March 2012 media roundup: Joe Strike, Ohio and VancouFur
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".