Con Report: Eurofurence 24: Aviators – Conquer the Sky
Eurofurence 24 ran from 22 August to 26 August this year. It was the biggest one so far and a great opportunity to meet friends from all over and enjoy oneself. There were several panels, discussions and events which are worth noting. However, conventions are very personal experiences, so while I will focus on some larger themes, your own con experiences may vary. I have previously reported on Eurofurence 21 and Eurofurence 23.
The Nazi Furs Controversy
Eurofurence kicked off with something quite controversial; they began handing out stickers with the con book that said "Nazi Furs Fuck Off." This happened during early registration and led to an outcry on Telegram which seemed to result in them leaving the badges at the registration table but not actively handing them out. Along with the badges, Eurofurence chairman Cheetah began the conbook with a statement about politics, liberalism and Karl Popper's paradox of tolerance.
While distributing the badges was supported by some, it was criticised by many others for various different reasons, such as mixing politics with a furry convention which is supposed to be a fun escape. There is the concern that it could send a misleading message to outsiders that furry has a Nazi problem. There is also the issue of importing American problems into Europe; Cheetah even admitting in a Daily Eurofurence interview that there were probably no Nazis there in the first place and it was mostly an American debate. I want to briefly address the controversy and Cheetah's interview from a slightly different direction.
Perhaps the biggest problem is the meaning of "Nazifurs." When Cheetah was asked, he refused to define what he meant by Nazi fur, leaving it up to interpretation. Is it limited to just Nazi Nazis or does it extend to the alt-right more generally (however that is defined), all right-wing views or even, as I have seen on Twitter, those that just make racist jokes? Based on his conbook statement, he is using it more broadly but, while in his statement he distances Eurofurence from "all right-wing movements," he also states that Eurofurence does not check political orientation and conservatives are still welcome. How conservative is too conservative? It's never stated and none of the terms used are ever clearly defined. This means that it's entirely possible to be opposed to or in favour of Eurofurence's decision based on your own understanding of the words, which might be very different to the intention of Cheetah and Eurofurence. This is too important to be like Humpty Dumpty, the meaning of a word matters.
I also take issue with Cheetah's use of Popper's paradox of tolerance. He quotes it to support the need to remove intolerant aspects of the community but he chooses to cut it at an interesting point. As it appears in the conbook, it says:
Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society against the onslaught of the intolerant, then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them.
In actuality, the quote continues; following up with:
In this formulation, I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise.
Popper's paradox of tolerance was that at a certain point, force may be required when rational argument had become impossible. But he did not support suppressing intolerant views as a first step. It's hard to think that Popper would've supported Eurofurence's actions in this case.
While I think this was a huge misstep by the convention, I do not think conventions need to abstain from all politics but they should remain overall positive experiences. If a convention is going to make a political statement then it should be done in a positive manner. For example, the prominent usage of the gay pride flag in the Eurofurence 23 opening video was a positive, non-confrontational, political statement about inclusion and tolerance.
In any case, I fear the sort of polarisation that is building in the furry fandom and the damage it can do. Politics are fluid and people's beliefs change over time. If we want to address these issues we need to talk to one another, understand why people think a certain way and how that can be changed. That is not possible if we view others as evil or become aroused to the level of irrationality. There's a good quote by the Jesuit priest Anthony de Mello which encapsulates this:
Observe the marvellous change that comes over you the moment you stop seeing people as good and bad, as saints and sinners and begin to see them as unaware and ignorant.
Om Nom Nom Nom
There is a very strange phenomenon in the furry fandom; despite being constructed around the ideals of non-human animals, with some even going so far as to claim they have the "souls" or "spirits" of non-human animals, surprisingly few furs are actually vegetarian. This was the opening statement of Alpha_Ki in her round table discussion for vegetarian and vegan furs. JM Horse has also written about the same contradiction on at least two occasions.
The discussion also helped to highlight the later launch of Alpha_Ki's new vegetarian-friendly, furry cookbook. The recipes in her cookbook, which is filled with cute illustrations, all have a vegetarian alternative. The idea being that it makes it easy for people to either cater to vegetarians or slowly transition to eating less meat.
This soft approach was something that came up in a number of furs' stories of their experiences of being vegetarian. No one suggested anything like "meat eaters fuck off" stickers and the one fur who had had that sort of aggressive attitude mentioned how it was only after calming and talking with his family that progress was able to be made. The consensus seemed to be that pushing too hard for people to be vegetarian, actually resulted in them eating more meat as a way of pushing back. By just setting a good example, it was possible to get others to accept their choices and sometimes even imitate them.
Alpha_Ki also spoke about being mocked by many of the other Eurofurence organisers for her vegetarianism and how she had to really push to have more vegetarian options available at Eurofurence. When considering what could motivate that, there was obvious issue of some vegetarians being too annoying about their diet but there was also a second proposal.
The ethical issues of meat production and the impact on the environment are well known but, instead of addressing that, many people prefer to try and ignore it. That probably leads to a certain amount of cognitive dissonance. This also seems to be visible with furry conventions having rules against real fur but being fine with leather and serving meat. It's one thing to be aware of the problem but another to take action which will require an actual change in one's own lifestyle. Seeing vegetarians, who have done this, could make others more aware of their own failings and lead to anger.
By happenstance, I went to a panel titled "Being different in the furry fandom," hosted by Mew Da siren kitty. The panel revolved around aspects of people that made them different and how they came to accept themselves. Mew began by talking about her very distinctive laugh and how she had had people just come up to her and tell her that they hated her laugh. Over time, she came to accept and appreciate her laugh as something that makes her unique.
Several other furs offered their own experiences with self-acceptance and there was plenty of talk about how a lot drama within the furry fandom might stem from people not fully accepting who they are, suppressing themselves and then taking it out on others; perhaps those in whom they see themselves. This is certainly not without precedent. At the end of 2016, Pink News released a list of 11 anti-gay preachers who were later caught engaging in homosexuality.
The themes of needing to accept who you are, to focus on your own and not others' approval and to live according to your own values seemed to recur in all the discussions. We have to accept ourselves before we can gain inner strength. This was seen as necessary to avoid just being swept up with the crowd. It caught my attention because it echoed what I had been learning with Stoicism. For example, Marcus Aurellius writes:
Just that you do the right thing. The rest doesn't matter. Cold or warm. Tired or well-rested. Despised or honoured.
The discussions ended on a positive note. Despite their issues, those that had shared their stories all agreed that they felt welcome in their local furry communities.
One of the changes to Eurofurence this year was the inclusion of an "After Dark" dealers' den where people were able to sell erotic items. While many artists in the normal dealer's den have a certain amount of NSFW material, the items in the After Dark dealers' den were more practical, including latex dragon hoods, various sex toys and yiffable plushies.
At least one panel also touched on adult themes; Stereotypes x Big Data by Stigmata and Skyhawk. This was very similar to Skyhawk's panel last year and involved tag analysis of the publicly-available e621 data. I was still annoyed that things were being called different without any statistics to back it up but it was interesting nonetheless. For example, I learned that My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic now makes up 15-20% of the content on e621.
I think having these adult events is a great addition to the convention, even when hidden away, as the After Dark den was, and far preferable to trying to erase any trace of adult content. We should not shy away from sex positivity but use it as an example for how society can be better. Just having these events can make some furs feel more welcome.
I also want to emphasise just how much the presence of the After Dark Dealer's Den (and other places/events!) gave this erotic artist so much of a feeling of belonging. It's incredible getting to share a deep part of myself (PUN!), and I feel so very accepted in doing that <3
— Dark Violet (@DarkestViolet) August 28, 2018
One of the most awesome things about the furry fandom is how it brings people together. I've previously highlighted the South African and Turkish furry fandoms having a presence at Eurofurence and this year we got to see the Australian furry fandom as hosted by Jenner, creator of Doc Rat, and Nonna Bunny. As noted earlier, we care a lot about animals and the panel was split between the furry fandom and the Australian wildlife.
I also met two other South Africans at Eurofurence as well as a European fur who had been at the recent 2018 South Afrifur convention. There's a video showing some of the fun on IronWolfTempest's channel. If anyone is interested in visiting South Africa and the convention in 2019, you can find more information at the South Afrifur home page.
There were also abundant displays of creativity; as always there were more than 1000 fursuits and the dealers' den and art show were overflowing with amazing creations. Other furs showed off with their own diverse talents. One harpist gave such a great performance at the Open Mic event that he was invited on stage the next day to join Fox Amoore and Pepper Coyote's concert, performing Guardians of the Light with them. Roanth Rufry Alfer talked a bit about journalism and his new furry news site. He subsequently published a piece on Eurofurence and the difference between European and American furs. Lastly, Chaosthief was walking around with an animatronic jerboa that she built which was absolutely amazing!
Despite a rocky start, Eurofurence was a heap of fun. It had a final count of 2911 attendees and raised €41 000 for the lemurs of Madagascar! As usual, it was a great place to meet furs from all over who you might otherwise not have the opportunity to meet. I was even able to snag a few original pieces of art at the art auction. If I'm still in Europe when Eurofurence 25 rolls around, I hope to be there and meet some more new people!