Not This Again

by Simo

This article has come to my attention: The Structure of Furry.

Furry is not a fandom. At least, not any more. We're not a fandom because we aren't fans of some specific piece of art. There is no furry canon.

Been there; done that: Clarification for Clueless Anime Fans. The only saving grace here is that this latest article isn't a bash, which is what usually happens when you see this particular contention. Be that as it may, it is still a misconception, and JM is still quite wrong. He makes all the same mistakes as does that other anonymous writer. JM isn't such a dumbass about it, but he does manage to commit all the same errors.

Fandoms revolve around their canon. The canon provides a permanent reference point for all fandom-related activities. We furries have no such thing, and so furry is defined by whatever we, collectively, decide.

How does this differ from this?

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's the same argument, and it's a non-starter. Deliberately narrowing the definition to force it to fit your preconceived notions is a logical fallacy, and intellectually dishonest. It is also not true that every fandom must revolve around its canon. There are fandoms that do, such as the Star Trek fandom, Harry Potter fandom, LOTR fandom, and so forth. There are also more generalized fandoms, such as the sci-fi fandom, or the Anime fandom, or comic fandoms that do not revolve around some specific work within the larger genre. Would JM exclude these as fandoms too? It doesn't imply -- or require -- that one like every aspect of some genre. A sci-fi fan can be cold to some specific work. Not every Anime fan likes every single Anime ever created.

Having dismissed a "canon", then what binds Furs together? Here JM makes a monumental mistake:

The biggest common element among furries is the use of an animal-person avatar, our fursona. For most of us, our fursona is a representation of ourselves, and we present as our fursona on-line and in real-world furry spaces.

So, if you meet me on-line or in a furry space, I'll say "hello, I'm JM, and I'm a horse". If you meet me in a non furry space, I'll say "hello, I'm Matt" (and I'll think to myself "I'm a horse, hahahaha awesome").

JM and Matt are, physically, the same, but they are different identities. My furry identity, JM, is an imaginary creation but a personally important one. Lucky for me that all you other furries are have to accept the premise that I am a horse, which reinforces all those nice personal associations I feel about the horse. You make me feel good about being me. (Thanks.)

I think that this identity-play is at the heart of furry...

Any new furry entering the community today (and for the past decade or so) will find one implied requirement for entry: a fursona. Furry, today, is about identity—not fandom.

This is just plain silly. You are required to have a fursona? Really? I've been to lots of Furry sites, and I have never seen that anywhere in any ToS agreement. Ever. It also ignores the problem that lots of people on lots of different forums also have avatars: tech-related on tech forums, auto-related on NASCAR forums, gambling-related on Poker/gambling forums. It's a long established tradition, not hardly exclusive to Furry.

JM makes a further mistake here: he says "identity" is what Furry is all about. This description fits better with Therianthropy. To be sure, there are therians, otherkin, weres, in the fandom. However, not all Furries are therians, and therians and otherkin don't always appreciate this conflating of the two. This is a conflict best avoided.

Not surprisingly, furry has proven attractive to those people who don't fit into the mainstream world very easily. We have a lot of young people, who may be attracted to furry in those confusing years where they are no longer a child, but not yet an adult. And we have a lot of square pegs: the LGBT, the zoophiles, the fetishists, the borderline autistic, and so forth. All of these are people who might find special value in experimenting with an alternate identity -- and so they may be drawn to the furry world.

Again, no, just no. Not all Furries are young 'uns still searching for an identity, and not all Furs are "square pegs" either. If they -- or anyone else -- wants to experiment with alternate identities, they have far more choices than furdom. Given that, this can't be the only motivator, or even a significant one. We have no monopoly on that. This seems an act of pure desperation, having realized he's painted himself into a corner by denying that furdom has a canon: denying that it's the critters that unite us, he needs to manufacture a whole new raison d'etre for the very existence of Furry.

JM also doesn't get the DiY nature of furdom. He implies that a fandom can't be fans of their own creation. This is nonsense. To be sure, there are a lot of fandoms devoted to external creations. However, even here, the distinction is not so clear-cut. To their credit, J. K. Rowling and Bandai have been most supportive of fan fiction. There are terabytes on the web devoted to Harry Potter and Digimon fanfics. Other publishers, writers, and franchises, not so much. Some can become downright nasty when it comes to fanfic and fanart.

"Conventional", spectator fans indulge their creative impulses if given half a chance. So does one who pens Potter or Digimon fanfics cease being a "fan"? Then what does he become? Who would be the most likely to see and read his fanfic? Do "real fans" not read such fanfic? How absurd the suggestion! Of course, Furries can be fans of what other Furries produce, whether that be Furry songs, fics, art, fursuits, or fashion accessories. All of which are regularly discussed on many a Furry message board and forum. All of which are bought, sold, traded at cons, and on-line exchange sites, or through web sites.

This is not to say that Furry doesn't have the aspects of a subculture, as it certainly does. This is not an either/or proposition. You can have the intentional subcultural aspects, as well as the fandom aspect. That was a source of friction, and some nasty flame wars back in the Usenet days of the mid-1990s. This even caused the split between the and Usenet groups. After all the sound and fury settled, both groups had quite the overlap in memberships. It was hardly worth all that fuss. Nor is Furry unique in combining aspects. You have Trekkies who go to the effort of learning "Klingon", and Star Wars aficionados who live by the Jedi Code. Others are content not to involve themselves so deeply. No different from Furry. It was the original definition of a "Furry Lifestyler": one who wanted a more participatory experience as opposed to being a spectator and consumer.

At least JM's piece isn't a prelude to calling Furry a "fetish" and damning us all for furverts. Based on what JM wrote here...

Soon enough, the furries of 2013 will find themselves perplexed, and possibly unwelcome, in whatever the new furry world brings, just as Perri-the-fan finds himself today. And some of us will hark back to the good old days of 2013, back when JM was engaging in awesome wordplay on [adjective][species].

...and in this article: The Second Wave of Furry, it looks like he wants to refight an old battle that was settled before the dawn of the new millennium.

Let's not go there.