Thursday, July 3, 2014

What Buzzfeed Doesn't Get About Being a Furry. by Ken

[Editor's Note- recently Buzzfeed posted an interview about misconceptions on furries, which featured neither quotes from the furry who was interviewed nor misconceptions. We thought you'd want to hear what an actual Furry has to say on the subject.]

     Hi There! It's me again, Ken, AKA Malkontent, and since I am now the Furry Correspondent, I am going to take you through the recent buzzfeed article 11 Eye Opening Misconceptions About the Furry Fandom with an eye from someone who lives it. (Editor's Note: Ken included a link to the article in question. I've removed it - the Ace of Geeks doesn't link to clickbait. :) ) Here's some points the 'journalists' over there made, and how I feel about them as an actual furry.

     "Furries are not sexual deviants." I really wish this wasn't the first one because it's the most self explanatory and, as such, it's the one I'm gong to spend the least amount of time on. Furries are a community. Yes, there is sometimes late night programming at a convention. READ: Late Night. When you go to a Con you have a choice whether you want to see the explicit art in the art show or whether you want to attend the the panels on how to correctly create anatomically correct images, usually around 10 PM. We have layers.

     "Being a Furry means appreciating art and artistic talent." There's a lot of times in this list that Buzzfeed lists something as a "misconception." They mean that an outsider, these things aren't obvious. But to anyone who's spent any time with us, they are. We are all about the expression. If you read my last piece, My Time Among the Suits, or Mike's piece, then you have a better idea of what's going on. We express a piece of ourselves, we do not hide from the outside world. Well, I guess you could say that renting out a hotel for a week is hiding from the outside world, but that's just a convenience issue. We express ourselves in a lot of different ways. I talk a lot about my paws. Anyone who knows me can see my collars. You'll see people walking down the streets of San Francisco with some really pretty tails (that cost a pretty penny). When you put on the costume, or the fur suit, you are obviously being expressive. You are being yourself writ large.

     "Furries feel betrayed by the media" Again, a "misconception" to an outsider, maybe. Most of us really really really do. CSI, with the fur pile of death, the "comic" on the scifi channel deciding to do his best to marginalize a pair of really talented fursuiters, or the infamous Dr Phil. We don't get good press. Never have, never will. There are so many times when we have had ample opportunity for the media to come to us and say "Hey, here's this thing. People are curious about this thing. Tell us about this thing." and we are taken out of context. We are treated as the punchline of a joke, not of our own writing, and it snowballs from there. To the point where I've had to explain to the parents of young furs that, no, your child is not going to do anything inappropriate with stuffed animals. Your child just wants a different avenue to express themselves. I hope this gets better. I think articles like those on Buzzfeed and some content on Facebook are actually trying to make it better.

     "Being a Furry has dangerous consequences." Ok, this one gets weird. I almost didn't want to take it on. But here goes: being a Furry means opening yourself up to misconceptions and ridicule. This has inherent risk. I never ever encourage anybody, who isn't living on their own, to go out with their collar, with their ears, and their tail. Because, if they aren't out to their parents, then when it gets back to their parents, this person has to fight them not only on the fact that they were withholding something, but also that they were not able to control the exposure. And yes, I say come out. There are a lot of ways, between the fact that the fursona is tied strongly to one's sense of self and the general idea of sexualization held by the American public, in which coming out as a Furry is like coming out as gay. But this is not intrinsic to being a Furry. I cannot stress this enough. Being a Furry is not dangerous, but people's reaction to your being a Furry can be.

     "Fur suits are complex works of art." This is 100% true. They are. My partial suit, which is being made by a very talented young artist, is nine articles of clothing: two front paws, a head, four tails.  Each of these has taken approximately six to eight weeks to design. When you take into account things like the kangaroo suits, where yes, they actually do jump, or the demon suits that the otherkin wear, or the two metre in diameter tribble, things get incredibly complex. Cosplayers thinking that they can make a fursuit quickly have been known to cry. Then again, fursuiters who think they can make a DC cosplay quickly have been known to cry, same planet different worlds. It's another reason why the "yiffing" thing is so laughable. When you look at the idea of "relations" in a fur suit you have eight hundred dollars of fake fur on top of a hundred and fifty dollar body suit plus everything want to get random bodily fluids on it? Good luck with that, I'm glad you're made of money.

      "Furries are not an exclusive group"  No, we're not. Really, really, we're not. As my editor Jarys and their really wonderful girlfriend are learning, everybody's a little bit furry.  But seriously, Jarys has been a real great help in bridging the two cultures and has even started picking up a lot of the lingo . So...take us for what we are. We are people+. If you accept us, we will love you. If you don't accept us, we will ignore you...and go back to the people that accept us. This isn't exclusion, this is just prioritization of emotional resources.

     "Furries are a diverse group of people" This is one I do not think should have gotten its own entry, but I'll expand on this. On Facebook, recently, I befriended a fellow fur who has political and social ideas who are located one hundred fifty degrees from mine and we are incredibly good friends. We have bonded over our fursonas, we have bonded over many geek things. We agree to disagree on topics such as guns, G-d, and many other things. I am reminded of the Persian proverb: "I against my brother; my brother and I against my father; my brother, father, and I against the neighbor; and all of us against a stranger." I'm also reminded of DC Fontana's absolutely spectacular "IDIC: "Infinite Diversity In Infinite Combinations". What's it mean? Exactly what you think: If we do not embrace our diversity in all of its shapes and all of its combinations. our blindness will be our undoing.

     "...Yet extremely tight knit" Again, Buzzfeed, why put this as a separate entry? Of course we are tight knit. We are a community. Go back to Poli-Sci. This is part of the definition of community. But, hey, it's a blog post. I'll try to take a look at this. Going back to FurCon of this year, one of the things that I didn't point out is that, when the elevators went down and I knew it was all gofurs on deck, I was on the fourth floor and had to get to the second. I was facing two flights of fire escape stairs. What did I do? I went to the stairwell and I asked the first fur I could find "Can you help me get down these stairs? I can hobble, but I need someone to bring down my chair." What happened within five minutes? Two furs walking in front of me, making sure everyone down the stairwell heard "we've got an injured gofer coming through!" Two furs carrying my chair behind me so it wasn't going K'THUNK K'THUNK K'THUNK K'THUNK! down the stairwell followed by two more behind them making sure none of us were stampeded from behind. They pick me up on the second floor, gently put me in my chair and push me over to the gofer hole. That's what we do for each other...because we are family.

      "The Furry fandom has become a safe haven from bullying" Yes, this is where people who want to express themselves a little differently can do it, no matter what that difference is as long as it doesn't hurt anybody or intrude on their comfort zone. Bully a fur, you deal with the furs. Flat out, we defend each other. We have no tolerance for this. There's been some drama on Facebook recently between Furries who want to tear each other down. We all, in each of the groups where I have seen this happen, band around the person who is being attacked and we help them. We don't mindless lash out against the attacker. We help the person who was attacked. Ok, I have nothing more to say publicly on that.

     "Finding your species takes time" Ok so...yes and no. It took me a long time to put the cat on Malkontent. That's 'cuz I'm weird. I've seen fursona descriptions be as general as "I'm a kitty cat" or "I'm a puppy". I have also seen them be as specific as "I'm a Madagascar Lemur with these specific genetic traits from an Abyssinian house cat." (I'm serious). It's just...what do you want people to think of you? That's where it takes time. Answering that question takes time. This is why people's fursona's tend to change. Malkontent is number three, he is not number Omega. We're going to have times, as humans, when our public expression changes. Eh, it's what we do.

     "Fursuits are not a requirement." So, see above rant about what is and is not a misconception. Fursuits are not a requirement and, as I learned at FurCon, never have been. When you think fur suits are a requirement, that puts a poverty bar on the fandom. No. Really, really, really no. The unfortunate part of this one is that people think that fursuits are a social expectation at the conventions. That is something I and others have taken it upon ourselves to correct. We don't go there. Really, why would we? We're not everywhere. Why turn people away because they are poor?

     The Buzzfeed piece closes "To some, the furry fandom is a confusing and possibly deviant subculture, but to furries, it is a loving and accepting part of their life they couldn't live without." You know, I've gone this whole time without mentioning the title of the blog. So, to this I say, take that title paragraph and, where it says "furry", insert "Geek".

Thank you.
Malkontent Blizzard, Signing off.

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