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Furries, George Floyd, and the Myth of 'Big Tent' Fandom

Discussion in 'General Carnal Souls Discussion' started by Dolfuss, Jun 13, 2020.

  1. Dolfuss

    Dolfuss Well-Known Member Member

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    By now, everyone probably knows the situation in the United States. On May 25, George Perry Floyd, Jr., a respected member of the Christian community of Houston's Third Ward, who had moved to Minneapolis in search of work and was recently laid off due to COVID-19 cutbacks, was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin, a former colleague from previous work as a nightclub bouncer, during arrest on unproven allegations of attempting to buy cigarettes with counterfeit money. During a widely-filmed sequence of events, after having manoeuvred Floyd into the back of a police car, Chauvin pulled Floyd out and restrained him on the pavement, pressing his knee to Floyd's neck as fellow officers Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane restrained his torso and legs, while a fourth officer, Tou Thao, prevented public intervention. Despite calling out multiple times "I can't breathe," Floyd remained restrained and ultimately lost consciousness; despite protests from multiple onlookers, Chauvin continued restraining Floyd by the neck until paramedics ordered him to withdraw. The neck-hold lasted 8 minutes 46 seconds; Floyd entered cardiac arrest during ambulance transit, and was pronounced dead at 9:25 PM at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

    Following a backtrack of the initial police statement and two autopsies, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter; two days later the charge was upgraded to second-degree murder, with Kueng, Lane and Thao charged as accessories. Floyd's murder was the breaking point in a pattern of police brutality, and protests erupted nationwide; since May 25, regular protests have been held both in major cities and small towns; police have engaged in violent clashes that have turned into riots; other departments are joining the call for reform; an 'Autonomous Zone' was established in downtown Seattle evocative of the Paris Commune; Minneapolis city council voted to disband its police force altogether; Donald Trump has responded by channeling Herbert Hoover, Walter Headley and George Wallace, threatening to sic the military on the nation's citizens; on the orders of Attorney General William Barr, unmarked federal police agents in military gear effectively occupied Washington, D.C. in contempt of the city government; countries throughout Europe have engaged in solidarity protests of their own. To put it simply, all the fault lines of America—racial, political, social, medical, economic—have converged in what one may dare to call a revolutionary moment not unlike what swept the Arab world in 2010.

    But the scope of this thread is much narrower.

    I am not a furry; I orbit in the Fandom's outer rings largely ignorant of its peculiar dramas. Yet the way in which it has received the George Floyd protests has been loud, shocking, and illuminating, and this thread was written in large part simply to help me process it.

    Furries have long endured stigmatization that I needn't repeat here; their general response has been to tout a key tenet of inclusion and tolerance, bringing together different niche interests and backgrounds within a shared community—what in politics is known as a 'big tent' party. This is the message it continues to broadcast to the world, and which, as the social niche of all the other social niches, has led to common association with the LGBTQ+ movement. Think of furries, and the stereotype probably resembles a metrosexual, college-educated liberal. In fact, statistics appear to confirm this. However, there is never a perfect consensus within any group, and long before now the community has grappled with defining its core identity: the Burned Furs (anti-eroticism), Nazi/Soviet Furs (fetishization of armchair history), Bronies ("do they really count?"), to say nothing of the hardcore fetishes that prompt double-takes even by the kinkshame-averse.

    But prevailing over all this confessionalism is the common belief that furries exist beyond race and politics and all the other human frailties. It is a transcendental mythology, utopian in vision, admirable in its aspiration if not its actual feasibility. It's a world in which all the different species live in perfect harmony while somehow still meeting their dietary requirements, where sexually transmitted infections don't exist, where libertines are the norm rather than the exception, where no-one is looked down upon for the shape of their body, the colour of their skin (or fur, feathers or scales), and least of all their sexual orientation. It is escapist, yes, but compared to a world where a single species habitually tears itself asunder over far less consequential differences, does furrydom not offer the happier alternative?

    All mythology, be it the heroic epic of the gods or contemporary nationalism, is a form of storytelling. Human beings (and yes, that includes otherkin) innately interpret the world through stories. Contrary to popular assumption, our memories are not only malleable but actively rewritten in order to organize the fractious nature of reality into a comprehensible narrative. But crafting a story necessarily means emphasizing certain details over others, promoting specific plotlines and discarding their counterpoints, and in the case of most outright fictions, drawing it all to a convenient and definitive conclusion. It is not that myth is necessarily a brazen lie, but that to understand the way in which all group identities are rooted in acceptance of a common foundational narrative, one must recognize that no founding story can account for every possible permutation within the personal stories of its members. Generally speaking, the larger the scope of a community, the more generalized its binding story, and vice versa: Movie fans beget Sci-Fi fans, Sci-Fi fans beget Star Wars fans. Star Wars fans war with Star Trek fans, whose internal factions skirmish over the Original Series, Deep Space 9, NuTrek, etc. No matter where one pegs the scale, a conflict of perspectives will occur—the general story collapses in the face of the particular.

    So it is with the Furry Fandom. When everyone can comfortably sing along to the lofty-but-vague promises of the General Story, the community appears cohesive. When it's all just fantasy, everyone's having fun. But once the real world creeps in, the once-solid community quickly splinters into its smaller tents. Nowhere does this manifest more clearly than e621.net, which on a good day resembles Furry Reddit, on a bad day 4chan-lite. In a community that so thoroughly fetishizes non-normative sexuality that mass uploads of futanari porn is considered "one of those days", the hostility to actual LGBT activism and transgender users is genuinely arresting. Moderators are constantly screening horny users sharing TMI on pictures of lesbian tribbing, yet uploads for Pride Month or calls for trans rights are downvoted out of spite with jeers of "get your politics out of my porn", if they're not outright denying the social reality. The recent overhaul of intersex tags away from vulgar colloquialisms was denounced as a further intrusion of "PC culture". Years before the current climate, virtually every upload featuring a swastika provoked mid-key flame wars between calls to refuse any breathing space for symbols of intolerance, and those that insist on absolute freedom of speech, even as the message itself turns their stomachs.

    Opportunistic trolling is, sadly, to be expected, and partisan firebrands exist in every fandom. But what stands out to me are the 'radical centrists' who, at the same time they claim "no interest" in these arguments, try to sweep them under the rug. They're the ones who insist it's "not the place" to make a statement, that there are "better venues" to air one's grievances, that it's "embarrassing" to speak as a furry against real-world issues. Never mind the fundraising done for animal shelters, or ALS research, or the Australian bushfires—once a furry starts signal-boosting political causes, even ones directly relevant to one's own life, one becomes fair game for the mob.

    I can't pretend to speculate individual motivations, but based on the exchanges I've seen, people don't want to be roused from the dream. The people so eager to defend the hakenkreuz on the grounds of 'free expression' are tellingly absent when artists are pilloried for speaking from the heart. The Fandom invites you to be yourself... provided your real self remains safely out of sight. The George Floyd protests have raised this hypocrisy to a new pedestal: artists who are black, or mixed-race, or transgender, who even within the supposed rainbow village of Furrydom constitute a slim minority, who are channeling their experience into this moment, are attacked as "slacktivists" and "attention-whores" for reminding the escapists of what they'd rather forget—never mind they could very well be living on the front lines. It's worth noting that while the overwhelming majority of furries are male, the actual content creators are majority female, making the common refrains of "I came here to fap!" and "Stick to drawing porn" all the more revealing as to whose story is presumed to take priority.

    We've heard this before, of course: in 2016, it was Colin Kaepernick's branding as "traitor"; in 2003, it was the Dixie Chicks' "Shut up and sing!"; in the Sixties, it was "Negro, stay in your lane!" Many see furrydom as an escape from reality, its artists the abettors of that escape; deviating from their allotted role upsets the precarious façade of a harmonious community. But whom is a community for, if not its constituents, and how does a fandom predicated on otherwise-boundless individual expression reconcile this perceived need to suppress dissent? This is the moment when the most vulnerable citizens have the spotlight, when the purported values of the furry 'big tent' are most in need: love, brotherhood, acceptance, anti-discrimination, and perhaps most importantly, peer-to-peer support. Yet no such solidarity has emerged: the discourse has degenerated along traditional partisan lines, hate speech runs rampant, and those that try to use their voice, even as simply as declaring "This is wrong", are accused of dragging "unnecessary" drama into an irrelevant sphere. The peanut gallery that besmirches an artist for using her vocation to address the issue instead of taking to the streets, is the very same group of consumers furious that she's not catering to their escapist fap-fantasy. The apotheosis of #FirstWorldProblems crashing head-first into a genuine national crisis might have been hilarious, had any of the perpetrators possessed a sliver of self-awareness.


    On July 31, 1914, the prominent French socialist Jean Jaurès was shot twice in the back while dining in Paris; he died five minutes later. The de facto leader of the pre-war pacifist movement, Jaurès had attempted to organize an international general strike to force the great powers off the warpath, and was scheduled to hold a conference August 9 in a last-ditch attempt to abort what became the First World War. His assassin, the aptly-named Raoul Villain, was a nationalist who as a student held membership in the revanchist League of Young Friends of Alsace-Lorraine. In the wake of Jaurès's death, the tenuous Franco-German worker solidarity collapsed, with the assassination itself used as a jingoistic call to arms. Socialist internationalism lost to nationalist tribalism. Tens of millions paid the price.

    Observing the Furry Fandom's reactions to May 25 is observing the collapse of its founding myths. Long have furries pretended they're a big tent transcending nationality, ethnicity, sex and gender in a liberal utopia of universal brotherhood. Everyone is welcome, no-one is judged: your fursona is an escape from the confines of the immediate material world, a means of realizing your 'true' self beyond the boundaries of prejudice. But for all its lofty aspirations, the promise of a true parallel (if not superlative) society has proven an abject failure. Try as they might, the gatekeepers have never been able to enforce an "apolitical" fandom, only mediate a temporary cease-fire between its constitutent cliques. When the dream collapses, as it has in the midst of the current protests, furries do not flock to the big tent but flee to their individual camps—the ranks break and the shattered community retrenches along familiar fault lines: whites against non-whites, cis against trans, haves vs the have-nots. Individuals that found therapy and genuine self-actualization through the Fandom, arguably its most deserving members, are savaged by those clinging to the escapist delusion that everything would all work out if you just stick to the fantasy. There is no furry Jaurès, but Villains abound.

    The death of George Floyd has prompted a Black response, a blue-collar response, a medical response, a capitalist response, a transgender response, conflicted police responses, and a thug response from the POTUS himself. There will be no Furry response. For all its lofty ideals and claims to community, in the face of adversity the Fandom's central story has proven too weak to outweigh its members' other, non-furry narratives. It is not that the Fandom is inherently deficient, but that its social aspirations ultimately cannot overcome the intersectional friction of its membership. What this means depends on who's asking: if like me, furrydom is a hobby, nothing is really at stake; to others, whose identity and self-worth are deeply seeded in the Fandom, the loss of friends and followers over one's response to this upheaval may be catastrophic. It is never easy to learn the friends you thought you had were never really yours.

    In the end, this thread is my effort to weave the fractured furry feedback to the George Floyd protests into a coherent story of its own. Even knowing the dark underbelly belying its 'kumbaya' face, I am genuinely shocked at the sheer hostility in the Fandom over current events, how quickly (almost eagerly) its professed comradery has buckled under pressure—how little the community seems to mean when put to serious test. Perhaps, some day in the distant future, the furries will have realized their utopian vision. Racism will be abolished, class inequality erased for good, and social harmony taken for granted in the "post-political" global village. They will look back on history and wonder how they ever let such petty divisions rip their community apart.

    Until then, they remain all too human.
     
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  2. Benji

    Benji Director Staff Artist Writer

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    This was a fantastic read, thank you for putting the time and effort into it. I have to be thankful that, despite deciding that it's no longer acceptable for me to stay quiet and remain impartial, I haven't recieved much opposition. Perhaps a product of the circles I inhabit, the only negative has been a slow but steady decline in followers. That's something I'm more than happy to deal with. Pretend idealism, or escapism I suppose, is nice and is valid in some cases, but those lofty goals of harmony don't just happen by wishing real hard.

    I think what really gets me is how often opposing views are labeled and thus dismissed as 'political'. I think that's a problem in itself. Knowing the best terms to use for gender and sexuality shouldn't be political, or an argument. 'Politically correct' is (mis)used to mean 'Socially acceptable', and what is socially acceptable is changing day by day, more quickly than I can ever recall anyway.

    A lot of bigots and bastards have been dug out of the community and exposed, lately. Almost with surprise, too, as if the people they hate should be fine with them and just keep the fantasy going for them. As if it's their fault for revealing they're actually a human being behind the art and that alone is 'political' and if they'd just kept to the fantasy they would have never known that follower hated them. Because, really, that follower wouldn't have until they found out. So, to me, often cries of 'keep politics out of porn' is basically 'don't spoil your porn by reminding me a black person drew it because I can't deal with that', or something similar. Replace black with trans or gay or female or whatever, pick your prejudice.

    I'm mostly just rambling, not as coherent as your post, Dolfuss. I'm not willing to 'shut up and fap' as its said. Things have to change. If having a sliver of empathy toward others is too much to ask of someone then what I make isn't for them.
     
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  3. Nechrom

    Nechrom Well-Known Member Member

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    I think you brought up all the components needed to reach the possibly boring conclusion that a community is only a community as far as its focus is concerned.

    Some have violently opposing values, ideologies and world views that clash as soon as those are revealed. Some are simply escapists, fleeing a boring, uncomfortable or downright horrible reality. Some don't care either way and just want as much "content" as possible.
    They all have in common that they get negatively affected by a shift in focus.

    If I've learned anything from this last month and a half with my personal issues. It's that when you feel bad, no amount of "just feel better" or "just don't let it get to you" helps.
    Whatever someone's "trigger" is it's not something they can turn off just because "it shouldn't matter".
    And while everyone shouldn't have to avoid each other's "triggers", they also shouldn't be surprised that most people have things that make them feel bad.

    Everyone has problems. Our brain makes sure of it. Even if someone's problem is smaller in relation to someone else's doesn't mean they end up feeling better.
    And what are we at the end of the day, but a bundle of feelings.
     
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  4. Dolfuss

    Dolfuss Well-Known Member Member

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    To quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb: "Hard science gives sensational results with a horribly boring process; philosophy gives boring results with a sensational process; literature gives sensational results with a sensational process; and economics gives boring results with a boring process." :p
     
  5. Avalonne

    Avalonne New Member Member

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    I am not as wordy as I'd like to be, and not as wordy as I sometimes need to be.

    There is but one trait that all furries share, and that is, despite our many differences in leanings, taste, orientation of moral or sexual compass, opinions, race, creed etc etc etc. and despite our collective escapism, we are humans.

    I can't in good conscience say that the May 25th is a political thing. Why? Because "politics" is a word tainted in the furry fandom and I feel moreso than it is outside of it. It's become synonym with annoyance, enmity and even social rupture within the community. Merely saying the word produces wide-spread sighs as some imagine the rollercoaster's screeching start.

    It goes beyond politics.

    At it's core, the mistreatment and murder of Mr. Floyd is a grave Human Rights violation and it has worrying roots in how one community is still being treated as lesser. That inhuman, dismissive and cruel thought and attitude is ingrained in the legal and political workings of an entire country. That must change.

    George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Kenney Watkins..
    These are but few names of a long list spanning decades upon decades of pain at the hands of a country, a government and a force that failed to protect its own citizens and instead served them death.
    Despite our need or want for escapism we cannot — SHOULD NOT — deny that we are human and thus inevitably linked to these situations by our very own humanity.

    If there is any good reason to fight, it's when it's for the rights of a fellow man or woman and for them to have as many as any other person, regardless of their condition. They are as human as any other and deserving of inalienable rights to life, health, safety, education, a fair salary, a fair opportunity to work, a fair opportunity to progress in their career, and no less, to be treated as equal.

    The fight is right when it's against injustice and for the betterment of us all.

    And no, I won't "shut up and fap", I won't "turn a blind eye" and I won't "sweep it under the rug" because at this junction and many years before it, silence is synonym to indifference.

    If we are indifferent to the pleas of a suffering human being, then we have failed to be decent. Failed to be good and above all, failed in what it is to be human possessed of that singular strength to strive for perfection, harmony and balance.
     
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  6. Zypher

    Zypher Member Member

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    Due to Covid I have largely been off the net and not been as active on forums and such.
    So this is a belated response, but after I read this post I had to leave some comment.
    Overall, I just want to say that this was a great read and thank you for putting effort into this!
    Also, since everyone has pretty much put in their two cents worth, and I am of the same view, I can’t think of anything else to add.
    Hopefully, more people will read this and be more thoughtful and caring about injustice.

    (Going back to my common position of observing from hiding)
     
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