Harbouring Classism: Australian convention chair highlights elitism in furry fandom
Late last year, Nightf0x, an individual who I have done furry panels about journalism and non-fiction writing, had his first furry piece published by DogPatchPress. Prior to his publication he had spoken with me about doing a review and offering advice on it. In this piece he discussed his feelings of a furry’s class and how that weighed more at a larger convention like Anthrocon where he didn’t feel such a thing at his more local gathering of Anthro Weekend Utah which has an attendance around 10% the size of the Pittsburgh gathering.
My main critique with this piece was that I had noted while he was speaking from his experience between the environments of smaller conventions against larger ones, it did not highlight, nor go into depth, why he felt that the larger one had more classism in it. There weren’t any major examples on classist behavior observed which would have sold the concept better, but instead all the article did in the end is note that it existed.
Little could have anyone suspected that in the last weekend of July, a convention from Syndey, Australia would provide us with a new neologism that would elicit more groans and eyerolls than even the infamous words of “yiff” or “popufur”. This word would become known as the highlighting of elitism, particularly that of fiscal abundance. More ironic is that the convention that coined this phrase was even smaller than the Utah convention at an attendance cap of 300.
This word is “fursuite”. A word put forth to the press by the chair of Harbour City Fur Con. It was defined as meaning “a fursuit that is cheaply made”; giving the example of a costume that is being worth less than $5,000. What followed in its wake was a stark look at classist behaviors at the small Syndey gathering, and the fandom at large.
Full suits good; partial suits bad
“I have seven suits and sometimes it’s hard to decide what to wear,” Mr Cattaneo said. “But, I think it’s a bit like getting a new pair of shoes — sometimes you just want to wear something because it’s new.”
-HLFC Con Chair in interview with news.com.au
With ownership of seven fursuits by their own admission, the convention chair obviously finds the costuming aspect as a primary function of their interest in the fandom. Another interesting thing to note that highlights the chair’s interest in the costumes is their choices in the guests of honor. One was RamonZeng Tiger, a talented fursuit designer from Brazil who creates under the organization Furry Machine. A well known example of his work being Crash Azarel who does short video skits with his suit. Another was Syber, who is yet another talented fursuit crafter who just so happens to the be the president of Made Fur You. Considered one of the most well-known fursuit businesses in the furry world.
Now it is not unusual for talented fursuit creators or performers to receive honorary guest positions at conventions. One would be hard pressed to say costuming is not an integral part of the fandom and certainly is a part of the identity of the fandom as a whole. Some would argue too much as the outside media seems to treat the costumers as the omnibus of the fandom, to which it is not. Unfortunately for those who are irate at this dubious connection, the leadership of the fandom seems content with this misunderstanding with the mainstream press as it’s better than their old belief that we are some sex cult.
What is unusual about this situation is that there were two guest of honors for the same year that revolve around one facet of the fandom. Usually the guests have a much larger variety of talents: writing, artistry, community engagement, and other such elements. So, it can be quite telling what a board or chair decides on for their guests of honor. For instance, Anthrocon typically goes for guests that are not members of the fandom directly, but are outsiders that create things more mainstream that are of interest to furs. This plays into their theme of trying to make bridges between the fandom and the outside world. In this way they try to make it a more approachable by inviting outsiders in. Likewise, it can't be seen as coincidental that those at HCFC who were honored just so happen to have connections to the part of the fandom that the leader of the convention had commented in the paper with his elitist tones. Who they chose to honor puts an emphasis on what they felt is the most important part of the fandom. In this case talented fursuit makers and performers.
After the mainstream press article was released, past pictures from the Sydney convention started enforce that these preferences went even further than guest of honor choices. People noticed that the fursuit photo taken at a nearby park seemed to have all high quality full body fursuits with no partials in site. Rumors started to come forth that those with partials, or what the chair would go on to call “fursuites” were ushered from the photo so that the more quality fursuits could be seen. One local source who contacted me indicated that the rumors about the segregation of partials from full suiters in the picture was factual.
The group photo rumour was indeed true, the partials were all pushed to the back.
Some of the attendees were crying, some are just kids!
Bullying Little Furry Classism at BLFC
If the quote of children crying sounds a bit familiar, then you may recall an American incident of similar caliber that had happened at Biggest Little Fur Con in Reno, Nevada this year. In it a young girl was bullied by a convention attendee for wearing a Maskimals tiger head. She left the gathering in sorrow at having been demeaned like that by another furry over the quality of her mask and she missed the photo shoot because of it.
In response the convention allowed some furries to give the young lady her own private fursuit photoshoot gathering in her honor. This made the message quite clear that such nasty behavior would not be tolerated by the staff. The individual who had bullied was also found out and had their badge revoked by the staff, the name of the aggressor never released due to privacy concerns that revolve around attendee revocation.
One could see this type of classist behavior in other hobbies as well. Like a motor head teasing a man who drives a minivan, or a PC gamer teasing another gamer who uses a laptop as opposed to a water-cooled desktop that consumes enough power to run a small town. There are people in this world that are so devoted to the altar of their hobby (some of those that literally have alters, such as religion) and put so much effort and finance into it that they can’t help but brag or demean those that are less devote than they.
Brunt Budgeting Banter Bruhaha
As a matter of disclosure, I had started developing this article in early August. As I was putting together the final words, another statement made by a Twitter user would create yet another example of classist controversy in the fandom. The tweet made by Elder Rubber Asylum was a common sort of joke made about fiscal irresponsibility that people had typically bantered in the fandom for quite a few years and as far as I can remember.
“I’m so broke I’m not sure how I’m going to eat this week.”
One week later:
“Getting on the plane now! Can’t wait to see everyone at con!”
— Elder Rubber Asylum (@Rubberasylum) August 11, 2018
Jokes like this that point out the tendencies of furs to be seen committing to actions that are deemed as financially irresponsible are not uncommon in the fandom. Usually they underline those that will ask for an emergency funding for standard life items like rent, food, or transportation prior to telling the world they are purchasing art, a fursuit, or even a trip to a convention. Since these are not an uncommon statement or jest, it was quite surprising as to the reaction that was received by the tweet.
Classist accusations flew fast and furiously. The main point of those frustrated was that the impoverished deserve their vacations just as much as those that are well off enough to not have to live paycheck to paycheck. One anonymous source stating their feelings of financial exasperation in being guilted by their fellow furs about their fiscal decisions can be seen below
If you're the type who struggles to eat every month, maybe that one con is your only chance in a year or longer to see people who accept you as you are, and it's the only thing keeping you from losing that last little bit of will to live. If that's you, that shit can be worth it. I know first-hand what it's like to feel that crushing loneliness of your own poverty not only costing you opportunities in your day-to-day life but also robbing you of the larger opportunity to go somewhere where you actually fit in. It's where I am now. The idea that people in poverty should suffer the maximum possible austerity as punishment for their impoverishment is a byproduct of thinking that poor people are always poor because they "deserve to be". Because that's not accurate, nothing that follows from that is either.
I get that the OP of the quoted post has since clarified and heavily narrowed who they're talking about, so they can continue to poke fun at that exact kind of person in ways that also catch a whole lot of otherwise poor people in that net. The sentiment is still nasty.
This tonal shift in response to pokes at fiscal decisions has made it clear that some in the furry fandom have had enough with having the way they wish to spend their money questioned by their fellow furs, particularly those whom are not financially well off. But it would be biased to not note that furs who can afford exuberance and have drop down a large amount of money on fursuits also receive hefty criticism for their purchases, even when the buyer isn't using the moment to brag about their wealth like the HLFC example. So in this way the judgement of cash flow swings both ways.
The standard way people like to think of classism is defined by fancy homes, cars, and jewelry and those that have those things looking down upon others that don’t. However, this does appear to occur in other forms. Such as one’s ability to understand trivial knowledge about the content their hobby revolves around, whether we’re talking religious texts or Star Trek quotes. Classism will exist as a side effect in society as long as people can peruse different paths or can hold different quantities of wealth or talent. And as it would seem, the furry fandom is not immune to the cult of stuff-ism, even if that stuff is the stuffed costumes we bear.