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March 2012 media roundup: Joe Strike, Ohio and VancouFur

Edited as of 22:38
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This month saw several furry appearances in North American news media, with coverage from newspapers, magazines, and a Canadian TV news outlet. What did they have to say?

While L Magazine's brief (and largely paraphrased) interview with New York City furry writer and artist Joe Strike veers towards adult babies and "mascot costumes getting sweaty", the conversation eventually gets around to "the core of furrydom—the fursona", with Joe distinguishing furs from other fans: "furs create their own characters". Anthrocon gets a mention, while Joe puts in recommendations for WikiFur and Fur Affinity.

VancouFur gained a fair amount of coverage. As previously mentioned, the Burnaby News Leader gave a positive but relatively shallow article on "people who like to dress in colourful, furry mascot costumes," published before the event began, while CTV had video footage (Pixie: "It frees up a lot of inhibitions, like I don't feel so constrained or shy - I'm allowed to be a little more outgoing - because it's not me, it's the character.").

Conversely, BG News (the student paper of Bowling Green State University) talks to several north-west Ohio furs, who refute the assertions made by Burnaby News ("Fur suits aren’t even really required."). The local Black Swamp Furs talk about their bowling escapades, while slipping in FCN's charity fund-raising. Sex comes up, but the furs hang firm to their position ("We’re not sex based at all. [..] TV shows sometimes show us like that, but we’re not. It’s the complete opposite of what we’re trying to do. We’re just people who like to hang out.")

A more detailed analysis of VancouFur, and of furry fandom as a whole, is provided by The Dependent Magazine [tip: reddit], whose representatives are first "grilled" by con media representatives, then mobbed by furs wanting to tell their story.

The visitors piece together testimony from furs young and old, including Aphinity ("This is a very sensitive community"), Mountain Blue Fox Joe ("it’s all clean fun," he insists. “It’s like going to Disneyland every day."), Star Wonder ("it’s all in your heart; it’s part of who you are."/"Nobody has sex in the fursuits [...] You would die."), Kuviare (who talks of the "deep spiritual connection" of being tied to a mate with a sex toy), and the pseudonymous "Mink", "Cat" and "Rabbit" – who first call security on the group, then proceed to give their view on furry's sexuality "party line":

“Which is, I don’t think a lot of people want to say,” Rabbit explains. “As gets mentioned by some people: ‘It’s a teeny, tiny percentage of people for whom this is about sex.’ I think it is a significant percentage of people for whom this is about sex.”

“I feel like it’s the party line that it’s a tiny minority of people for whom it’s about sex,” Mink agrees. “I feel like there are a lot of them. I feel like the public image of Furries would be better if people kind of would own up to that, rather than being paranoid about it, and running around telling everyone it’s not about sex.”

“Everything is about sex for some people,” Cat interjects. “So are shoes.”

Mink nods. “But I feel like our public image would be better if we-”

“-stopped lying,” Rabbit interrupts. “I know there will be people who will be like: ‘Finally!’ But not everybody. And there are people who are absolutely not lying – it is totally not sexual for them, and they are deeply confused by those of us for whom it is sexual.”

In the end, the Dependent's staff conclude that their original definition of "a community who enjoy dressing up as, acting like, and celebrating anthropomorphized animals" for whom it "may also be a sex thing" was correct, though they've gathered a fair amount to flesh it out:

So, exactly what the hell is a Furry? For all of the organizers’ paranoia, for all of the deep internal division, for all of their fears about public perception, for all the slightly unsettling realities of mixing cartoon characters and sex, Furries appear to be nothing more than a harmless community of social outliers, people who desire a grander, more exciting identity that their upbringing or their social status couldn’t provide. People who have discovered, within a community that is a bizarre mashup of other subcultures, a place where they can be gods and goddesses and celebrities in a way their regular life would never allow.

Worth noting: Kinzi and Aphinity allege misquotes and misrepresentation in the comments, though they don't get specific about the quoting. Meanwhile, a 'true believer' in spirit animals dismisses furry roleplay as "adult dress up pretend time".


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Finally, an interview with a fur who's been in the scene for three decades, not just three years. I think Joe Strike was spot-on with his emphasis on the fursona as the key element in what it means to be a furry. Personally, I'm tired of the fandom being portrayed as little more than an animal costume fashion show. It's about who we are and choose to be, not what we wear.

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I suspect he only got an interview because he had a fursuit . . .

Aside from that, part of the reason you don't see many older furs in coverage (outside of official representatives) may be that they're busy running the convention/panels/etc. rather than being out where the media is roaming.

Then there's the issue of demographics. At a ~15% annual growth rate, it's quite possible that a third of the fandom has been in it for less than four years. Certainly "decades" is in the minority; the "average" (probably mean) is 7.0-8.5 years.

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What's wrong with opinions expressed by minorities within a community, especially when their statements are factual, honest, and backed up by maturity and experience?

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Nothing? I'm just giving some reasons why you might not see as many interviews with them.

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"What's wrong with opinions expressed by minorities . . .?"

You just said everyone's opinions expressed are just fine (as they rightly so are!).

With that said though, I think you just debunked your initial post.

Also on a side note, what we wear is often representative of a tiny portion of our personality in material form. IE: Fursuits give life to the fursonas we have created in that some of us show what we are by what we 'wear' or become. Above all, the point is we all have opinions, which are all relative (dumb or smart) and are always at right to share them when the forum they are presented on allows it. Thus, if something "dumb" is portrayed and recorded, though it may be embarrassing, it's an accurate and honest portrayal of the furry community. We have dumb things, things one might wish to sweep under the rug just like the rest of the world. If we were to censor the Dark Side of the Fur, then we'd be pretty gilded and cheap, wouldn't you say? Wouldn't you also think integrity is more important that initial appearance?

Edit: I also COMPLETELY understand that seeing certain arguably detrimental behaviors and actions of certain individuals can make you wish it wasn't there and never existed. I mean there's sometimes people do the most idiotic and questionable of things that make you (key word) personally wish that you weren't related to them, but we're all actually in this together.

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You just said everyone's opinions expressed are just fine (as they rightly so are!).

Yes and no. When GreenReaper brought the subject of demographic size into the discussion, I thought he was implying that because older furs are a small minority within the fandom, our opinions shouldn't be considered relevant to or representative of the broader community.

I objected to this perceived inference, and asked why being a member of a minority group somehow made our opinions less meaningful or worthy of being listened to.

Based upon his reply, it's clear that I did not correctly understand the initial intent of his reference. Based upon my reply to you here, I hope it's clear now that you did not correctly understand mine, either.

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I asked Nuka and from the details he gave me:

* ~30% of fans report three years or less of fan experience; the mode is five years, the median slightly below five
* Over 3/4 of fans report less than a decade in the fandom. ~2% report two decades, less than 1% report three

From the shape of the data it looks like a few people with four or nine years rounded up a year, too.

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Hey, and who's that fox sending letters to the editor at the BG News? Seems familiar . . .

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I always love a good assonance joke.

Obviously, I'm in the same mind as Whitetail; I'm sick of furry being labeled a costume based subculture, and would almost rather go back to the "weird animal sex thing that isn't quite bestiality, probably" label. I understand why; fursuits do stick out like a sore thumb. The only way to hide a fursuit is to stick it in a room with a hundred other fursuits. And if the guys not in the fursuits are actively avoiding talking to anyone outside the fandom, well, it's hard to run away in a fursuit, too.

To be clear, I'm not mad at the fursuiters; they're just doing their thing. I'm more upset that most furries (fursuiters and non-fursuiters alike) are too busy explaining what furries aren't (sex freaks or whatever) that they forget too explain what furries are.

So, anyway, these guys got the letter, because student newspapers will print anything.

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Joe Strike = Bloody Good Bloke.

(Full disclosure: I am a friend of his.)

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Just to clarify, those comments about adult babies and sweaty mascot costumes were the interviewer's, not mine. She originally interviewed me last year and this feature was supposed to run in her sex advice column in the print version of the magazine. When she started her blog, she Em'd me to let me know the piece would run there. (In hindsight I think it's better it *didn't* run in the advice column...)

- Joe

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About the author

GreenReaper (Laurence Parry)read storiescontact (login required)

a developer, editor and Kai Norn from London, United Kingdom, interested in wikis and computers

Small fuzzy creature who likes cheese & carrots. Founder of WikiFur, lead admin of Inkbunny, and Editor-in-Chief of Flayrah.