This doesn’t happen often– but I’m offended.

I really debated about blogging about this, but I wouldn’t be me if I ignored how I felt. I consider myself somewhat of  a politically and culturally aware person, but I also consider myself open-minded. Because of this, I feel like I can objectively say that The Homeless Awareness hunt is offensive.

The German version of Vogue received similar criticism:

For those who have never read the blog Skittles in The Pit, it’s a blog that considers itself a source of healing and coping for those with mental illnesses. It also seeks to restore the reputation of those dealing with them by raising awareness. One way they raise awareness is through hunts, and so far they’ve done hunts themed with PTSD, autism, suicide, and as of recent, homelessness (which isn’t a mental illness, but I suppose that’s besides the point.)

I find the hunt distasteful for a couple of reasons. For one, no money is actually raised to help the homeless, the hunt is entirely free. There are many shelters that could benefit from money raised from a hunt like this. I know in my home of San Francisco, many of the shelters and homeless programs were cut off from funding due to budget cuts. The effect is obvious for those that live here. Our most beautiful, and touristy parts are filled with transients, homeless persons, and drug users– it’s no fault of their own. As the economy collapsed, many people lost their jobs which only increased homelessness. So basically we had more homeless people, and less shelters and free rehabilitation centers. Just look at all the charities that could’ve benefited from this.

To add insult to injury, the hunt items are boxed in a cardboard box– the stereotyped home for the homeless. If Skittles in the Pit seeks to “end the stigma” of those with mental illnesses by supposedly contradicting the stereotypes, then why put your hunt item in a cardboard box? And on that note, why stereotype the homeless as mentally ill? While mental illness is often a cause of homelessness, only about 20-25% of homeless persons identify with a severe mental disorder (severe defined as being unable to perform basic household managing tasks including sustaining a job).

Additionally, the creator of the hunt asked designers to create an item based around being homeless (just another way to stereotype). The products designed are unsurprisingly typical —  a beanie, a stained dress, a donation box of food and hygiene basics. Remember when Urban Outfitters was sued by the Navajo Nation? Well if you don’t, basically upon discovering America, the natives were raped, forced as slaves, and killed (both by hand and by disease) by colonists. Even after the United States was established, we forced them out of their homes during a death march called The Trail of Tears.  Flash forward nearly 200 years later we use them as “inspiration” and profit off them– giving them nothing. (this is all off topic I know, but hopefully you see where I’m going)

So while not giving the homeless anything, the hunt uses them to be fashionably forward. And I don’t mean to say that this just happens on SL, but offline we give nothing to the homeless. Unemployment, welfare, disability– people complain about those, but the truth is, is that it’s still not enough for someone to live off of. AND you need an address to qualify for them– so if you’re homeless, it’s out of reach. Still, we enjoy the look of distressed, overworn jeans, or fingerless gloves. Ripped sweaters, saggy beanies, anything grungy. Unkempt hair, scruffy beards. (as satirized by the movie Zoolander)

The world knows that there are homeless people — awareness doesn’t need to be raised about this. But what people need to be raised awareness on is the causes– drugs, lack of healthcare, joblessness, and yes, mental illness. People need to understand that when we can give these people a place to live, help them get back on their feet and include them in our cities’s budget we can ultimately clean up our streets.

I know this seems like one giant attack on Skittle In The Pit, but it’s not meant to be malicious. They absolutely mean well, and their blog does include resources for anyone feeling alone or lost. I do believe they have created an unintentionally offensive hunt. A hunt can be a great way to raise awareness, I just believe they need to do some reevaluating on how they do it.

EDIT: Joshuan Banx has responded, and while I still don’t entirely agree with his methods, I think it’s important everyone get to hear his clearing of the  air. Read it here.


About Raquella Warrhol

Andy is not my brother, husband, or father.
This entry was posted in Opinion. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to This doesn’t happen often– but I’m offended.

  1. Enid says:

    Looks as if to me, that someone has done their research on this.
    Great post, Witch!

    My opinion as it has been all alone (lately) on these hunts in SL, is that the ones organizing the hunts, are doing it for themselves to earn L$ to transform into USD or other dollars. Using what ever means that they can find to prey on peoples feelings, ideas and expectations.
    I personally do not goto ANY fundraisers any long simply because I take my $10, $20, $100, $1,000 US Dollars and send it to the ACTUAL organization via my banking account. This way, I KNOW that they get what I donated to them for that cause.
    I did a right up on my blog about this…

    Great POST, Witch!

    • That’s totally true. A friend of mine refused to put his products in fundraising events because he said no one really knows where the money goes. Not only is it safer giving to the actual organization, BUT $10 dollars to the organization is a solid $10 (though i’m sure it gets taxed slightly) where as $10 in lindens becomes less because of the cost to exchange lindens for dollars.

  2. chic aeon says:

    Just wanted to say that I think as bloggers (“the press) it is important from time to time to voice our opinions on thing we strongly connect with :D. Nice article. I read it all *wink*.

  3. Thank you so much for reading!

  4. That was a long rant indeed Raquella. As a designer taking part of this hunt, I am offended. But since you are not attacking the fair, then my response should not bother you. I respect your opinion, so here is mine.

    The hunt was for a good purpose, not to make any profit whatsoever. I will be making a contribution (donation) on the part of my store and my customers, from my own pocket. If others want to contribute, they are welcome to.
    The point of the hunt is to raise awareness, NOT force people to donate. Therefore items were free. Those who think it’s a good cause and wish to make a donation directly to the source, can do so.
    While you may or may not agree with Joshuans opinions, that’s your right, but he has a lot of good points, and this is why I personally decided to join this hunt.

    As a good friend of mine said when I told her about the hunt: THIS is the kind of stuff people need to know about Second Life.
    Not the pixel sex or shady side of sl, but the side that brings people together to make just a tiny little difference.

    There have been a lot of fairs for “personal” reasons, raising money for specific individuals. But nobody complained about that. So why is a free hunt a bad thing? Its one thing if store owners made lindens on it and gave nothing to homeless. Then I would see your point.

    Homeless people relay on free things. Be it clothing, shelter or food. Those of us who feel strongly about the subject, will donate. Therefore any people making donations, as an outcome of this hunt, is a great bonus.
    My free gift was not scruffy, distressed, outworn item. Recycled item was the idea. Something pretty and fashion forward that could be home made without being ugly or breaking your bank.

    So as far as your comment about the hunt being free and people getting stuff while homeless don’t get anything, is incorrect. I’m sure I will not be the only person making donation.

    • I’ll be blunt here.

      I initially didn’t want to blog about this for a couple of reasons. For one, the hunt wasn’t well known, and the prizes weren’t all that great. I figured no one would really participate in the first place so why put a spotlight on it and draw more attention to it? The second reason was that I truly believe Joshuan Banx had good intentions, and I didn’t want him to get the sort of negative remarks he’s been getting on the matter — the name calling, and the assumptions about him.

      And yes, there are events where people raise money for individuals, but that is completely different. I’m not even sure why you bring that up. Love Donna Flora and Together for Sway were events to raise money for two individuals who have played such a big role in second life. These individuals make most of their income on Second Life and due to ailments were unable to continue earning their income. These events were put on by the many people who care about them, and who are close to them. These individuals have also participated in events for charity themselves. So please don’t minimize the importance of these events because you’re bitter about the bad press this event is receiving. They are completely separate– apples and oranges.

      I feel the event is just a mocking of the homeless. “There are no hints for this hunt to provide the hunters with empathetic feelings of frustration, eagerness, and anxiety when trying to find the item. Homeless people feel some of these emotions as well, especially when trying to find a job, a new place to live, and their independence. ” I mean COME ON, saying looking for a hunt item will make us feel like we’re homeless is like Tyra Banks putting on a fat suit for a couple hours and saying she now knows what it’s like to be fat. At the end of the day, we go back to the way we’re living. I’ve already begun seeing the fashion blogs for those blogging the events, and they are just as I suspected — people dressing up as the homeless.

      And yes homeless people DO rely on free things– but WE do not.

      As for the reasons I do not agree with Joshuan Banx’s response, besides the fact that it is almost illegible and really disorganized, he never really responds to anything I’ve said, he just sort of scoots around it with random statistics about human trafficking that are completely irrelevant.

      • I wont get embued with this topic just wanted to add a few random comments to this wonderful blog. On the one hand I agree with a hunt to raise awareness, however it appeasrs the issue is the choice of hunt items and the linking it to mental illnesses are perhaps in poor taste. (the Tyra Banks comment gave me a giggle ^5) I wanted to add you are very right, a majority of the homeless are not mentally ill. Last count over 40% of the homeless are single parents (mostly women) with children who receive no child support from their exes. And as for the comments about Events for individuals, I too thought she meant Donna Flora, but it honestly doesn’t matter who she meant. There is nothing wrong with an event for an individual when it is represented as FOR an individual. If people choose to participate, they know one person is getting the money, so the comment shouldn’t have been made by the designer, I don’t think. Heck, I could have an event for my dog Katy, and if people want to throw Lindens at me, oops, I mean she, will be happy to take them. 😉 Just my wooden nickles worth.

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  6. That is actually quite funny. You are bringing up Donna Flora and saying I’m bitter? I am not talking about Donna Flora at ALL. Please don’t put words in my mouth.
    No, in fact I adore Donna Flora 🙂 And I feel this event was more than important. I always have been a great fan of hers. No bitterness here.

    Sure I agree with you, looking hard for a hunt item does not compare to the desperation of looking for a job, being able to feed your kids and not having any money. Not a lot can make the hunters feel that kind of pain and sorrow.
    But why do you have to take it so seriously and literally?

    Again, you are speaking for all stores saying it’s about dressing up like homeless people. And that kind of sucks, you are lumping everyone together. I did actually give a gift I spent 2 days creating, something I know I will wear. Without looking like a homeless person.

    I am not interested in the statistics anyone has to provide. I’m only interested in knowing Ive done something for a good cause. I’m not interested in fighting about what homeless people are or aren’t. There are all kinds of homeless people.

    You do need to see things from the designers point too and realize that there is no reason to argue about it. Don’t like it, don’t be a part of it. It’s not for you to say the event is disorganized, because you are clearly not a part of it.

    • I brought up Together for Sway and Love Donna Flora! because they were two recent examples.

      I didn’t take the sentence literally, but Joshuan Banx is the one who wrote that terrible analogy. It’s terrible PR to use that as a hunt description.

      I’ve known about the hunt since it’s fruition, as I am an American Bazaar blogger. This also means I was asked to blog about it. I was sent the notecard where designers were asked to center the theme around homelessnes. I almost wrote about it before it began, but didn’t, and now I wish I would’ve. So yes, I didn’t like it, and I chose not to be apart of it.

      That’s really the last thing I will respond to you about it, because I don’t want you to feel obligated to defend your reason for participating. You won’t get me to change, and I won’t get you to change. You’re free to respond, and I’ll approve your comments.

      • I didn’t respond to your post to offend you. Just stating my opinion, and as a designer who has been a part of it, I did feel the need to defend my views.

        You know, for every event out there, personally I have my own reasons to join. Just as a lot of designers who contributed. So to hear that the event only has bad quality stuff or stereotype gets one butthurt if they have spend great amount of giving something to the community.

        You’re a blogger for AB, I’m a friend of Missy’s and I’m sure she had her own reasons to join as well. Definitely not to be put on spot or having her name being dragged through mud.
        It’s totally up to a person if they want to be a part of it or not.
        There’s no reason to create negativity around. But that’s just me, I’m always trying to be positive and be Ms.Sunshine & Rainbows. :p
        Whatever description or PR methods used, in the end, its all done out of good intentions.
        Anyway I have nothing more to add. You have the right to your opinion, I have to mine. No hard feelings here: 🙂 Can’t always agree with everyone and everything.
        And really, I’m not bitter.

  7. Having spent two summers homeless as a teenager, the description of this hunt really, to be blunt, pissed me off. I also found the image for the poster offensive and stereotypical. I’m also not even slightly easily offended, so for me to feel that way, things have to be fairly extreme.

    I’ve rolled my eyes at the previous “awareness hunts” because, honestly I just don’t think a Second Life hunt is all that helpful at raising awareness of a problem. Host an information fair in a central location and get designers to give away gifts for the event… but NOT gifts with a theme that only further promotes stereotypes! But while I didn’t really think they were the best way to get a message out there, I also wasn’t offended by them. I understood that people thought they were doing something helpful, and there’s even a good chance someone was helped in some way by them.

    My mother was a junkie. I was a teenager without a home because of that. We didn’t sleep on the streets, but we never knew where we’d be from night to night. I went weeks without a shower. In the middle of a New Jersey summer. I was never sure what we’d next eat, but I could count on it being crappy fast food or something unsatisfying like a granola bar.

    I genuinely believe Joshuan’s intentions were pure, but to equate hunting for gifts in a virtual world without hints to the fear of not knowing where you’re going to sleep, or the disgusting feeling of being unable to shower, or the frustration of not having a decent meal is insensitive at best, and offensive at worst. Some people are bad at articulating their feelings, and some people don’t express themselves well in writing. Hopefully, this is a lesson to this Mental Health group and they will STRONGLY consider having other people write their event descriptions in the future.

  8. zion says:

    I appreciate your opinion, and I agree with the opinion that it is okay for bloggers to post their honest opinion provided they are not being mean for the sake of being mean. I kind of agree with you on this particular issue.

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