Virtual reality is well known. It is a digital representation of reality. Consider a movie such as Avatar, which is about the conflict between humans and an alien race, the na´vi, who live at the base of a gigantic tree above an immense vein of a highly prized mineral. The appeal of the film is the hyperreal representation of the forest, its animals, and the flora. It is a digital show of fluorescent colors, rhythms, and amazing displays. The animals dance, butterflies fly synchronized, and birds serve as planes.

When I have to take my students to our natural parks, the influence of virtual reality films such as Avatar is felt. My students cannot endure the slow pace and the lack of action. They wait, like in the movies, for our monkeys to sing and dance, for the butterflies to be grouped by colors, for the magpies to parade synchronized, for the horses to have wings, and for the blue unicorns to suddenly jump. However, instead of action, the national park offers silence and the song of a bobo bird every half hour, a monkey that jumps every two, and a toad that appears every three. This is not as much fun as Avatar; it is so boring that my students prefer to see a digital version on YouTube rather than discover something new in the forest. Virtual reality, then, is often harmful because it makes the non-virtual slow and tedious.

However, virtual reality makes us lose sight of something much more interesting and fundamental: the virtuality of reality.

What then is the virtual of the real? It is the influence, in our lives, of what does not yet exist or has ceased to do so. Think of our deceased. Maybe our mother or our grandmother died some time ago, but our life is still governed by them. When we do something that we think they would not approve, we feel guilty and think they still speak to our ears; the influence of something virtual in reality. And if it is not our deceased that whisper to us, then it might be other virtual characters, such as the country, the nation, the party, the race or the religion.

Another virtuality of reality is patriarchal power. There is no father to represent it and very few dare to justify it. However, the patriarchal system is as real as ever. Its influence is not based on the fact that any father can punish us, but on the insinuation of his power. There is no need for anyone to hit us: if this were the case, patriarchy would be diminished as whoever does so is often seen as weak and ridiculous. Its power is virtual: a look of disapproval, a raised eyebrow or a slight grimace. This is how gender is implanted in our heads: it is not necessary to impose it by force or even defend it: we learn it as if it were as natural as breathing or eating.

This is the true ideology of gender and not its academic analysis, which seeks to show us that what we thought was “natural” is nothing but artificial.