’s larger and in charge(r), her short stature makes her look less like a child and more like the woman her avatar represents.

Large people are just not seen in Second Life. Okay, I take that back slightly, because the average height for women seems to be around six foot two, whereas men are closer to the seven foot range. Height, however, is not where I am going with this; I am talking about circumference. In fact, just recently, there was an outcry against pro-anorexia groups and what they represent showing up in and around Second Life. Many residents commented that this one little happening made them rethink their current skinny size, because they had been invited to join a group on Flickr for anorexic looking men and women in Second Life. In response, a few said they were thinking about fattening up a little bit more (shoppingcartdisco.com). The question to ask with that, however, is what cultural values are showing up when one is fattening his or her avatar just so they aren’t thought to be anorexic or bulimic? They already had those skinny avatars in the first place, though. Why is that? Why does it take someone calling them anorexic to make them feel as though they should change their bodies?



In February of 2008, I set off to see how much Second Life really does mimic real life. I wanted to determine if people were able to leave their cultural and social baggage behind in a world where perfection is achievable. For the project that I created, participants were asked to spend one week wearing a fat avatar, or rather, fatvatar. They were to keep a journal and take pictures of what it was like socially, emotionally, and “physically.” It’s important to note that this project only relates to those in the game who are human in form. I chose to exclude furries, robots, mermaids, gremlins, tinies, and others because rules I would consider as “normal” behavior do not apply to them and how they act in Second Life because they do not exist outside of the game. In total, I had 8 participants, and of those, only two were male. I also don’t explore gender and body image issues in real life – our speaking and sharing of experiences were relatively anonymous due to the fact that I knew nothing about them in their real lives and bodies.

After the project was over and I was able to read through other people’s experiences, I realized that there were a couple implications of being fat in Second Life: physical and social. The social implication of being fat in a virtual world has to do with how people treat you, how you treat others, and how it all makes you feel. For example, if you were wearing your fatvatar and decided to go visit a club to go dancing and not one person in that full club spoke to you, but rather about you, how would that make you feel? Those are the types of situations and emotions I tried to get out of my participants. The physical implications of being fat in Second Life are made up of all the virtual clothes that don’t fit, the way the large shape distorts the body, and the way that even your favorite sex balls make your arms go through your stomach.

The first implication I am going to delve into is the physical. As I said before, clothes, hair, shoes, hats, anything you can think of related to fashion… when you’re bigger, none of it fits. They need altering because the creators typically use their skinny selves as mannequins. The same goes for the shirts you wear that have attachments, as well as the pants, and let’s not even talk about adjusting a prim skirt. Sometimes skirts become so stretched out, that you need to just scrap it and give up.

 

 

For me personally, that’s why I rarely wear dresses and skirts; I  can never get anything to fit.  Sometimes, the skirts have  permissions that do not allow  for it to be modified (this also  goes for hair, shirts, shoes, etc),  so in those cases, you’re out of  luck from the beginning if you  need to make it bigger. And in  pants that don’t need any  attachments or stretching, often  it’s the textures that cause the  problem because they have to  stretch a lot more on your  fatvatar. Textures can become  so distorted that you forgot what the original even looked like in the picture of the model on the wall at the store you bought them from. Hair typically does not fit for the same previously mentioned reasons, and it’s quite easy to break something and knock it completely out of whack trying to edit it. It’s especially bad if you did not have the foresight or ability to make a backup copy of it in the first place.

these poor jeans are so stretched out

note the difference in textures and the sleeve poofs

 

 

(as you can see the hair is going through my head)

(as you can see the hair is going through my head; Mia’s arm has been taken over by her tummy)

 

Moving on from hair and clothes, animations and poses were definitely not created for fatvatars. Very few animation and pose makers have stuff catering to those who were larger than average. Even in my normal shape, I still find so many times that my hands go through my boobs or my stomach or my hips. Those skinny avatars just don’t get it. Most things are created by skinny avatars for skinny avatars. This can even been seen by Linden  Lab, which obviously does not support being fat in Second Life.  That can easily be seen in Appearance Mode where sliders are slid and shapes are made. For example, the fatter you make your shape, the pointier the edges on its love handles and calves become.Obviously in creating their and our “utopia,” Linden Lab did not have the rotund body in mind. Even if you get past the fact that your body is all pointy, you must still look at yourself wearing your six-pack or trimmed tummy shading on your fatbody. How many obese people have six-packs? It looks ridiculous.

six-packs on fatties. please notice the pointy bits that count as love handles.

as you can see, my hand is missing inside my stomach. please call for help!! and it looks like the same problem for Mia as well, except it’s her breasts eating away at her entire arm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

again, we have a missing hand!

The second implication to note is social, but social can also mix with emotional. Overall, participants experienced more negativity than support and approval. Throughout the project, many of their own views about their virtual body changed. Since there was so much more negativity, I will begin by showing you the negative reactions from others. It is important to note that all the names have been changed, because this is where we get to the good stuff!

Don was one of my two male avatars who were gung ho on becoming fat. Unfortunately for Don, his friends were not as…accepting as one would like. He told me that it made him realize that people would actually notice and care, but he didn’t take it seriously because he knew he wasn’t actually fat. If he was fat, I wonder if he would have taken those words more seriously then.

Friend1: hi Don….. how are you?

Don: very good thanks..and you?

Friend1: other then put on some [weight]  ?

Friend2: you grow don

Don: a bit :)

Friend1: yah a bit lol

Friend1: like 100Lbs

Friend1: Laughing Hysterically

Friend3: WHERE’S MY BURRITO!?

Friend1: don ate it

 

Don: none of these women want to dance with a fat man!

Bastard: hehehe yeah. you look ridiculous :)

Don: thanks

Bastard: heheheh

 

Guy: Hiya Don- look like you have been really enjoying the holidays!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guy: put on a few LBs there

Friend: you got big?

Don: gonna walk about a bit

Guy: hehe, walk off the pounds

Guy: Don, do people assume you are a griefer now?

Guy: Don, you would be good driving a truck in that AV

 

 

Hank was my other maleparticipant. We went out wearing our fatvatars together and going to large crowded areas like the beach and to popular clothing stores. What you are about to read took place at Armidi, a major clothing store. Armidi is not simply a store. It is a dynasty of fashion, a fashion house where many of Second Life’s elite showcase their talents. Going there, one can often see a well known member of the community. He and I went shopping and were minding our own business, while talking on voice chat when this woman interjected:

Biatch: Shut your fucking mouth, you stupid cunt!

Biatch: omgseriously u fucking beluga whale

Biatch: shut up

Biatch: get off voice

Biatch: get a proper accent

Biatch: non American

Biatch: SHUT UP

This one probably affected me the most. She completely flipped out because of our size and because of our voices. Doing everything on voice makes things a bit more real from my perspective, and this one actually kind of hurt. In reality, it made me mad more than it hurt. Even though I know it’s a game, I am big in real life, so I have heard these sorts of things before in some way shape or form.

 

Mia was the most gung ho about this project. She did her journal every day and filled it out diligently. She told me that at first she was apprehensive fattening up her avatar, but was glad overall that she did. Mia had an experience while at a welcome area where new people go to learn more and have a place to hang out. These are actual questions and answers from her journal:

8. Where did you go? uemachi

9. Who did you talk to? A group of French SLers

9a. Who talked to you? One person in particular – Fab

10. What did you talk about?  Fab gave me the LM of a friends store – they made lingerie.

11. Did anyone mention how you look? The others were speaking in French about me (I didn’t let on that I know some French) – they claimed that they were talking about another Mia they know (I’m the only one in SL) but my French is good enough to know they were talking about me and the fact I was ‘too much’.

12. How did it make you feel? I was surprised they were openly so bitchy!

Mia was somewhat hurt by what these people were saying in front of her face but behind her back, even though she knew that  she could go back to her skinny avatar at any time.

Mia also experienced what you might think of as a positive reaction to her shape, but said to me that she felt it was a backhanded compliment where emoticons suggest sarcasm. She was also not the first and only to receive something similar:

Catty: you are bootylicious!

Mia: lol – thanks :D

Catty: ;)

 

Another participant, Kess, who is plus-sized in real life decided to do this for the same reasons I wanted to do it. She wanted to see if people were able to drop their cultural baggage. Her avatar is already short and chubby, but she went all out and wore her fatvatar for this.  Kess had a similar experience as Mia did above with a well-known person in the Second LifeTM world:

Katrina: and you look so cute with your new shape, you looked different back then

Katrina: haha well ty!

Kess: yeah im trying something out with this shape.

Kess: TY :)

Katrina: i love it! ;)

Katrina: even though i’ma tooth pick lol

Katrina: it’s nice to see something different on the grid

Kess: :) we are all gorgeous!!! Thanks so much!

Katrina: yvw! it was great seeing you again

Katrina: and we are ;)

 

Kess also experienced some biting comments from her friends about her new weight gain:

Grow: Hi fatass :P

Then later on:

Grow: Kess you put on weight over xmas, hun.

Jad: Eat too much for xmas, kess?

 

Bastard: Why don’t you eat a chunky bar

Bastard: you already look like you ate a tiny today.

 

The positive reactions towards the participants’ fatvatars were few and far between. I only have a couple to show:

Nice Guy: I am sorry for starring at you, but you have a very realistic shape and skin…very rare…sorry for bothering, bye..

Mia: Thank you :D

Nice Guy: I wished there would be more like you…I am a bit fed up with those plastic beauties all around

Mia: That’s so true! And I want to be more realistic and make people realize that they don’t have to have a Barbie figure.

Nice Guy: perfectly right…I would invite you for a dance but you must think I am kidding

Mia: LOL – not at all. I would accept but I have to log off in a minute. It’s nice to know that some people appreciate me :)

Nice Guy: I do…and no I don’t ask if I can see you again…SL is very superficial and most people I never see a second time

 

Timmy: I think your fine

Trixie: Thanks Timmy.

Timmy: =)

 

To Lily: Nice Guy: Have you been fiddling with your shape? You look extra cute. :)

 

Lily: Somewhere in the middle of the conversation, she noticed my new shape and said:  [20:18]  Betty: hehe, you know what? It’s a bit strange to see someone who is not a size 0 in here! but it’s a nice shape, not over the board, very natural

The lack of positive responses to these participants, myself included, says a lot in regards to how people feel about obesity (even in a virtual world), especially with the overwhelming amount of negative reactions. I decided to acquire final reaction thoughts about the project from some of its participants about the emotional toll this project took:

Kess: It is weird to me. On a system that prides itself on being so unique and ‘your world your imagination,’ it’s amazing how strange the conversation habits turn when your avatar is overweight. If someone was a giant dragon with a penis, however, that would be considered acceptable. I was unprepared to realize how many people have come into Second Life with their real life baggage, how many people actually care about appearances. And I’m disappointed that they really do feel they are superior because of how their avatar looks, when most of them are overweight themselves and whatever else… (as someone said overweight housewives who buy their clothes at Wal-Mart but get on Second LifeTM and fake the fashionista, high fashion, model lifestyle). That probably doesn’t make sense but yeah, I think it was fun, and since the study, experiment (I’m not sure what you want to call it) I’ve moved the sliders more towards fatter. Anyway, I think everyone should experience it.

Hank: I tried to make simple conversation with a reasonably well-refined avatar. I made contact with the same person several weeks prior to this encounter; on that occasion I had a difficult time trying to exit the conversation. She kept making subtle sexual remarks and even went as far as making non-descript text, which would translate into seemingly intimate sounds like moans and groans. But when I appeared to be obese I got a very short, curt, and at times rude responses from this person. It made me feel like I was being treated like I was challenged and people were avoiding the subject of my disability. This made conversation quite brief overall. I felt like less than human and it actually was quite hurtful to be rejected by someone who just one week ago was all over you in this game. Quite sad, really.

Trixie: Maybe it’s just the places I’ve been choosing to go for this experiment, where I’d not normally attempt to talk to people… or I’ve just not noticed before that people are kind of snotty. Most of them are not pointedly so… but the whole ignoring people and just walking away when someone says something to you irks me in ways I can’t even express. Even if I’m not in a mood to chat, I will at least respond to people who’re addressing me.

Lily: At first, I was a little self-conscious about my appearance, especially when I was at busy stores surrounded by skinny avatars.  But I really didn’t have any terribly negative responses, and by the end, I was far more comfortable wearing the larger shape.

[One thing that did make her self-conscious was the fact that she was getting less attention than she would with her normal avatar, because it appeared that she was receiving less attention from the opposite sex]

Mia: Mia was the one avatar that I would consider to have changed the most from this project. Her journals and reflections were insightful and meaningful. When she first began she felt more confident as thinner Mia, and that shocked her. She too, found it harder to dress when she was fatter, from her clothes to her animation overriders. She made a note to me that her RL husband didn’t think fat Mia looked fat. He thought she looked normal for real life, which shows how skinny she still was. These next words are straight from her journal:

Have tried to be a bit more adventurous with the clothing but I just can’t. Didn’t realize how ‘programmed’ I was into thinking skinny looked good, although I know I am constrained by what SL designers make and the fact they design for skinny [avatars]. Firing up skinny Mia – well, she just looks so strange now!! In another day’s journal, she made some more insightful remarks:

Skinny Mia look plain odd now and I’m growing in confidence with larger Mia, esp now I know how to dress her (prim attachments are not a plussized [avatars] friend). I actually feel larger than life and stronger with larger Mia. I remodeled my house and the furniture I made/bought is big, dramatic, sensual, everything makes a statement.  I don’t think this is a coincidence!

my fatvatar and “me”

 

As for myself, I feel more confident than ever in my second skin. Seeing how people personally reacted towards me was upsetting, but it also made me stronger. My fatvatar made me uncomfortable, and eventually I resigned myself to make her smaller because I was afraid of the reactions towards me.  Even smaller, I was not sleight, nor were the reactions my shape created. People have such hostility towards fat people; fat is not a disease (although it could be caused by one), it’s not contagious, and you won’t catch it. So why treat people who are overweight as though they are less than human? Those suffering from eating disorders are not the only ones longing to be thin. Why should we have to want to be thin, though? Because it’s healthier? There are plenty of unhealthy skinny people out in the world. I’m saying you just don’t know. You don’t know the circumstances surrounding one’s weight.

In Second Life you should not want to be fat because you don’t have to be, right? Sliding the avatar’s body into oblivion in any direction is a choice made by its owner, and regardless of the message that any body gives off, you should not judge the person behind it without even talking to them civilly about their choice. When someone tells me my avatar needs a diet I tell them to stuff it, that I am beautiful. It’s helped give me a voice in my real life as well. I feel more confident in my skin, my real skin.

Even though Second Life is considered virtual, not real, the people sitting behind the avatars you interact with are. It is simply impossible to disconnect yourself from reality when entering a virtual world, and all the same cultural biases exist. Being fat is stigmatized in Westernized societies and that is reflected in everything we say and do, from every day life to what we see, read and hear in the media. In attempting this project, I sought to show that there is discrimination going on in this seemingly innocent game, and while some attempt to show a facade of tolerance, the physical aspects of the game show otherwise when nothing fits and love handles are pointy.

Sources Cited:

www.shoppingcartdisco.com

93 Responses to “You Mean You Chose to be Fat?: Body Image in a Virtual World”

  1. second life® of my dreams Says:

    links from Technoratitalking about these issues in the blogosphere. The awesome Rosie Barthelmess has written about living as a larger person in SL for some time. The pro anorexia flickr group has inspired some to write about body issues in SL including Dot Lane. And,Marissa Ashkenazwrote about a mini experiment she conducted where people wandered in SL in larger than average avatars with interesting results. For now my thoughts perk and a post is being composed in my head, but I will say this — mass media and the western

  2. Floresha Vuckovic & Buraindo Yoshikawa Says:

    You guys rock!
    And you are all so pretty!! <3

  3. Tarissa Tripsa Says:

    Yay! I was waiting for at least five SL-years for this report! ;-) I remember faintly the announcement of the project.
    Months ago I built myself a “fatty”-shape, just to see how things are going. Even “friends” let their intolerance show and clothes are a pain in the (fat) arse. But as you said, run around as a dragon with a giant penis, you’re everyone’s friend…*shrugs*

  4. TEENABASEVI Says:

    Thank you very much for doing this, my avi is by no stretch a bigger avi, part of being in SL has always been about fantasy for me… how could i look if i made a glam version of me? ya know I have 2 friends who would be considered plus sized avi’s i never really thought about it, but recently i went on a treasure hunt with one and the first thing she told me when I asked was “Sure I’ll go with you, but I wont be able to fit into most things.” I never even thought about that here “One size fits all in my mind”.. for me as bigger girl in RL i couldnt understand why someone would choose that, i hate shopping in RL too difficult to find nice clothes but in SL its a passion. And for her… looking at a skinny avi all day felt like a lie. So basically thanks for bringing to light the plight of the bigger people of SL who really are just as beautiful as everyone else.

  5. Khitten Kurka Says:

    Hello-

    I tried to read most of your post (I will have to go back; it’s a long read *smile*), but I wanted to share some general comments.

    1. I have been an avatar of size for sometime in SL– several months. And remember size is relative to the person behind the AV. Once I learned how to really work my sliders I knew I had to physically represent the way I was iRL. It took some adjustment for myself, in the sea of thinness iSL, but I grew very comfortable with my look.

    2. Avatars of size go through a lot iSL. You commented on clothing and you couldn’t be more correct. Constant hair and clothing adjustments are in order. I just can’t throw on something to wear, as I have to spend anywhere between 5- 10 minutes, sometimes more for very detailed outfits, making sure stuff fits properly. No one wants to wear clothing that is stretched beyond belief once you put it on! Shoes with leg cuffs and extreme attachments– I can no longer wear them. System skirts can be a pain too. So I have a mod version of my shape when I “have” to wear them, (which is very rare). Poses are DEFINITELY another sticking point. I find Reel Expressions and LAP make poses that work well with “chubbier” AVs. Otherwise we are stuck poking our breasts or sticking our hands up our butts. *LOL*

    3. Several weeks ago, I was a Post 6 Grrl. If you really want to see some mean comments about shape and size (along with some very nice ones), I suggest you check out the posting made on my interview/pictures. View– http://foo.secondlifeherald.com/slh/2008/04/khitten-kurka-p.html#comment-109481804 . Perhaps this will inspire you in some way to make the change permanent or if not, feel good about your “sized” AV.

    4. As an aspiring model iSL, being of size can be a hindrance. But there are some that appreciate the beauty of AVs of all size. While I did not win, I recently entered a highly publicized and popular beauty contest and came in the top 15. I was proud that I was able to make it that far, admittedly, as probably the only AV of size in the pageant.

    5. Lastly, I am an AV of color, which brings a completely different dynamic iSL. If you think people talk about you because of size, just add being a dark-toned AV. Whew… now you are cooking with gas! Discrimination deluxe!

    Overall, a very nice piece on your experiences! Thank you for sharing and I am sure the SL community will benefit greatly from it. I had often thought to post something similar on my blog, but since so many of the people I know and see me are “used” to my look, I didn’t think my perspective would make much sense. I will admit that the initial reaction was mixed (Are you pregnant? Why are you so fat? What happened to your AV? Are you bloated?) But this has definitely inspired me to perhaps begin my own chronicles. I have had months and months of experience and stories that could entertain for days!

    Best of luck to you and I do hope that your social experiment will lead you to become stronger and stand truer for what/who YOU want to be/represent iSL.

  6. Casandra Shilocva Says:

    This was a very interesting study. I know several people that try to portray themselves in SL, either their height or their stature or both. I also know those who are more slender or taller than they are in RL, but in a moderate way. For the men: no six pack, a thicker waist, and a skin that makes them look like a bit of a nerd and not a hunk. Their own hairstyle and RL clothing choices.

    My AV is as close as I can get to my RL self – height, figure, skin tone, make-up, hair. Why not see myself having fun in SL? I’m not large in RL, but I do have a bit thicker waist and in SL the only way I’ve found to achieve that (and maintain correct overall shape) is the love handle slider – even small ones are pointy. I get comments on how small (as in short) I am at my RL height of 5’8″. It’s obvious that the beautiful, thin ladies get more come ons than my girl-next-door looks. However I do attract men who are looking for someone “real”, not “plastic”.

  7. Queenie Says:

    Bravo!!! What a great and interesting undertaking on a very real issue.
    Thank you for all your hard work on this project :-)
    ~QQ~

  8. Thely Says:

    I loved this article! My avatar, while not being ‘fat’, is definitely shorter and rounder than the standard 6 foot scrawny model look you see everywhere in SL. I have a terrible time with clothes, I have to refit every prim skirt and buy boots that come in size ‘wide’. And forget belly rings! They get completely lost inside me and I have to put on a ‘skinny’ shape to find them and move them out.

    I do have a second avatar who reflects my true real world shape, which is very similar to your ‘fatvatar’. I have found one other problem that you didn’t mention, in buying her clothes. So many of the clothing in SL is sexy and low-cut, short skirts, etc. Even if I can adjust it to fit, it looks ridiculous or downright obscene on my ‘fatvatar’.

    My husband keeps telling me to make my main avie rounder, he thinks she is too skinny. I would, but it’s hard enough fitting clothes now!

    Bravo for your research and very insightful article. I have seen a couple of ‘plus-size’ clothing stores recently, which I think is a good trend. If more people would be a more realistic size, maybe more designers would take up the challenge. Or is it the other way round?

  9. jOSHOOAH lOVENKRAFT Says:

    http://community.livejournal.com/second_lifers/755644.html#comments

  10. second_lifers: You Mean You Chose to be Fat?: Body Image in a Virtual World Says:

    Kramer auto Pingback[...] and sexuality as well and I’d encourage anyone interested to have a read about her observations:You Mean You Chose to be Fat?: Body Image in a Virtual World(Post a new comment) cvirtue 2008-06-03 02:49 pm UTC (link) It’s a fascinating article, although I [...]

  11. Miriam Woyseck Says:

    It probably reflects my skinny-ugly-chick preoccupations that most of my non-default-avatar efforts have gone into making my avatar unpretty. Her overall shape is an approximation of my unhealthily-thin body, but I do still find myself feeling uncomfortable about how thin she is, even though I’m scrawny myself. Most of my body-image hangups (Mediterranean levels of body hair, horrible skin etc) can’t really be emulated that easily in SL without some serious skin customising which I’m not up to, but I still don’t feel that that lets me off the hook. I’m thinking of going over my shape and at least making it look a bit less healthy to reflect how horribly unfit I am.

    One thing I’d add is that I really do see why people would choose skinny avatars to avoid the negativity that goes with looking more realistic. I admire people who can wear a larger avatar and weather the abuse, but that doesn’t mean I think everyone who doesn’t do that has somehow failed. Body image issues are something we’re taught to internalise so much that I can’t find it in me to begrudge people their escapism. The fact that we’ve been socialised into participating in our own oppression doesn’t make us entirely responsible for it, it just makes the whole situation more screwed-up.

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  13. Dolly Gwynneville Says:

    Brilliant article, really interesting to read. =] I catch myself looking at models on the feed sometimes, wondering if I should make my av taller and skinnier…which is sad, because my av is already pretty petite. This article makes me glad that I’ve never done it, there is just no point…really, who wants to see the same thing over and over again on the feeds? I gripe about it all the time. That being said, I loved seeing this there. =]

  14. Washu Says:

    This is a great post.
    My av is not fat but she has always been shapely. However, now I feel bad that only a few days ago I made her hips less wide. I love her hips, but I had an annoying gap under my crotch. I guess that’s another point of how the SL sliders aren’t meant for bigger avs.
    I have always had the worst time with finding clothes that fit. Everything is stretched and I can forget about any prim attachments. I have to rework them so much, that I might as well have started from scratch. I’ve had a few outfits that I had to give up on, because they were impossible to fix.
    I had once made a skinny avatar, to see if the clothing from some designers, mainly Armidi, would fit me better. I made this avatar as skinny as I could without looking gross and obscene. The outfits still did not fit. How thin do they expect me to be??
    I have been in SL for over 5 years, and I have always had this curvy shape. I get comments on it a lot. I have complained to friends in the past that things don’t fit me, and they just quickly reply, “So make your avatar skinnier.” I’m sorry, but this hurts me quite a lot. Why should I have to make myself skinner?
    Also, like Khitten, I am an av of color. There is a lot of this same stigma that goes with it. This has all been a new discovery for me, since I am white in RL. I can make a huge list of what I have seen since wearing this color of skin. You know most skin designers wont make a black skin?
    Sorry for getting off track a bit. This post is wonderful and I really hope to see more avs of shape in SL!!

  15. henryash Says:

    Great Job!!! A subject that needs exploring!!

  16. Kesseret Says:

    Washu,

    I met you (well sorta, it was so lagged I could barely type) at Stroker’s party recently, well saw you. I never got to say how much I love your ‘vintage’ (ie approx 2005/06 hair) and I think your avatar is positively gorgeous.

    Once more, it’s another dynamic to be an avatar of color. While it’s ok to be purple and green, I’ve heard that RL baggage still exists on that level and it’s disheartening to read it confirmed.

    How messed up is that?

    I have to say though it is our generation that may make some sort of change in these behaviors. Or so I hope.

    <3 to all different avatars- as you are the reason I find wonder in SL at all.

    And Marissa, thanks for your papers and the time you take in doing them. Cheeseburgers?
    Love, Kessie

  17. some bloke Says:

    Very interesting article. I’ve been anticipating it’s arrival for a while now.
    Was well worth the wait.

    An interesting insight into the subject.
    It never occurred to me just how differently you would be treated with a fat avatar. I expected insults of a varying degree of severity, but never expected the isolation that people have experienced from it. The way people will pretty much ignore you, and consign you into obscurity.

    Well written and a very good read.

  18. Does YOUR avatar have an eating disorder? - Page 6 - SLUniverse Forums Says:

    [...] Marissa Racecourse made an awesome post on her blog related to all this. It’s well worth a read. taco taco taco ? Blog Archive ? You Mean You Chose to be Fat?: Body Image in a Virtual World [...]

  19. Shimere Felisimo Says:

    “It’s pretty easy to be skinny in Second LifeTM. In fact, because it’s so easy, why would anyone choose not to be?”

    Because it’s so easy?

    S’riously, beauty is found in the exotic thing, not the run of the mill thing. If everyone can be thin, tall and have pouty lips, why bother? Fashion models are chosen because they represent something rare.

    Also, in SL there is an enormous delight in details which give the illusion of reality – things you would throw away IRL, like ripped and coffee-stained shirts, are worn with glee in SL. I am always impressed by avis that look like real people, not Barbie. “Plastic,” as the one gentleman said – yes, Barbie is made of plastic.

    And finally, fashion thrives on change. What fun is it if everyone looks the same? It will become necessary to develop a new look, a beauty that stands out, and why not go for something large and womanly, something that commands the space instead of shrinking as much as possible? I look forward to a day when overly-idealized avis will be considered a newbie thing, a little tacky, like bling.

  20. Sheila Yoshikawa Says:

    Thanks for this very interesting post. Depressing, but doesn’t surprise me. My avi is not fat, but I’m also not stick thin, and the “arm in the chest” “calves overflowing the boots” “can’t find the belt prim because it’s lost inside me” etc etc issues are very familiar. Even having blue/purple hair, which is scarcely radical, seems unusual in fashion circles … I definitely think there are gaps in the market for stylish clothes made with the large avi in mind …

  21. kesseret Says:

    “I look forward to a day when overly-idealized avis will be considered a newbie thing, a little tacky, like bling.”

    Me too, Shimere. Me too.

  22. “You mean you’d choose to be fat?” : body image in a virtual world « Shopping Cart Disco Says:

    [...] the full text here, at Marissa’ website, which includes chat dialogues with other avatars and how they reacted to the overweight [...]

  23. Columbia College Chicago : IAM Blog Engine Says:

    [...] An interesting experiment by Marissa Ashkenaz had 8 participants wear plus-size shapes in Second Life. They each kept journals about their experience and Marissa has just posted their findings at her website (marissaracecourse.com). [...]

  24. Desidelia Says:

    Well I have to say that all the 1st part about cloth is absolutly wrong cos u forget one important thing, the technical part, maybe u can blame Linden Lab but not SL designers, the average avatar of SL is ruth, when u make ur avatar fatter u stretch the pixels and for consequence the pixels became bigger, but is not cos the designer didnt think of it, is due SL limitations and even working in the standard avatar (Ruth) there is some places that is very dificult. And well the same goes for hairs and skirts, do all the sizes is lot of effort and time that maybe wont be remunerated, so u cna create a brand exclusively for this avatars or you can do the more obvious if u go to a global public, get the standard size that this size is not fat neither skinny is what there is between. So this problem su say u wll find also if u do a very skinny avatar, skirts and hairs won’t fit, cos most are worked for a standard size.

    Besides this, support fat people is so bad as support anorexia, and is not about beauty is about health, fat people are exposed to have serious health problems and lot of them relationed with heart, plus currently lot of countries are having problems of overweight of their children for the shit they eat. If u in RL are like the photos shown in this post, u have a problem and really compassion wont save u, go to a nutricionist, do exercise.

    And for the social part, SL like in RL, u will find good people and bad people, I have been lot of kinds of avatars, even a man and I never had problems cos in the end u realize that since everyody can be beauty or can be ugly what is important is the ART of how u theme ur avatar and of course the most importand the mind.

    In RL there isn’t question, the good thing is be between fat and skinny, not for beauty, for health. In SL everybody should be what they want, for something is called SL, and is the good thing that has, and if u find someone don’t like what u are in SL there is the beauty mute button, so simple, so easy

  25. Enhancer Says:

    “Soo True”

    I think as you spend more time in Second Life you become more comfortable and mature about situations involving your avatars appearance.

    kesseret Says:

    June 3rd, 2008 at 5:58 pm
    “I look forward to a day when overly-idealized avis will be considered a newbie thing, a little tacky, like bling.”

    To be honest I think the day has come and avis who maintain that insecurity are the ones that don’t “grow” inworld.
    The same avis who feel the need to change clothes and hair constantly after encountering other exaggerated avis.
    “I have seen this, it’s sad”.

  26. kesseret Says:

    Marissa is fully aware of the technical aspects of the avatar mesh. To mention technical detail about the avatar mesh is going to lose a lot of people when this is a sociological study. I believe there may be some jira’s about changing the mesh (but don’t quote me on that)

    The thing here is how people bring their RL baggage into SL and I believe it’s more now than it was in the past. I’m not an oldbie but I’ve heard many people older than me mention that SL was a more accepting place back then.

    My less than 1 Linden worth.

  27. marissa Says:

    Thank you all for the kind words about this and your input on the subject. I really appreciate it :)

    As for Desidelia, I don’t know any of the other people besides kess in real life, therefore I cannot speak on their body size and all that. I spoke of mine and my struggle to be “plus sized” in this world, not in the real world. This is not the place to hold a forum on why fat people are fat and how they must be health wise and why they must want to be skinny. This paper is about a virtual world and how people still hold onto their notions of skinny being the only way to be.

    As for you saying compassion wont save me if I look like this… well I have no compassion for you being such a negative person. If you read what I had written, I asked for you to not judge a person’s shape and size in second life or otherwise without even talking to them about the circumstances behind it.

  28. DesideliDesideliaa Says:

    Well I really dont have lot of time to discuss, I am not beign negative. I am saying people have the right to be what they want in SL. I ahve found that lot of the fatter avatars are skiny in RL and the skiny ones fat in RL, as I have found lot of men that are women and women that are men or that lot of people in SL is taller than in RL. So I don’t think people holds onto their notions of skinny, they tend to exagerate what they aren’t in RL and I think that is nice and fun and good way to explore. Maybe if u look the side of fashion yes, cos is inpired by the RL fashion.

    And for the aceptance, u cant expect be accepted by everybody like I don’t expect be accepted by everybody in RL. If u go with an exagerated avatar don’t exepct like everybody, but is not only fat avatar, if u go with a skiny avatar u will have the same consequences, if u go with a defomed gace avatar u will have the same consequences, if u go with avatar covered in blood with an axe u will have the same consequences.

    I will say again there is not difference in reality, in SL like in RL u will find good people and bad people, people that will look u deeper and people that don’t. And remmeber that the the 1st impresion is through eyes (this is reality) for some reason people expend money in clothes in beauty products or in create of theirselves an image. A fat avatar is not beauty by defect (due to social values and natural values)and this makes being rejected easier for other persons, so yes people tend to avoid this if they can but a fat avatar can be beauty if plays the right weapons.

    But I just think is not true that people holds on being skinny, lot of people tries to recreate their avatar like they are in RL, they aren’t so fat as the photos as this post, but aren’t so skinny as u seem are poiting.

  29. WashuWashu Says:

    Kesseret,
    Thank you for the kind words! :) There were so many people at that party that I don’t remember seeing you, so I’m sorry for that!
    You and Marissa look a lot better in my eyes in the larger avatar image. To me, this shape is more real and natural and curvy.
    Also, yes, I do remember SL being more accepting in the past, but as any person does, I will remember the “Good old days” more fondly than they may have been.
    I think the issue here, in my mind, is how any avatar who looks “different” is confronted about it a lot. Even in a place where we can be who we want to be, we are looked down upon for doing it.
    The harsh words everyone got is just surprising.

  30. Peter Stindberg Says:

    The first full avatar I ever saw was Rosie Barthlemess, and she looked stunning. The countless number of Barbie Dolls with the breast sliders maxed and the waist sliders minimized, with their oiled skins and skimpy bikinis makes me sad. What I look for in an avatar is uniqueness and individuality. Be it a unique clothing style, or a carefully crafted shape. I myself have some kg too much, but I resisted the temptation of the sliders. Yes, my avatar is slimmer than my RL body, but I still try to have him look natural and not a charicature. Unlike in RL, in SL you have much more control over your body. So I take each persons apperance as a deliberate choice (also the Barbie Dolls took a deliberate choice – be it only to blend in with the cloned masses), and if that person chooses to make their appaerance fuller I can only congratulate them.

  31. Hmmm... Interesting Says:

    Interesting. I think it’s very possible that I’m the person that met Mia and gave her what she felt was a “back-handed” and sarcastic coment about being bootylicious (if it wasn’t me, I’ve had the exact conversation with someone else!). It makes me wonder if, by having the ‘fatvatar’. the people behind the keyboard were also more sensitive about comments that weren’t meant to be hurtful.

    The truth of the matter is that I’m pretty overweight in real life, and I thought it was really great to see someone not falling to the pressure to have a thin avatar. I also was a little ashamed of the fact that I am a thin avi in SL, because I’ve somehow perceived that as being better than looking like the real me.

    My comment wasn’t anywhere near sarcastic or mean-spirited. Rather, I was in awe that someone was brave enough to represent themselves with such a real body shape and in turn, I was too intimidated to say anything more to her than end it with an emoticon, hoping she’d stay and talk more to me. Maybe those were my own RL insecurites showing through- even behind the comfort of the internet and a skinny avatar I still feel uncomfortable approaching people because I feel less than worthy.

    How sad is that?

  32. Georgette Says:

    This was a very interesting article! I am quite thin in RL and so is my av. I don’t really notice weight in either life to be honest, unless it goes to extremes of anorexia or obesity so you can’t help notice it. I don’t thing your avs look that fat really. The last set of pictures I would describe as curvy, not fat. And it’s certainly a great av! Some of those comments you guys got though were awful. :(
    When I was making prim skirts for my store, I tried on a few different shapes, some with curvy butt and hips and some skinny. Consequently, my Cyclical dresses have two skirt shapes in the pack. It just made sense to me and I don’t know why more designers don’t do that.

  33. Pix Paz Says:

    I find mostly the anti-fat / any lack of appearance acceptance thing is generally greatly effected by where to go in SL.

    The people that I find particularly intriguing are the ones that demand to change you & “help” you because in their eyes you are so obviously doing it wrong because you do not look like them. It is that blinkered mind set that is reflected in your title. You Mean You Chose to be Fat?

    So for me the “barbie doll” effect becomes a useful sign of newbiedom / lack of brain behind the keys.

  34. Laura S Says:

    My first avatar, Elsie, was not thin, but then she matches my real life build.My alt, Laurel, is based on Daria, so she is much thinner, but not in a standard way:

  35. Mia Says:

    I am one of the people who took part in Marissa’s experiment and it was a real eye-opener for me, in terms of my attitude to SL shapes and other people’s attitudes.
    IRL I’m average height, average weight (BMI is ‘normal’) and I would consider myself pretty body-confident. My stomach isn’t flat, I have lumps and bumps just like everyone else but I’m healthy and happy.
    I must admit, at first I wasn’t sure what the point of being a fatvatar was. I had the attitude ‘hey, it’s Second Life – we can look how we want!’ and that’s as much thought as I gave it. And then I moved the sliders to the right and I started to think.
    *If* I am so happy with my RL shape, why was my av so tiny? Why was I trying to emulate something I’m not? And why did that have to be a skinny av?
    What struck me was that whether I realised it or not, I had conformed to the RL ‘ideal’ that skinny was more attractive. Years of adverts and photos of models told me that to be attractive you must be small.
    After taking part in the experiment I’m pleased to say I’m more shape-aware and that Mia is no longer a stick insect but curvy and feminine.

  36. Mia Says:

    To Hmmm…
    You make an interestingpoint about the person behind the av might be a little sensitive to people’s compliments.
    Part of the problem, for me anyways, was that I was suspicious of people actually *liking* the av. I had one person who was a little *too* interested and some who were plain rude. With such extremes, I think my compliments-radar went a bit wonky and I was always thinking ‘what’s their motive?’. Which is equally sad…

  37. Khitten Says:

    Mia Says:

    After taking part in the experiment I’m pleased to say I’m more shape-aware and that Mia is no longer a stick insect but curvy and feminine.
    ————————
    Good for you Mia! Way to go! I am sure you feel a tad bit more liberated now :-)

    KK

  38. Kaylick Says:

    I have to agree with a lot of this as I have a shorter, but still comfy curved, avatar. I refused to fall into the “thin is it” in SL. I have shopped around for a long time finding those that actually offer clothing that fit a avatar with curves. Sadly, there are very few. RL wise, no, I am not a stick either, I am healthy, comfy and myself. Love me or leave me is my attitude on it. Thanks for this great report!

  39. kesseretkesseret Says:

    @Hmmmm…Interesting:

    *HUGS*
    Come talk to me anytime.

    —-

    On another note the person who commented to me (the winky comment) IMed me and we had a very good talk about this all and a few other things unrelated to this article that we both seem to have similar thoughts on.

    I have to say the winky emoticon does convey that kind of feeling. I know whenever Marissa uses the winky I can be 100 percent confident in knowing what she means but with strangers it’s a little harder.

    I mean what I said about hanging with me. If you like poo jokes you will def get along with me. :) If you don’t like poo jokes I can restrain myself for a bit… maybe lol!

  40. Marcus Prospero Says:

    I’ve had similar confusion for having an older avatar, I’ve got white appearance-slider hair and a prim moustache (not painted on the skin). Interestingly although I’m also heavier-set (but not much, I didn’t like the pointy hips) the age of the avatar seems to over-ride.

    Many people seem to think the world is there to provide them with entertainment, and bring this attitude to SL. We, as other avatars, are there for their delectation, and if we don’t look sexy, or we remind them about RL issues they’ve not finished processing, they get confused. Confused and cross.

  41. Georgette Says:

    You prompted me to change my av! Well for a week anyway:
    http://chezgeo.blogspot.com/2008/06/real-me.html

  42. Biatch Says:

    1. I am no biatch, the pair of you were insanely yacking about attachable hotdogs and pie, I asked you to take it private but you leftit out. Its a shame they cant record voice conversations huh. GET MY PICTURE DOWN NOW BEFORE I HAVE YOUR WEBSITE TAKEN DOWN

  43. BiatchB Says:

    OH YEAH MAKE IT MODERATED…..FILTER OUT THE ONES YOU DONT LIKE………PIE OFF YA PIEING PIE MUNCHER

  44. marissa Says:

    It’s moderated but I haven’t stopped a single comment from going through. Taking that picture down doesn’t stop you from coming out looking bad. Sure we were playing the part with our food, but we were also shopping and minding our own business. You just had to interject. And I do have the logs of the threats you made me in IM. I did not use your real name, nor would I. You just make yourself look bad by all this. I will replace the picture with a big black box, and there’s nothing you can do about this because there is no proof of who you are to anyone but me.

  45. kesseret Says:

    @BiatchB

    Yes there are two sides to every story but both Marissa and the other person involved have told me separately about what happened at Armidi that night and it matched up. That’s how the cops determine what is factual. Not to mention your behavior is appalling in comments.

    Let me make something clear:

    1. It is in the TOS that you cannot share private conversations on THE SECONDLIFE FORUM AND SECONDLIFE.COM. That means it’s ok to paste here. Marissa has changed the names of EVERY one around this whole study except her and me b/c she has explicit permission from me to use my name. (We are also RL bffs)
    2. Your threats to take this website down are ridiculous. Why don’t you read up on the whole situation regarding Anshe Chung and photographing an avatar and putting them on websites. You will find that you cannot ‘bring down this website’ just because your picture is on it. Feel free to contact the EFF. they will agree with me.

    So, there’s no need to get angry. Ever hear of the phrase “you catch more flies with honey than vinegar”???

  46. Dot Lane, Girl Reporter: You Post One Nude Photo Of Yourself..... Says:

    Kramer auto Pingback[...] has more than a little truth to it. It certainly is replicated in SL: be sure to look at Marissa’s post about her experiment with different size AVs.This is all part of a larger pattern evident in our highly sexualized culture (and, sorry to [...]

  47. Kavar Says:

    I just read through this and I think while the general idea is interesting, I find myself questioning a few things. First of all, about the clothing, as a designer largely for men and also of hair for both sexes I am aware of the stretching issues myself.. my av has a wide frame with a bit of junk in the trunk. However the limitations are not with the designers as much as they are with linden labs. When I created for the sims 2, you could create and import full body meshes or even morphs of standard meshes with the vertices evened out for a better texture display, this allowed you to control the vertices and how the textures would cover the mesh. In second life the body shape is that of ruth, and by increasing the sliders it simply stretches the existing vertices, it doesn’t add new ones to compensate for the increase in size, and also the morph iteself is quite rough the higher it goes. however large men that are broad and muscular have the same issues with clothing and attachments, as to larger broad women. Its not really a “fat” issue but a sad design error within the game. That being said there are tricks you learn to try and make the clothing more friendly but stretching cannot be fixed in total by a different method of designing.

    Animations run much the same, the reason they are limited is because LL only offer the base avatar files in the standard ruth size, and male equvilant, something else LL could do to help with designing is release further morphs for us to use.

    Also I’m not sure how being a big avatar has a lot of effect on hair, being fat doesn’t really mean your head should be bigger to compensate. if there are pieces close to the face they would need a bit of adjusting but unfortunately there is no means to make things in a way that will clip on any head. what I’m saying is the size of your head would have minimal effect on hair aside from face adjustments that can be issue for any size avatar with a head or face shape different to the creators shape, sizing is a challenge for many av types. I watched in amazement as a furry ( he was a big blue fox with a very large prim attached head) bought one of my hairs (size 70 head base for guys) and fitted it around his head in the span of a couple minutes, I was going to offer to help him fit it as I usually do with people who have trouble with fitting or look like they might be having difficulty, but he didn’t need me at all.

    I also find it odd that you didn’t ask anyone plus sized avatars to interview and share their stories, because a few days of walking around hardly makes up the full view of what it is truly like. I say this because my best friend plays a large avatar everyday, and her experiences are largely different then the accounts described here. She has rarely had run ins with anyone about the look of her avatar. And shes no hermit hiding away. She manages one of the sims she lives on which has weekly gatherings and large events, she is an amazing photographer and has a passion for exploring and has recently started a line of eyes that she sells, not to mention she models hair sometimes for my store. More to the point though: She has an arsenal of prim attachment gowns and clothing, she doesn’t let a bit of fitting put her off buying anything she really likes, and I have seen the some of the same prim attachments on other avs and they are never fitted properly like hers, when she wears something, each bit of it is in place. Although you right on the no mod issue , which is a real issue for all the larger avs I know, jewelry is the usual culprit, as when you increase width and fat, your neck and chest take on a fully different shape thanks again to the lindens body model. this is why everything I make is mod, and I have a firm belief that all prim attachments should be mod, even jewelry, and if not you should offer some kind of fitting service. But really I just wonder why people who have been playing big avatars for years and not just a few months weren’t at least spoken too as I know that you were contacted by a few of them, and they have very different stories to tell.

    Also I’m a bit disturbed by your reply above about being in voice and talking about eating and and using food attachments as “playing the part” of a large av. Perhaps its just worded badly, but that is very much a stereotype, and by using such tactics it makes me wonder if you weren’t setting yourself up for negative feedback. I know a hand full of large avs, and I don’t recall any of them ever voicing about eating and food attachments in a public place, or just standing around with food attachments while shopping, or at all for that matter, being fat doesn’t equal being obsessed with food. Also the large avs I know are anything but invisible, all of them are out in the public in different ways. Also and this might be my personal take on it… but having a public voice chat in a busy sim like armidi is not really what I would call minding your own buisness, it seems a bit more likely that you were trying to draw more attention to the fact that you were playing large avs to provoke a response when you could easily voice in IMs. I don’t mean to be harsh again, but these are not things that any of the large avs I know would EVER do which just brings me back to the confusion of not including them in this study in at least an interview capacity, and maybe getting to know some of them before hand would have given you a better idea of how they they live in the game, and that its really no different then what we all do. but really you would only need to ask yourself as a thin av would you ever go to armidi with food attachments going on in voice about them? I’m guessing that was a first for you. I’m not sure why that was a “fat” person thing to do. I don’t know anyone who would do that. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not defending anything the person said to you, because from the quotes it sounded quite horrible, but I do question the idea of trying to draw attention to yourselves in that way, because I don’t really think it would be common for any av.

    In short I think it was an interesting idea and I’m really glad you found a new strength in yourself. And I don’t mean any of this as an attack, I think you were trying to prove a point and by those means you did, its just there is a large side of this story missing without the input of people who live it everyday. It would have been nice to hear the other side of the story, and believe me there is another side, because the large avs I know are anything but invisible, ashamed or constantly tortured, they are out in the public eye, living as the rest of us do with minimal fuss to great success, and I don’t believe they are that despite being fat, and I don’t think they view themselves as victims, and I think it would have been nice to hear about that as well, instead of just reinforcing mostly negatives. I hope this doesn’t upset anyone, that is not my intention, just my own observations and feelings on the matter and the questions I had after I read this post and replies.

  48. kesseretkesseret Says:

    @Kavar

    You certainly do bring up some interesting points but I want to say a few things, despite not being Marissa. I hope you don’t mind.

    1. I have no problem making poses or animations for my avatar without hands sticking in the body. I understand why not every poser creates poses for the thicker avatar. It’s like why all good clothing isn’t always plus size. I’m not stupid but you can’t blame it ALL on the program/body given to posers.
    2. Earlier Biatch implied that someone talking about pie and food while being overweight was sort of asking for it. I talk about food, poo, whatever whenever I am out and half the time I may have poo attached to my head/hand. Othertimes I’ve walked around with a penis attached to my nose. Shit happens. Let’s reference this: http://slpudge.blogspot.com/2008/06/when-it-rains-it-pours-more-on-fatism.html
    So because Crystyle’s store is a cheeseburger (mmm it’s so cute I humped it k thx) she was asking for being attacked as well as since Marissa and her friend were in Armidi with pie and stuff and talking about food they should be attacked as well? Yes, MAYBE they were being annoying, that’s what MUTE is for. Sorry, but there’s no real reason to attack someone in Second Life or in any chatroom for being annoying. There’s /ignore and Mute. Once again, regardless of Marissa’s wording (Playing the part) there is the mute button. I use it frequently, I’m seriously wondering why it’s such a problem for others to use.

    For some people editing prim attachments can be a pain in the ass. For me it is really simple. After all, I make jewelry so i fiddle with tiny prims all day. But for some people editing linked parts really can be daunting. For me I personally prefer to buy Aden Breyer’s hair because I don’t have to touch much with it. If I purchase a couple well known brands of hair I have to rebuild the hair base in order to fit. While that never stops me it will require me to ask myself “How much do I want to invest in editing this hair if I purchase it”? Also my friend is a shoe designer and she was asking me about my body width one day. Apparently that effects shoe fit. I’ve never really had a big problem but she said it does so I trust her. But long story short the average SLer isn’t going to have the will to edit prim items in the manner that is necessary for a larger girthed avatar. I know Marissa mentioned in the article she really mostly wears pants now. That’s not me, but I don’t say “Just because I can edit anything doesn’t mean someone else has my abilities”. I bet your friend is probably really adept at editing prims and also, just like me, probably really picky on how prim attachments fit. :) It’s ok to be that way, lol, it’s not OCD (despite what I’ve been told!)

    Marissa put an open call on this blog which went to the fashion feed. I, a thick avatar myself, decided to join. If others wanted to they could have. You didn’t HAVE to be a normal av and then turn fat you could have just recorded a journal for a week and turned it in. Sadly many people backed out or turned the opportunity down. A friend of mine said to me, “When you are a fatvatar I will get my chubby alt so you can hang with her”. I love the person who said that to death so I didn’t take offense, but if a stranger told me they would prefer my fatvatar hang with their alt rather than their main I’d say, “f u”.
    I believe the exact post was here:
    http://marissaracecourse.com/2008/01/05/help-request/
    You didn’t have to wear a specific fatvatar. She let me create my own. Her and I helped Don create his because he preferred it. I think everyone else created theirs. I’m not sure why other’s didn’t want to participate. Either they were too scared or didn’t see it. It was a pretty busy time so maybe they didn’t have the time to devote. But this was not a ‘closed inner circle’ of people who were selected- all the people who wanted to do this project were included.

    Once again I’m going to repeat what I said earlier. Explaining the technical side of the mesh (which I DID explain to marissa and she read the KB) was out of the scope of this presentation. I don’t think Marissa has mentioned this but this originally was a power point presentation that was presented at the 2008 National Popular Culture & American Culture Associations Conference back in March. (reference: http://kesseret.net/blog/?p=150). The people at the pop culture conference probably didn’t want to hear about the v3 (or whatever the victoria gen ruth is based off) avatar mesh base and all that. They want to hear how stretching those polygons effects their Second Life.

    I love that you are willing to discuss this. I hope that this answers some of your questions or at least opens for more discussion with you. You seem like a really neat person I hope I come across you inworld. xoxoxoxo
    <3, Kesseret

  49. Kavar Says:

    thanks for repling Kesseret:) Anyone is invited to respond or discuss anything I say of course, I just wrote it kind of to marissa as its her blog.

    I never said it wasn’t possible to make animations or clothing or whatever for any av types. I a merely pointing out that it would be made much easier if the tools and meshes were more sound. Even uv maps used for clothing and skins are quite brutally cut. And supplying morphs of the body shapes wouldn’t be a huge undertaking either. The way things are now designers would be required to make everything in countless sizes for it to fit, guessing at messurements when a simple set of morphs of height and shape would greatly help with those who don’t use whatever size of av in question. The stretching however is impossible to fix on certain patterns and textures and that is fully a design flaw involving shapes that should require extra vertices. I’m sure this was done as a means of saving on lag by using a low poly mesh, but its less than ideal, and many designers are doing the best they can to compensate, some do not, but most of the ones I know do at least make an effort to make their products fit and if they don’t they will refund the money.

    The scene at armidi and the scene at Crystyle’s store have nothing to do with each other. I would never imply that you should be attacked for anything you do or say within reason, which is why I stated that I wasn’t defending the rude person. Crystyle was quite rudely treated, which is very unfortunate as her store sounds really fun but I don’t think its the same thing at all, the situation at armidi seems manipulated and aggravated by a voice chat that seems like it was designed to draw more attention to them. My issue with the armidi thing is that the whole thing seems very forced to me. I am also not willing to dimiss the statement of “playing the part”. I find that disturbing, from the view that it sounds very much like the avs taking part in the study were “acting” in a way they thought large avs would act, which furthers the idea that they are different and should be treated differently, which I totally disagree with, its hard to promote same treatment if your idea of being a large av involves acting in a different way then you normally would. Also I thought the idea of the study was all of you being yourselves in a larger shape, and that is not how marissa’s reply to the rude person above reads. Had you been the one having the conversation it would have been different, you would have not been “playing a part” as you say that is the kind of thing you would do.

    The voice part of it is annoying to me as well, I will admit that I find it inconsiderate to have public voice chats with friends about anything in a busy sim. And you are right, there is always ignore. But having to ignore/mute 2 people or turn your sound off to not be involved in their chat is hardly what I would call minding your own buisness. Common Courtsey tells us that a bunch of people trying to shop in a laggy sim full of people don’t really want to be bombarded by our voices on top of that when it has nothing to do with them, and that is why it feels very forced to me, because it seems the only real reason for it is either a complete lack of consideration of anyone else around, or just as a means to draw attention to themselves. Again I’m not defending what she said because that was terrible, but I do find that kind of voicing annoying, and it seems very likely the exchange would have never happend if there hadn’t been the voice chat element. Also from the exchange, it sounds like had the both been thin avatars the rude person in question would have likely just said something different to insult them, and that the real trigger was the voicing, not their size, when nasty people get angry, they just latch on to the first thing they can insult. My point is this person was a real ass, I find the voicing annoying but I have never said anything to anyone about it, I often just leave, this person was just nasty in general but the issue was much more about voicing in public then what the two avatars looked like, I mean she also attacked the sound of the voice and says shut up over and over. (I don’t know if Im making my point here very clear, basically this person is an ass, and it didn’t matter what you looked like or sounded like, they were going to be rude because the voicing set them off and some people are just nasty and rude, doesn’t matter what you look or sound like, its just the first thing rude people can think of to attack you with). I’m certainly not saying its right, but I don’t feel it really had anything to do with the avs looking the way they did, and I doubt anything would have been said at all had the voicing not been going on, therefore its hard to say its a size related incident.

    Its good to hear your side of the prim editing and things, I never wanted to imply that it is easy or anything, just from the study you would think if your not average you can no longer wear anything. I appreciate that is marissa’s view and she doesn’t like having to mod things, but the study was made up of several people, yourself included, it would have been nice to have a bit of that reflected in the original post. The whole thing makes being a large av sound very sad and tragic and frustrating, with the only positive being a new found strengh born out of trials and tribulations. It was nice to include that and I think that is great, but it is hardly the only positive.

    I don’t really know the details of the project. I know two of the people I know contacted marissa. I believe one of them spoke to her for a bit and the other one received no reply. I don’t think they were interested in doing the study, they live the study everyday and their avs are both larger then any of the female shapes in the study. I think they might have been more interested to give their views on what it is like to live as one everyday, all day, all year, all the time. I don’t speak for them of course, these are my views. I am just curious as to why there is no mention of people who actually do live the study. it just seems to me like a natural part of it that is missing.

    thank you for explaining why the mesh details were left out. However I think its important that they be mentioned since people in second life will see this and some of them do not know the limitations of ruth.

    My best friend posted a blog entry about being a large av recently, I wanted to link it in my first post but I wanted to ask her before I did so. So if you would like to see another side of being a large av that is a bit different from this study, check it out :)

    http://www.brandaluna.net/

    I really love the discussion too and it was great to hear a bit more about your experiences kesseret :), you also seem really neat as well and I do hope we meet up somewhere in world :)

    I hope what I have said makes sense, I am a bit under the weather lately as its winter where I am, pesky colds lol.

    And for any and all of you reading I hope I have not upset anyone. Also if I seem like I’m writing just for one person I’m not, again, anyone of course is welcome to add to, question or respond to anything I post:)

    Kavar

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  51. marissa Says:

    Since you really want a response from me, Kavar, here we go:

    First off, to defend what happened in Armidi, it was not an offensive tactic to gain comments on our weight. We were playing around. Just because it is your personal preference to not listen to or participate in voice chat in public does not mean that we must cater to other people’s desires. As kess said, mute works fine. You don’t even have to mute them, you can turn the volume down. As for saying playing the part, I believe it was a poor choice of words on my part and you won’t let me live it down. I am fat IRL. I know what food means to me personally. I had found a picnic area just that day that had hundreds of FREE food that all came with animations. We were trying on our hot dogs, our pie, our roast beef sandwiches, and not only in Armidi. We were playing. We just so happened to be wearing our fatvatars. There was no reason for anyone to take offense to us because we were talking to each other. We were not talking to anyone else or goading them with what we were saying. I say it’s a size related incident because of the comments she made. Regardless of whether or not it would have happened in another place at another time, it DID happen. Let’s stop beating a dead horse.

    This project is not something I did over a long length of time. I started by asking participants to do it for 12 days, but so many people shied away from it, so I lowered it to only one week. As for me not wanting any people of size to participate, you are DEAD. WRONG. I cannot help who contacted me out of interest in my project. I did not discriminate against anyone. I sent everyone who asked a copy of my project description that also served as a permission slip. If the person sent it back, I considered them a participant. I had at least three people agree to participate and then never got back to me again. That’s why there are only 8. I did this because I was interested in seeing what it would be like for myself and others to be fat in a game where perfection is so sought after. ANYONE was welcome to participate. My only request was that alts not be used.

    You say you are not writing for yourself here. So maybe you should have them respond too. I did not write this with the sole intention of showing it to Second Lifers. I did this project to present at a conference. I’d say that out of the 25 or so people that I presented this to, only a couple were familiar with Second Life on a purely basic level. I’d apologize to you that this is not good enough for your standards, but I wouldn’t mean it. I made my conclusions based not only on my experiences but on the experiences of those who participated. I repeat that I did not turn down a soul who contacted me. Perhaps I never received an instant message regarding your friends’ interest in the matter, I cannot say unless you give me names and I go back to my logs. But honestly, this is done. I am not going back to who participated and who didn’t and who is butt hurt because they are fat all the time and were “ignored”. I spoke to people off the record in the game while I was doing this and they were gung ho, but still unwilling to participate. I can only do so much by asking for volunteers. I am not going to go around second life hunting for large avatars and beg them to be in it. One of my participants, Trixie, joined at the last minute as an avatar that was already considered plus-size. She had a few different things happen to her, but for the sake of brevity, I had to pick and choose what I left in the article. I have more by other participants that I did not even touch upon. I’m not unhappy with how this turned out, however.

    As for the avatar mesh or whatever, I may go in and be more specific about that. I don’t really mean for it to sound as though that is the designer’s fault. I do, however, think that the size of prims and animations/poses is. I have a few poses made especially for the curvy and guess what? My arms don’t go through my boobs or my stomach. Maybe your larger friends know about these, too. I do not make poses or animations so I couldn’t make them solely to fit myself. I must rely on others and it is difficult to do so from what I have found. And I wasn’t alone (and these were by participants who did not have super fat shapes) and I know a lot of other people feel the same way. I am not good with editing prims. I admit it. A lot of people are, a lot of people aren’t. Again, these are not only my experiences, but also a few avatars who decided to participate in my project. I do not have an arsenal of prims that are stretched to fit. I end up breaking them a lot of the time quite honestly. Hair I can do, usually, but a lot of times, clothing is beyond me. That’s why I don’t make anything to do with prims in the game.

    I hope this satisfies you as far as a response from me goes. :)

  52. kesseretkesseret Says:

    @Kevar:

    I left a comment on your friends blog- she seems very sweet. It is a good post to read definately. And she’s right you do learn a bit about modifying prims and prim linksets by just moving the mesh outside of the norm.
    As for the avatar mesh: There’s been various jira proposals to update it starting with 1 created Jan 08.
    http://www.sljirastats.com/view_bug.php?key=VWR-4302
    As you can see, LL doesn’t care. Thought what is new, lol! I think the limitation is technical, my husband’s explained it a bit and several 3d artists have but I don’t know offhand why they won’t change/update the avatar mesh. Note that is sljirastats- but it is built in conjunction with the PJIRA. I just happen to use it b/c it helps me find stuff easier. I’m sure you are familiar w/ jira and you know how sometimes things in it are ignored, heh.

    I know Marissa didn’t turn ANYONE down but for this to happen she needed a log from the same time period due to the study specifications from each subject. That’s out of her controls, that’s part of the study was to keep the time variables the same. Unfortunately she is bound by specific requirements of the NPCACA (or whatever the acronym is heh) when she proposed this study.
    Sadly, studies like this and various others miss out on some things because they are focused. If you think that there should be a study on users who live the life as a fat avatar (and I am one as well thought I fattened up my shape a bit for this) then feel free to submit a proposal to any of the various conferences/associations. It’s hard work but fun if this is your area of study.

    I don’t think anyone is upset here. I think we are experiencing some real good discourse. It’s important to have good discourse because it seems SL is laden with anger and drama lately within certain areas. I like to surround all disagreeing opinions with a layer of butterflies and kittycats (ie positivity). I do hope that makes sense. Maybe Mar and I should host a party for us thicker avs on our sim! Too bad I can’t make my lasagna in SL, I’m sure everyone will enjoy it. (I’m italian, I can’t help but think of party = lasagna = awesome!)

    And it may sound like I am a bit defensive but Marissa and I have been friends for about 10 years. We’ve talked about our Amateur sociological Internet culture stuff for years and she’s gone to school, gotten the degrees, and doing what we discussed. I believe she’s done more than this in the body image area of study so this is a particular interest to her. I live vicariously through her since I’m a boring network administrator. She’s also my bff 3 lyfe. I’ll jump quickly to discuss her hard work and defend it if necessary. I just want to clarify if my tone gets a specific way it’s ‘protective kess mode’. xoxoxo, Kess

  53. Kavar Says:

    @ marissa

    I feel I upset you with my questions for that I’m sorry. I salute you for your efforts and work and the only other things I would clear up are a couple of bits you may have misintrupreted. Although I would offer up that I didn’t mean to beat a dead horse, I just felt the need to clarify myself again after kesserets inital reply because somehow what I was saying about my views on why things happened they way the did must have sounded like I was saying “they deserved it because they were holding food” which is not what I was trying to say in either post, this may have caused me to write more defensively as well, if it seems so, I am sorry, I just wanted to be clear on what I was trying to say.

    I will drop the armidi scene as it is clearly a matter of a difference of opionon as to what happened there and why, and I think it has largely to do with our differences on voicing and why someone reacts negatively, there is no wrong or right, both are opionon based.

    I never said you didn’t want fat avatars involved, I am sorry if you got that somehow from what I said, I asked why there weren’t any of there views in some kind of interview base to which it was answered by kesseret. it was a question not an accusation. as I said before, I don’t know if the people I know would have done the study, and I never said you turned anyone away, I said I knew one of my friends wasn’t responded to which is fact, but my point was ultimately asking why there wasn’t something about them somewhere, not why didn’t you im my friend back, IMs get lost, sl is a hard creature to tame sometimes and Kesserets explaination cleared that up about what could be entered in to the study and how it all had to be maintained.

    I mentioned the av limits purely because some people don’t know’t know now they work and this blog will be seen by residents inside the game. I mentioned animations because I believe one of the reasons people don’t make more large av poses is because there is only one morph availible and it is ruth. I am not saying that is an excuse, but it would be quite easy for them release more morphs for designers to use and I believe you would find a lot more poses out there that worked for larger avs.

    I never said it wasn’t good enough for my standards, and to be frank I never said it wasn’t good, I asked questions as to why certain things were done and not done, and I personally felt there was a side of the story missing. Thank you both for answering some of those questions.

    I did not say I wasn’t writing for myself.. I said I do not speak for them, these are my views. If they have anything to say I’m sure they will, and if not.. that is the reason I haven’t used any names.

    I am sorry if I didn’t make these things clear enough before.

    In closing I think it was good to get the issue in the public eye, It is very sad that negative things like this happen at all to anyone. and thank you for addressing some of my questions. I wish you much success in the future.

    @Kess

    No worries, Everyone gets defensive sometimes, and I didn’t think you were out of the realm or anything hehe :) and despite some confusion I think it was a good dialogue none the less and lasagna, yum :)

    Thank you both for responding,
    Kavar

  54. Welcome to the Train Wreck Love Life: kiss me in sweet slow motion, let's let everything slide Says:

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  55. Lady Sakai Says:

    Hi Marissa, friends and others.

    First I wanna say that I think its good you bring up this issue (Ive seen other issues like height being brought up in other post)
    Second Id like to make absolutely clear that as the owner of the club that is shown in this article I and my staff do NOT condone any harrasment of any kind when it comes to apperance, lifestyles or other ways of expressing yourself in SL (or for that matter in RL) That is even stated upon arrival at the club. This article was brought to my attention via one of my managers. She mentioned it to me and my first question was if it was one from the staff that had been harrasing the patron (Don) and if so we would need to have a serious talk in the staff group. That said after reading the this article I will stil sendt a message to the staff making sure that they are aware of the issue. Anyone are welcome with us and that is something we try to enforce as much as we can.
    Now at this time Id like to make absolutely clear that I do have a small skinny avi BUT that is actually made to look like my RL self. One of my best friends in SL (that I know from RL ) is a chubby girl and she has also made her avi to look like her RL self. It is to bad that there isnt more diversity in SL when we are talking about the more human avis …. diversity come in play when we take an overall look … dragons, devils, vampires, tinies, taking animals etc etc.
    As a final thing that point a bit more to Rl is that even as Im tiny / skinny in Rl I think its a shame that the majority of ppl think its heaven, I can tell you first hand that it is not. Ive been yelled at on the streets due to my wheight so I know that being ridiculed because of the way you look can be horrid.
    Stay Healthy all that is the main point :)
    Enjoy your SL and your RL no matter what you look like ;)
    Lady Sakai

  56. name witheld Says:

    It would be unfair to single out just fat people. Harassment happens with all types of people in SL. It’s easier for someone to say what’s on their mind in a virtual world. If anything, this shows how people are less inhibited in SL than in RL. Sad? Yeah maybe.. but it is human nature to reject anything that is not appealing to us or strange to us. SL allows our worst human nature to come out. In RL, we see someone who is ugly, obese, underweight, strange, etc and most of us politely keep our thoughts to ourselves. In SL, we let our thoughts become written words in public chat. Also, it is our human nature to want attention.. and the best way in SL to gain attention is to be something that is not typical of the SL user. Unfortunately, some crave attention so badly that even negative attention is sought. My advice is to not care what others think and enjoy the SL character you have created. SL is the one place we can do what we want and say what we want. So, who cares if someone criticizes you, do they really matter to you? If they matter so much, then be a sheep and do what they want so you can impress them.. otherwise, just be yourself and expect the comments.. you can always tell them how damn predictable their comment was and how they are so completely “typical” and boring. As someone not exactly thin in RL, I had to smile that the clothes in SL are as ill fitting as they are in RL. The templates are based on the average SL figure, just how designers in RL use a manniquin. It’s to be expected.

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  61. Gaia Granada Says:

    Interesting experiment…I know that when first coming to SL I made my avatar thin with a huge chest (like some insane person!)…I now, after almost two years in SL, have a plump avatar that I honestly feel is gorgeous…once a guy made a crack about me in a club…all I can say is this is the world we live in…I am resigned to having my arm sticking through my stomach with animations and with half my prim attachments buried in my pixel flesh…personally my avatar will look like what I think is beautiful and to Hell with these sheep…they bore me…I also have a stove with prim food as the centerpiece of my little SL house…that’s me in RL and me in SL…cooking, eating, reading tarot cards and taking photos…

  62. Danielle Harrop Says:

    As someone who is playing around with making clothes in SL, I like to experiment. For a long time, I’ve wanted to find a more “realistic” shape for my AV, more like real life. In real life, I’m a “Big Beautiful Woman”…Very proportional, but not barbie at all. I found this article through a webpage from a google search, and I thank you for posting it. I think we’d all be happier if we “broke away from barbie”…leave the fantasy stuff to the ppl who wanna r/p and all.

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  64. Never mind the lady behind the avatar… | KessKreations Says:

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  65. Is this thing on? « Ashlen’s Weblog Says:

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  66. Tonight Live With Paisley Beebe » Blog Archive » Are You a FAT Avatar? Says:

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  67. Marissa Racecourse on Tonight Live | KessKreations Says:

    [...] Paisley Beebe at 6pm SLT! She is discussing her wonderful project she did earlier this year called “You Mean You Chose to be Fat?: Body Image in a Virtual World”. If you are interested in coming to watch the live taping IM me, Kesseret Steeplechase, inworld for [...]

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    what music was like in the seventies, and I was certain it was her.

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