Fashion, the Virtual Space, and the Blurring of Genders

Let’s roll back the calendar a 100 years. We’re looking at the dawn of World War I. Roles in Western society were traditionally divided. Women couldn’t vote and our societies were ruled by men. When a shortage of men occurred during World War II, women filled their place in the factories in capitalist and communist societies alike.

After World War II, a struggle of values occurred.

Many women, who had experienced a brief period of empowerment, were not ready to return to the traditionalist way of life. The 1960s are remembered as a time when segments of Western society with traditionalist, modernist and postmodernist values clashed, sometimes physically.

Yet some things remained. To many, it’s still considered strange for parents to give their boy a Barbie doll. Likewise, they wouldn’t give their seven-year-old daughter a toy gun or a mechanical construction set.

In the cyberspace this changes. Hundreds of thousands of men (maybe millions?) play online role playing games with carefully crafted female characters. Similarly, countless women play out male roles in the online worlds of MMORPGs or virtual meeting places like Second Life. They take care of their character and make sure they’re dressed properly for each occasion. In some cases, such as with The Sims or aforementioned Second Life, people have even become virtual fashion designers, creating clothes for their avatar or the marketplace.

In the Virtual Space gender roles are blurred, inverted, stretched to the absurd, and broken. Gender is optional.

As robots start taking over the labour roles in our societies, we’re destined to start spending more time in the Virtual Space; a relatively new dimension of our reality with an unstoppable ever-increasing degree of importance. Some futurists deem it likely that we’ll come to see ‘natural’ reproduction as unethical before the end of this century. They argue that birth defects, genetic diseases and the unnecessary risks associated with child birth will make ‘designer babies’ the new standard.

Before the end of the 21st century, gender no longer has to play a role in human reproduction. Gender is optional.

Survival is the key goal of any lifeform. Reproduction is part of that: ensuring the survival of your genes. With reproduction moved into the lab, sex can move out of the risky physical realm into the virtual. Gender, and the preservation thereof, has been instrumental to reproduction, and thus mankind’s survival.

Taking an ever-blurring gender identity out of the picture means the end of gender as we know it. Gender is optional.

Written for HurrpaDurrpa Mag, August 2015.
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