FIT IS A FEMINIST ISSUE

Meet virtual Sam: Avatars, gender, and identity

As blog readers all know, I’ve been spending a lot of time on Zwift lately riding and racing my bike. It’s spring, yes, and normally I’d be riding outside now but it’s also a global pandemic.

Different cyclists make different decisions but I’ve decided to follow the recommendation of Cycling Canada and keep my training indoors. I’ll write more later about racing on Zwift which is turning out to be an awful lot of fun.

But as I’ve been spending more time riding with cyclists from all over the world, I’ve come to identify more with my Zwift avatar.

What do I mean by that? Well, I can spot myself in the peleton of bikes.

My avatar has grey blonde hair that’s about the length of my actual hair. She’s got an athletic build, solid, and I like that.

Here “I” am at the front of the pack. I zoomed to get front just to get a photo. I’m wearing a pink Swarm jersey because I was riding with the Swarm.

Sam riding with the Swarm

Normally I’ve been wearing the Team kit for TFC racing, the cycling club I’ve been racing with. It’s very yellow. Here I am wearing it while warming up for last night’s race.

Zwift Sam warming up for a race

This is the first time I think I’ve created an avatar who sort of looks like me. I had a Skyrim avatar some years ago but I was more playful and adventurous in creating her.

I have one complaint about my Zwift avatar. She’s medium sized person and I’m a large sized person. That’s odd because avatar size is based on your actual kg. It turns out that in Zwift women only come in two sizes regardless of how much we weigh. We’re either small or medium. Men come in three sizes, small medium or large. Here’s an explanation of avatar sizes.

So when Sarah and I ride together in Zwift we’re the same medium size. That’s weird because IRL she’s medium and I’m big.

Now I like my Zwift hair and my Zwift gender presentation but when a friend and I did a Swarm ride the other day, it turns out that a lot of the long haired women didn’t like the choices available for hair length. Basically all the long hair is in ponytails and the women wanted longer ponies than Zwift had on offer. There was some suggestion that Zwift needs more women in their development teams.

Here’s a screen capture of my avatar and some possible hair style choices

Zwift Sam considering possible hair styles

I like it that there are more choices than just long or short hair. But in the Swarm group we heard from a lot of long hair identified women who wanted more substantial hair.

Have you had an avatar that you identified with? Did it get everything right that you really cared about? Tell me about your avatar experiences.