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Furry is not a Fandom

This essay is aimed towards furries who believe they are part of a "fandom". Other sorts of furries, or non-furries, should understand that the essay is not aimed at you and that I don't mean to make any judgement about the way you act.

Preface: My Bias

Everyone's got a bias. If you refused to lend an ear to people who didn't share your bias, nothing would ever get done. I'll now admit my bias; if you refuse to read my essay because of it, I'll be forced to call you an unreasonable person.

I am not a furry. I am in fact a Something Awful goon, Something Awful being a website disliked by many furries. The administrator of Something Awful recognizes the exact problem that I am about to discuss, but rather than trying to convince them with reason he's simply kicked out all the furries until they solve the problem on their own.

I have more faith in humanity than that. Besides which, I visit other websites than Something Awful on occasion, and I am disgusted by the amount of drama and hatred being caused there by this misconception. Thus, this essay.

What is a fandom?

I'm going to tackle this less controversial question first and get it out of the way. "Fandom" is a real English word, and not a neologism; I was surprised to learn this at first. According to Princeton University's WordNet, it means

fandom: n. the fans of a sport or famous person

It would be cheap, though, to say that since furry is neither a sport nor a famous person, furry is not a fandom. Let's turn to the second source that lists it as a word, the American Heritage Dictionary.

fandom: n. All the fans of a sport, an activity, or a famous person.

Dictionaries are not the definitive source for words such as "fandom" where the accepted meaning might be changing on the Internet. But you can see from these two definitions that fandoms revolve around things that are continually happening. If you are a member of the Quentin Tarantino fandom, then you are looking forward to the movies he will release in the future. If you are in the anime fandom, you enjoy discussing and watching the newest anime.

What do people mean when they say "furry is a fandom"?

But if you are in the furry fandom, what are you following? I will look to some furry-written explanations, because God knows there are quite a few, for their definitions. First, a long essay at the Anthrocon 2004 website.

Just what is "Furry" fandom?

Anthropomorphic or "humanized" animals have been with us since the dawn of civilization. From the gods of ancient Egypt to the advertising icons of the modern day, people of every culture have created fanciful creatures simply by imbuing animals with human traits. Only within the last two decades has anthropomorphic or "Furry" fandom been recognized as a distinct fan-base in its own right. Fans are found in all corners of the world, and come from all races and ages and creeds. We are bound together across the most daunting barriers by our mutual admiration for these beasts of myth and legend who, by simple reflection, give us a better window into ourselves.

Note the longwinded "explanation" which seems to dodge the question. Thankfully, the question is answered, at least in some part, in the second paragraph.

A large number of anthropomorphics fans are employed in scientific or technical fields. A significant percentage have college diplomas and many of those hold advanced degrees. This, perhaps, is what leads many casual observers to raise an eyebrow. "Why would someone like this be into cartoon animals? Isn't that unusual?"

Here's something interesting. While continuing to refer to furry as a fandom, the Anthrocon managers are asking themselves rhetorical questions that would be ridiculous when discussing any true fandom. Would someone find it "unusual" for educated people to be "into" soccer, or movies, or Star Trek? Even anime, which is often mistaken for children's cartoons, would never conjure that sort of question. Why would someone like this be into cartoon animals?

If we look at the world around us, however, we will see that anthropomorphized animals are an integral part of our culture. We use them to represent our political parties. We talk to our dogs (and some even imagine they talk back, though in their own way). We put a tiger in our tank. We cheer for mascots -- anthropomorphic animals dressed in team uniforms -- at our favorite sporting events. Our casual observer may simply be unaware that it is only in the last forty years that cartoons and cartoon animals have been relegated to the world of children. Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and their ilk were once targeted primarily to an adult audience, their productions filled with innuendo and biting political satire.

The argument posed here is that the "tiger in your tank" is an example of a furry character. But that's meant to be something comedic; "funny animals" that walk and talk are not created in order to be animals, but rather in order to be funny, in a lowbrow Look Who's Talking kind of way.

I wonder why it is that Looney Tunes now considered children's material. In any case, at last we have an example. But I don't think furry is a Looney Tunes fandom.

Fans of anthropomorphics today simply have not forgotten those roots.

The average Furry fan is cast from the same mold as the science fiction or sword-and-sorcery fan; all of us imagine strange and thrilling worlds and try to picture ourselves living in those worlds.

No particular "worlds" are mentioned. I will skip some of the irrelevant parts of this essay at this point; feel free to read the rest yourself.

More and more people are coming to realize that Furry fandom is not about the curious behavior trumpeted in the scandal sheets, but is instead an artistic and literary genre that is practiced and enjoyed by tens of thousands worldwide.

What art? What literature? I can't recall any major furry television shows or movies that are produced for adults. Furry literature is extremely limited; famous works such as the Redwall and NIMH series have an intended audience of children.

If you as an adult still occasionally like to flip to the old cartoons, or have a stuffed animal sitting on the dashboard of your car, or buy cereal because it has a cool tiger on the box, you may well enjoy what our fandom has to offer.

I'll come back to this later. Note that we are still talking about the realm of children: stuffed animals, Saturday morning cartoons, and sugar cereal.

For completeness, we'll look at other explanations as well. An anonymous author brings us an "Introduction to Furry Fandom", which advises people to use as introductory reading material.

What is a "furry"?

A furry is an anthropomorphic animal character. Some examples of anthropomorphic characters would be cartoon animals featured in animation, such as Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo, or Donald Duck. Some may also appear as mascots or advertising characters, like McGruff the Crime Dog or the Exxon Tiger. On the other end of the spectrum, furries can be talking animals featured in fairy tales, such as Aesop's Fables or literature, such as Watership Down. Also, actual furry fans themselves are also sometimes referred to as furries.

We are still strictly in the realm of children! To the sugar cereal mascot we have added a government mascot for children, and to the cartoons we have added some fairy tales, but there is nothing here that is intended for adults. The most mature thing on the list is Watership Down, which I read in fourth grade.

What is "furry"?

On that same website,, a nicely written essay called The Effect of the Lion King is hosted, with this summary by the webmaster:

An essay, this was written by one fan of The Lion King who explained what a profound effect it had on his life. I include it because this paper helped me discover the wonder of The Lion King, and hence, my own furry tendencies.

Excuse me! "Furry tendencies"? Do people talk about their "soccer tendencies"? "Movie geek tendencies"? "Michael Moore tendencies" (oh God, I hope not)?

You are abusing the word "fandom".

Furry does not revolve around something that is actively happening, like a fandom does. The interest in TaleSpin and Looney Tunes are peripheral to the real interest in anthropomorphic animals. And when you have an interest in a some sort of object, hmm, let's try to pin a word on this one...

2. An object of unreasonably excessive attention or reverence . . .
3. Something, such as a material object . . . that arouses sexual desire and may become necessary for sexual gratification.

You might take issue with this. It is pretty obvious that the authors above writing about the "furry fandom" take issue with it, because they are clinging tightly to the idea of "furry art and literature" somehow tying the "fandom" together. So, let's make a little test of it.

Let's take your average guy who enjoyed reading Redwall but has no sexual interest in funny animals whatsoever. Would you:

  • call this guy a furry
  • expect him to adapt a "fursona", or at the very least imagine himself as an anthropomorphic animal
  • consider the possibility that he would dress up in a fursuit for pleasure
  • expect him to enjoy the furry artwork on VCL

If you really thought over the situation and answered "yes" to all of these, you've got serious issues that are beyond my ability to deal with.

Now, as a second test, instead of Joe Average, take a person whose first experience with furry is not with high art or literature but with pornography, and he enjoyed it. How would you answer those questions for him?

My point is even if someone enjoyed a funny animal comic strip or cartoon in his past, he will probably be revolted by all furries , and definitely be revolted by the sexual aspect of furry. This just isn't something you can expect people to take a liking to because of the kids' stuff of the past that they did enjoy.

Furry is a fetish. So?

That means furries are being much too obnoxious about making themselves "accepted" everywhere. There are a lot of sexual fetishes that people consider gross and would rather not hear about. Furry is one of these. People are either going to laugh at you or be disgusted with you if you bring up furry in a regular conversation. This isn't just common sense, it's personal experience. I laughed; other people slammed the furry into the ground and forced him to shut up.

This also means that you have to stop reacting angrily to "persecution". Furry is not some sort of religious belief you hold; it's a quirky part of you that other people find hard to deal with. You need to learn how to be able to take a joke, because they are never going to stop poking fun at you no matter how much you campaign for it.

Even in the realm of anime, which has a legitimate fandom going for it, fans generally know how to laugh at the silly and meaningless parts of their own community. Only furries have this strange lack of humbleness. It needs to stop.

PvP 'Fur is Bad' comic strip

Appendix: Questions and Arguments

If I can't refer to a "furry fandom", how do I refer to all furries?
How about you refer to it as the "furry community". I'm not going to deny the existence of such a thing.
Does this mean we'll have to stop the furcons?
No. They have conventions for BDSM, don't they? Although you've never heard of them, likely, because they only advertise inside their own little world. The proper idea is to continue holding conventions, but to stop saying "Come to our convention and learn about furries" in newspaper and Internet ads. That gets you the sort of media coverage that you hate.
Furry is just like anime.
The analogy to anime— that furry has a "normal" side and an erotic side— is false. Anime, while it has a children's aspect (Sailor Moon and Pokemon), is primarily for adults (Akira, Ghost in the Shell, Princess Mononoke), and the erotic side is usually hidden from view just like in regular pornography. Additionally, someone can enjoy an anime show for adults without having to find it at all sexual. For furry, all of the important art is intended only for children, and erotic overtones and pornography are found in the majority of self-described furry art.

Plus, furry's relationship to anime is not the problem. As I said above, anime fans act differently than furries.
There have been furry television shows.
I'd like to hear names. So far I've heard Father of the Pride, which is only "furry" as an elementary-school gimmick, and Fritz the Cat, which was never broadcast.