Over the course of the past week Clementine Ford’s reliably absurd Daily Life whining has transitioned to truly weird and then to outright bizarre.
Ford recounts the whine inspiring “groping” of virtual reality game player Jordan Belamire:
Belamire – who shared the same genderless avatar as her co-players but whose voice made her identifiably female – recalls the incident. “In between a wave of zombies and demons to shoot down, I was hanging out next to BigBro442, waiting for our next attack. Suddenly, BigBro442’s disembodied helmet faced me dead-on. His floating hand approached my body and he started to virtually rub my chest.“
In increasingly angry tones, Belamire told BigBro442 to stop. But he persisted, chasing her around the virtual landscape and striking whenever the play stalled. After three minutes of this Belamire removed her headset and exited the game.
The key word here is “disembodied”. As shown in this still and video from archery game QuiVR, players have hands but no bodies. So the hand that approached Belamire’s “chest” was simply floating in thin air near a virtual body that neither the groper nor the gropee could see. Had the groper embellished his actions with lewd or threatening words there might be something to get upset about.
This insignificant incident is, however, indicative of a patriarchal power play:
Ultimately, the kind of petulant harassment Belamire experienced in the QuiVr space is just the thin end of what could be a very big wedge. We are living in a supremely exciting time for technological advancement, but that privilege carries huge responsibilities. Issues of morality, integrity and ethics have to be incorporated into discussions about how we conceive of these spaces if they’re to be truly visionary.
These are not men’s spaces that are yet to be realised, no matter how certain men might be used to being catered for. As Belamire writes: “Eventually we’re going to need rules to tame the wild, wild west of VR multiplayer. Or is this going to be yet another space that women do not venture into?”
Surely women somewhere on the planet face real problems that Ford might complain about.