A Bitch About Furry

Tolerance is one of the great features of the furry community.

We need to be tolerant. Our community contains a lot of people who are sometimes marginalized in general society: gays, transsexuals, zoophiles, kinksters, even geeks.

This tolerance is sometimes positive acceptance, but it’s often simply neutral, the absence of rejection. Furry behaviour is often more tolerant than general society simply through such tacit acceptance. This is clearly demonstrated by the language we use, especially online where less direct methods of communication are less significant. Put simply, intolerant or offensive language is not appropriate in furry spaces.

There is one significant exception: women. Some furries, especially online, use sexist language. Worse, it’s being ignored, perhaps tacitly accepted, which fosters an environment which is unwelcoming towards women. Furry culture might reasonably be considered a sexist one.

To clarify: I do not think that furries are sexist. But I do think sexist language is common within furry.

To start with, I’d like to compare sexist language with other offensive terms:

1. Faggot

  • It is a homophobic term, largely because of the inherent implication that being gay makes you less of a person.
  • It has aggressive, confrontational connotations that suggests gay men are not welcome.
  • Once commonly used, it has fallen from favour through the indirect forces of political correctness.
  • Anyone using the word ‘faggot’ in a furry space can expect to be shouted down.

2. Nigger

  • It is a racist term, largely because of the inherent implication that being black makes you less of a person.
  • It has aggressive, confrontational connotations that suggests black people are not welcome.
  • Once commonly used, it has fallen from favour through the indirect forces of political correctness.
  • – Anyone using the word ‘nigger’ in a furry space can expect to be shouted down.

3. Bitch

  • It is a sexist term, largely because of the inherent implication that being female makes you less of a person.
  • It has aggressive, confrontational connotations that suggests women are not welcome.
  • Once commonly used, it has fallen from favour through the indirect forces of political correctness.
  • Yet ‘bitch’ is fairly common in furry circles.

A quick semantic aside: ‘bitch’ can refer to a female dog. This makes it an appropriate term under some circumstances, much in the same way that a sheep might be referred to as a ewe. This usage is not relevant to the use of bitch as a sexist term.

(I’ll add that ‘faggot’ is a fairly common British word: it’s a kind of meatball made from liver, lungs, heart, and stomach lining. Yum.)

I have a couple of examples of furries using ‘bitch’ in public forums. Both are recent.

The first is from a Flayrah comment thread, written in response to an article on a recent death in the fandom. Please note that the comment is a blunt and emotional one (not that Flayrah comment threads are typically known for their dispassionate nuance), however that’s not my focus.

41-bitch1

Tim’s comments are directed towards the driver of a car involved in a fatal accident. She survived. The comment is angry, then becomes offensive with the sexist language exacta: ‘bitch’ and ‘cunt’. There two words suggest that Tim believes the driver’s gender is relevant, and perhaps partially to blame.

Tim’s terminology suggests that he is angered by the driver’s gender as much as by the accident itself. Many women reading his comment will have felt that anger directed towards them, by association.

Nobody comments on Tim’s sexist language, although he does get reprimanded for being generally unreasonable: someone steps into to call him a ‘stupid asshole’, at which point a moderate intervenes.

(I’ve edited some intervening comments in the thread for clarity: you can see the full exchange here.)

To keep this in context, this is a nothing but a comment thread on an emotive topic, no more than poorly-thought-out expressions of anger and impotent frustration. However I think it’s instructive that Tim’s sexist language was ignored while the namecalling wasn’t. Consider if Tim had used homophobic language, something the furry community doesn’t tolerate: if the driver of the car were gay, and Tim had called him a ‘faggot’, his language would have been firmly corrected (and Flayrah’s comment-rating system’s six votes wouldn’t have scored him 3/5).

My second example is a tweet sent out by a friend of mine:

 

I asked Sphelx about his comment, and he told me that the sexist slur was at least partly deliberate (I don’t really see how [bitch] is explicitly sexist, at least anymore… I think it’s been replaced with ‘cunt’… I was actually going to say ‘cunt’ at first, but then I decided to tone it down), but that his general intent was to express anger, not to be offensive.

Sphelx is not a fundamentally sexist person. He has used this sexist language for the same reason that many furries use it: he has not been exposed to a coherent argument explaining why it’s harmful.

He’s hardly Robinson Crusoe. His language is pretty typical of a visible minority in the furry community. Behaviour only changes if it is challenged, and challenged in a friendly and non-judgmental fashion, which allows the person to consider the counterargument in their own way and in their own time.

It’s easy to take sides and look at such people as ‘wrong’, or ‘bad’, especially when you don’t know them. But it’s worth considering that the world doesn’t contain many people who identify as sexist. (A common refrain is some variation of “I’m not sexist, I love women”, a phrase comparable to “I’m not homophobic, some of my best friends are gay”.) And if someone doesn’t think of themselves as sexist, a direct accusation will simply provoke a defensive reaction, likely followed by a frustrating and counterproductive argument.

The issue here is not enforcement of universal goodthink, it’s simply language and behaviour. A good person like Sphelx looks intolerant when he uses sexist language. If you wish to challenge someone, challenge the issue—their language and behaviour—not their thoughts or motivations.

Furries, being rather young and male and techy, get exposed to a lot of fundamentally sexist online cultures. The gaming subculture is one overt example, but there are many others. Such online communities are often informed by the so-called ‘men’s rights’ movement.

The men’s rights movement is a crude backlash against feminism. It challenges discrimination applied against men, presuming that the forces challenging discrimination against women are sufficient. Such groups are essentially the gender-based equivalent of other contrarian equality movements, using the logic that steps taken to help female/black/gay people are discriminatory in themselves, and that we should all be gender/race/sexuality blind. They are typically focussed on positive discrimination measures, or government spending on minorities: examples include women-only gyms, racial quotas, and LGBT-only support.

Concerns over such discrimination would be spot on, except for the fact that this isn’t Star Trek. Discrimination towards women (and gay people, and racial minorities) exists, and action needs to be taken to reverse this discrimination.

Men’s rights groups frame the problem in an us-versus-them fashion: they see feminism as an extremist movement driven to help women at the expense of men. Similarly, nationalist political groups think that there is an extreme movement to help racial minorities at the expense of the majority. And (some) religious groups think that there is an extreme movement to help homosexuals at the expense of heterosexuals. I’d argue that they are misguided but, fundamentally, they are all driven by the desire for fairness: in this way, the goal of men’s rights groups and feminists is the same.

Consider a hypothetical gender quota, where an employer must hire a certain percentage of women in an otherwise male-dominated field (perhaps IT, or politics, or business). In such a field, senior management tends to be almost exclusively male, simply because of mathematics: there are far more men with experience to choose from. A general lack of women means that any new female starter will be an immediate outsider; a dearth of women in upper management means that she has limited role models.

(In comparison, it is a lot easier to be a black highschool quarterback nowadays, compared to the 1980s. An aspiring black quarterback is no longer so unusual: a black quarterback is now simply a quarterback.)

Recognizing that it is more difficult for women entering a male-dominated field (because of their outsider status and lack of role models), recruiters can choose to hire a greater proportion of women. This has two positive effects: firstly, they will be hiring women who have reached that point in spite of their inherent disadvantages; secondly, they will be creating a workplace with more female role models, reducing and ultimately removing the problem.

This is all great, except when you’re the talented male candidate who is passed over for a less capable woman. And it’s easy to see the trees, ignore the wood, and conclude that the system is sexist against men. It’s not.

Certainly such a system is discriminatory, and the man is being discriminated against. However this is in recognition of the discrimination against women that takes place in a less direct fashion. In an ideal world—Star Trek again—neither form of discrimination would occur, and gender politics wouldn’t play any part. We don’t live in such a world, but we’re getting there, and positive discrimination accelerates its arrival.

Feminism isn’t about the rise of women over men: it’s intelligent humanism. The ways in which the world discriminates against women are subtle, complex, and ever-changing. Feminism is a reaction to that.

The furry community doesn’t have much of a visible feminist element, but we should. A friendly flock of furry feminists would help us improve our collective behaviour towards our female minority. Language is one of the easiest ways that we can improve. Let’s start by consigning ‘bitch’ to the same scrapheap as ‘faggot’.

About JM

JM is a horse-of-all-trades who was introduced to furry in his native Australia by the excellent group known collectively as the Perthfurs. JM now helps run [adjective][species] from London, where he is most commonly spotted holding a pint and talking nonsense.

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34 thoughts on “A Bitch About Furry

  1. There are several things in this post worth discussing.

    First, about sexist language, there are multiple things going on with the word “bitch” and in the context of insulting.

    “Bitch” and “cunt’ are sexist in the sense that they are applied to women (or to men for the purposes of imasculation), but that is in part because they are gendered insults. If the driver had been male, words such as “asshole”, “bastard”, “dick/cock”, “douchebag” would have been used. Notice that women are rarely called these words – instead they receive the female-gendered insults. The female-genddered insults are also often used by women, against women – is this sexist language appropriate? Or are women allowed to be sexist against other women?

    I also think that this is not something about Furries. This is something about the common language usage. Both in American discourse in general, and in Internet discussions in particular. I am certain that if you reviewed “Sex in the City” or “Bridesmaids”, you’ll find many instancces of women calling one another bitches, as well as other media whose target demographics are women. Furthermore, [A][S] is addressing this as though this is a Furry problem, but click on any web forum where language is not filtered and you will see women called bitches and men called male-gendered insults. Point being, it is a common vernacular which is very strongly rooted in daily habits.

    This is not an excusing of the behavior. Merely a point that, if our thesis is “Bitch is a sexist word”, then it is so ingrained in our non-internet and internet vernacular that one cannot simply hang it on the head of furries.

    Finally, I disagree strongly with the comment about “Mens Rights” being anti-feminist. Perhaps some behave in that way, but others acknowledge that there are systems in place that discriminate against women, and other systems that discriminate against men. Take for instance the divorce and custody laws, both of which are largely beneficial to women – there is a very pervasive attitude that mothers are the most adequate and appropriate person to raise children, . Criminal sentencing is also slanted in women’s favor.

    However, where I (and several I know who identify as subscribing to Mens’ Rights attitude) NOT that “things have moved far enough” or even “everyone should focus on the plight of men”, but rather that the system is unequal for everyone, and in unequal ways (just as in some cases a white woman is better off than a black man, due to white privilege, and in other cases not, because of male privilege). By acknowledging the few situations where it is unfair against men is not taking away the injustice against women. What is unjust is saying “Yeah well, too bad, you otherwise have nothing to complain about”. To say so is as much to say to a white woman, “Yeah well, too bad, you otherwise have nothing to complain about because You’re White”.

    Inequality in all cases is wrong, and should be addressed. Being critical of situations where it effects men isn’t being anti-feminist, unless the simple fact of disagreeing with a system that is positively in favor of women is anti-women.

    1. Hi Rechan, thanks for the thoughtful comment and I appreciate your contrarian attitude. The internet, being text-based, isn’t an easy place to express a dissenting opinion without coming across as a bit terse or combative. You’ve taken the time to be clear about that here, which I think is great.

      I also think your opinions are pretty commonly held within furry, so I think many readers of my article will appreciate seeing their points expressed so eloquently.

      Obviously I disagree with the general thrust of your statements however I think my points in the article stand as they are written. To specifically respond to your comments would just be rehashing what I’ve already said. I’m quite happy to go into more detail though – like I said, I disagree.

      I will answer your one question: women calling women ‘bitch’ is not sexist. It’s analogous to a black person using ‘nigger’ or a gay person using ‘faggot’: such reclamation of the language goes some way to diluting its impact. It’s a way to recognize that the language exists, that it’s not cool, but that the targeted party still gets some control.

      The fact that ‘bitch’ can be sexist in some contexts and empowering in others is a demonstration that language isn’t always a right-or-wrong issue. There are politics at play, and they can be complex. Which I guess is why I can write a long article that fundamentally states ‘bitch is a sexist word; please stop using it’.

  2. There is no evidence that mwalimu was not talking to both individuals since he spoke within the context of a thread. He could have replied to that comment because it was the latest on and with the two combined it was getting heated. Therefore, one cannot use the thread in question as an example of “ignoring sexism” since the comment was a ‘reply’ to the later comment but could have been speaking to all thread participants just as easily.

    It has happened, no doubt, in this fandom. Like with sexualization; sexist statements are very rampant on the internet. But most of the times offensive words are typically used in anger, they’re used by those who know no better way to show their frustrations. To me it’s a step up (but only a minor one) from using violence, which those who are even more intellectually debunked will use.

    I’m quite glad they exist, it forewarns me who I should avoid.

    1. Tantroo, thanks for the comment. It’s been pointed out to me, quite correctly, that neither of my examples are especially cut-and-dried. However I’ve left them as is because they helped provoke the article.

      I don’t mean to imply that Mwalimu has done anything wrong at all. So thanks for pointing out that my article isn’t clear enough on that point.

  3. If you encounter a gendered insult as part of a wider outburst that isn’t related to gender, then I think you’d be better off addressing the entire outburst than concentrating on just that one part. Otherwise you come off as saying “Look, I’m essentially okay with you calling for drunk drivers to be drowned, but don’t use the word bitch when you’re talking about wanting to kill people, because that’s sexist.” Which is kind of silly. :)

    I don’t remember the last time I called someone a bitch (honestly, it could be hours ago or years – hopefully the latter). In fact I can’t think of many gendered insults I’m comfortable using on women, which is a little frustrating, since there’s no end of things I’ll call a bloke (bellend, knobsack, wanker, cock). I’d never call someone a bitch for being a woman, because it’s a crap argument, and I prefer thoughtful & considered (or absurd) insults. Er… I mean reasoned debate. :)

    You’re right that when terms like bitch are used so commonly, we tacitly promote an environment where sexist attitudes go unnoticed and unchallenged. It means we’re often surprised to be called out on our sexist language, regardless of our own attitudes towards sexism.

    As for your faggot link – it’s true. When we were hard up while I was growing up, we did occasionally treat ourselves to Mr Brain’s pork faggots: http://images.mysupermarket.co.uk/Products_1000/61/114661.jpg. I have a distant memory of them being delicious, but I don’t dare test it.

  4. Thank you for the thoughtful article. I always enjoy reading yours and others posts.

    I certainly agree that “bitch” is sexist, inappropriate, and used much too frequently, but I would side with Rechan to some extent and say that it is also used more commonly in the mainstream than are the other insults. I would say “faggot” is used next most commonly. My sense is that people are more likely to object to “bitch” as being inappropriate because it vulgar than as sexist, but nonetheless it is used.

    I do agree that there may be a higher level of sexism in furry than in some other groups; I just think that acceptance of “bitch” is sadly also more widely spread.

    Your whole article is well-thought out and I particularly found some of your arguments on how to address the issue to be compelling.

    (As an addendum, I thought “fags” were also cigarettes in Britain)

    1. Hi Keito, thanks for the thoughtful comment. You’re right that ‘bitch’ is a widely used term, although I’d argue that it’s sexist (rather than merely vulgar) for the reasons I outline in my article.

      I hold furry to a higher standard than wider society. We are a very diverse community and a tolerant bunch We go out of our way—with language and behaviour—to make people in our midst feel comfortable and welcome. But, collectively, we are not so tolerant towards women. To me, it stands out as something we can do better.

      1. I agree “bitch” is sexist. What I was saying with regard to vulgarity is that I think some people do not see it as sexist but still avoid using it because they see it as vulgar.

        I definitely agree that we should hold ourselves to a higher standard and not tolerate sexism.

        I am not doubting your statement that it exists in furry, but frankly thought I have not seen much of it myself–probably because I have a very small circle of friends who are generally older and certainly know that I don’t approve of that type of attitude or language. Also I don’t usually read boards–this [a][s] is my exception to that rule.

  5. Pretty sure the last dozen+ people I called bitch were male. My most common insult when not joking is probably “wanker”, used quite liberally, I for one acknowledge the right for women to be wankers in spite of the implication of masculinity.

    1. Obviously there is no intent of sexism when you call your (male) friends ‘bitch’. However the word does imply that there is something inherently wrong with being female: you’re probably using it when someone is being overly dramatic, or emotional, or weak, or mean.

      It’s similar to the way that ‘gay’ or ‘fag’ was a catch-all insult for someone being lame or otherwise failing. It was rarely intended as a homophobic comment, but it always contained the implication that there was something inherently lame or bad about being homosexual.

      I’d stick to ‘wanker’ if I were you. It does has an implication of masculinity but it doesn’t imply that there is something inherently wrong with being male. It’s just not as charged or as open to (mis-)interpretation as ‘bitch’.

  6. Hey JM,

    Thanks for the thought-provoking articles on this site and taking a deliberate approach to the more contentious issues in the fandom.

    That being said, I have to disagree with you here. You say: “There two words suggest that Tim believes the driver’s gender is relevant, and perhaps partially to blame.” I find that very speculative; there’s no context elsewhere in that comment that is gender-specific. The impression is that he uses those words because he’s quite clearly angry, but otherwise you could replace them with any number of crude male-specific words and the intent would be no different if the driver was male. It’s exactly this kind of false-alarm semantic navel-gazing that will make me -less- inclined to pay attention to real issues of sexism when they occur, not more.

    1. Hi Auspex, thanks for the comment.

      A few people have pointed out to me that neither of the examples that I’ve cited are especially good ones. Both comments are sparked by anger, and this obfuscates the relevance of ‘bitch’.

      However I stand by my point. ‘Bitch’ is a sexist term because it contains the implication that being female is inherently worse than being male, as I outline in my article. Other gender-specific terms, like the crude male-specific terms that I suspect you’re referencing, don’t contain the same implication.

      To put it another way: if the driver had been gay and Tim had used ‘faggot’, or if the driver had been black and Tim had used ‘nigger’, his comments would have been homophobic or racist regardless of the anger that prompted the comment. The same holds for ‘bitch’: it’s a sexist term.

      1. What’s a non-offensive term that should be used when you’re insulting someone in this situation? “Idiot?” “Shithead?” “Fucking asshole?”

        1. http://helix.northwestern.edu/blog/2013/02/special-place-brain-swearing
          The problem with this is that profanity comes from the limbic system–a very primitive part of the brain–not from the prefrontal cortex, which we use for most speech and writing. For example, a stroke survivor with aphasia will still have some ability to curse. This means that trying to not be offensive can help, especially since writing your thoughts on the internet is deliberate and possibly takes some degree of prefrontal cortex processing– but telling our limbic system to not be sexist is an altogether different task. If we were trying to express anger at injustice without being offensive, there would be no point in using profanity.

  7. This is a really interesting post to me… both as a feminist and a furry. Especially as a furry person who has and still struggles with feeling welcome and involved and included, and struggling with a sense of not being a ‘real’ furry.

    With your post, your point about bitch often being used as a sexist slur is a reasonable one, but so is your point about context and the politics of language.

    Also, feminism is incredibly complex and has wide ranging views within the context of those who identify as such. For simplicity we tend to default to discussing feminisms in recognition of the way this is different for different people and groups.

    Mainstream feminism discusses the impact of inequality on women certainly, but there are many, detailed and complex discussions also on the effect of this same inequality on men. However, people outside of feminism aren’t generally reading those conversations so it seems as though they don’t happen. Or, the mainstream media spends so much time talking about feminism’s one sidedness – which tends to happen at specific instances where there is a discussion specifically about impact on women at play. Easiest example of this is any discussion of rape or rape culture in which one of the first comments is invariably ‘but men get raped too’. The discussion devolves into derailing and any attempt to stick to the discussion at hand generally invokes the ‘clearly you hate men/think this is only about women’ or somesuch. Every conversation about feminism or the impact of something on women in a community that I’ve seen outside of a feminist space (and plenty of times within it too) begins (or within a stones-throw of the first comment) with a comment that in some way references how men suffer as a result of patriarchy/kyriarchy as well. Here, it’s no different. The prevalence of this is both maddening and saddening.

    In your example where the Flayrah thread used the word ‘bitch’, I’d like to point out that for me at least, the use of the word ‘bitch’ is only the smallest way in which the comment horrifies me on a feminist level (and I’m not exagerating about my response, it turned my stomach). The entire sentence is horrifyingly violent and comes across as extremely gendered dominance – the kind that’s prevalent and so we identify it as violence instead of noting the gendered nuances too. If that’s indicative of the kind of comments that happen on Flayrah, I’m thoroughly put off.

    I really welcome posts like these, I appreciate them and am grateful for the conversations taking place. I also agree with you that language is the key place to start for any kind of culture shift. Language is a key for understanding how we frame things in our thoughts, and I find that moreso than singular words (though these are more easily identified and concentrated on), sentences and certain phrasings, associations, metaphors, jokes are all invisible sites of hostility toward marginalised groups… including furry and women. But also… this is the same discussion that has taken place in any and all the communities in which I’ve frequented, and stayed a part of what could be called boys clubs or traditionally male dominated or whatever… so no, it’s not particular to furry fandom by any means. However, the discussion is relevant to the community and it’s useful to start in your own community space – if everyone does that, there’s improvement overall.

    I notice that comments here have referenced, unfairness towards men, that women also use the word bitch with reference to one another (as though women are not also saturated with the same language that normalises sexism), and that this is something that happens outside the fandom too. None of which is about the point raised by JM in his post that… as a community furry could be more welcoming to women and that maybe one way of doing that is to drop the use of the word ‘bitch’. Not a bad place to start really.

    Also, you may wish to know that I’ve spent a couple of hours thinking about how to respond, what to say and getting someone else to look over my comment first… because being visibly feminist, particularly in a non-feminist space is scary. Mostly this means I choose the times where I respond carefully so as to minimise the potential for backlash… even when the post is inherently about making a positive change that I agree completely with. And my experience of writing this comment is therefore also part of the context of sexism in a community and how others experience the community as welcoming or unwelcoming. So while it may be nice to have a friendly and visible feminist element to the furry community… understand that it’s generally anything but nice for those people who occupy that visibly feminist position.

    At this point in time, I only feel welcome as a furry amongst the other furries I know in person. All the online spaces involving interaction thus far leave me apprehensive and feeling like I’m never going to get the hang of this or be a ‘real’ member of the group. And at least part of my experience of this is related to being a female shaped person in a fandom and community where most members are male shaped.

    1. Hi Ju, thanks again for such a thoughtful contribution.

      Feminism is a difficult topic to write about, because of the well-intentioned but totally ham-fisted backlash by those who haven’t been exposed to its complexity. That first comment from Rechan is a great example: nothing he says is incorrect, and there is no doubt that his heart is in the right place.

      You may have noticed that I very carefully introduced the term ‘feminism’ into my article: initially only as a counterpoint to men’s rights, and only as a point of view in its own right towards the end of the article, once I’d already used the term and the general idea. I’ve eased it gently into the article because I understand that it’s an emotive term for many people, and could colour any arguments made under the feminism banner (and also possibly because I overthink these things).

      Which is my way of agreeing that it’s a difficult topic to write about in a space where feminism is widely misunderstood, and even thought to be ‘bad’.

      The first [a][s] article on the topic was well over a year ago, written by Makyo (http://www.adjectivespecies.com/2012/02/01/eighty-twenty/). Both he and I have been reluctant to write about feminism, because we’re both male, and it’s something that really should be written by a woman. You’ll note that he closes his article with a explicit invitation.

      I was lucky enough to meet Makyo for a few hours late last year—I live in the UK; he was delayed on a flight connecting through London—and we both think that feminism is a really important topic. We have looked for women to write on the topic with no luck. I guess your disinclination to stick your neck out is shared by others. Fair enough.

      Still, we will keep banging away from time to time. It’s important stuff and I think the furry community is capable of changing for the better, and changing quickly.

      1. Consider that I spent a whole day constructing a comment because I am so glad you wrote the post. And whatever backlash I may receive for it, I will consider it worthwhile. Feminism is not just something women need to talk about – we ARE talking about it, but it’s an issue for everyone in society regardless of gender, because patriarchy sucks for everyone – varyingly.

        When more male people start talking about the importance of feminism, the conversation goes further, becomes a little more mainstream. Which is both awesome and irritating. But mostly awesome. Equality has to be worked at from all sides, otherwise we’re still furiously shovelling crap to no good end.

        And actually most of my disinclination to write is less to do with the danger of being visibly feminist (and considering the kind of backlash that Anita Sarkeesian received for her video games trope kickstarter I’m not imagining the potential danger).

        It’s more to do with feeling out of place and ungrounded in furry spaces. I don’t know how one finds a sense of ease and belongingness in this sense, but however that happens, I don’t have it yet :/ Or at least, I feel a belongingness to certain furs who are my friends, but I haven’t the faintest idea of how to write about feminism for furry because… I’m still kind of on the outside of the window looking in. (Admiring all the pretty art and so on, but still). Being a Cultural Theorist, I can talk about ways in which communities can be more friendly to women (and other minority groups), but not with specifics to furry fandom or community.

        In any case, reading your post made my day (even if I had angst kittens for the whole day in working out how to reply).

        It’s also worth mentioning that I am also a geek and have been amongst geeks at conventions for years and yet, the most safe and un-harrassed and relaxed I’ve felt drinking and hanging out with a bunch of random people has been a bunch of furry guys (admittedly I had been dating one being outside the group for ages, and had just started dating another), but it was *so* refreshing. We were all somewhat drunk and naked in the spa, and yet, it was all just easy, and fine and relaxing. Has never happened in any other group context.

        Which is to say, people are people and are varyingly clued in or not so much… but I find that furry people make an effort to not be judgemental and in person at least that seems to translate to a whole lot of basic latent respect that is just absent in similar spaces with other groups.

        Possibly a lot of my outsiderness feeling comes from a certain bafflement that others have that I don’t feel like I’m inside things etc…

        1. Thanks again for the kind words. I put a lot of time and effort into these articles, and I can never tell how each one will be received. It’s nice to know that they are appreciated.

          I wouldn’t put too much pressure on yourself to engage further with the furry community. As I’ve said before, furry is a club where you are a member if you decide you are a member. There isn’t any right or wrong way to do it.

          And you’re not alone on feeling slightly ungrounded. Data from the furry survey, that we are lucky enough to have access to here on [a][s], shows that women are significantly less engaged than men in the community: they consider themselves “less furry”. I strongly suspect that is due to the unspoken boundary you’ve experienced, some combination of a vague feeling of outsiderhood through to actual sexual harassment.

          At least that’s my best guess, from my perspective. As always, this isn’t Star Trek and so things aren’t going to magically right themselves. Things improve by degrees, a process I believe is well underway within furry. So that’s good news.

  8. I love this so much. I was thinking a lot today about how we claim to be so tolerant, and yet the fandom is full of misogyny and the like. As a furry and as a woman, it is very distressing, and it is wonderful to see that these issues are beginning to be discussed!

    1. Thanks for the kind comment Kylani.

      One of the ironies of this article, and a more recent one I wrote about furry’s underlying sexism, is that I’m a guy. In an ideal world, both articles (and future articles) would be written by a woman. It’s not through lack of trying – both myself and Makyo have tried to solicit such articles to no luck. So I’ve decided that writing these articles myself is better than having no articles at all.

      I think it’s more evidence that there are few furry women out there who are engaged with the community at a close enough level to pick up that baton. I am sure that anyone doing so would be opening themselves up to abuse, as seems inevitable with this sort of thing, although happily our readers at [a][s] are a moderate and intelligent bunch, so even the criticisms tend to be friendly. So I understand why women are reticent. It’s still a pity.

      Hopefully these articles are at least a small step in the right direction.

  9. “Nobody comments on Tim’s sexist language, although he does get reprimanded for being generally unreasonable: someone steps into to call him a ‘stupid asshole’, at which point a moderate intervenes.”
    Double standards are stupid. Exposing them is a good thing. Keep it up.

    “Consider a hypothetical gender quota, where an employer must hire a certain percentage of women in an otherwise male-dominated field (perhaps IT, or politics, or business). In such a field, senior management tends to be almost exclusively male, simply because of mathematics: there are far more men with experience to choose from. A general lack of women means that any new female starter will be an immediate outsider; a dearth of women in upper management means that she has limited role models.

    (In comparison, it is a lot easier to be a black highschool quarterback nowadays, compared to the 1980s. An aspiring black quarterback is no longer so unusual: a black quarterback is now simply a quarterback.)”
    I used to agree with that position. The problem with that logic is that the proliferation of minority athletes in college football, the NFL, NBA, etc. was not because of government-mandated quotas, but because there was such a pool of talent (for example, baseball players in the Negro Leagues) that the white teams ultimately could not afford to ignore. Team management that insisted on bigotry then was at a disadvantage compared to teams that went for the best athletes.
    Sandy Koufax didn’t get to be a Major League pitcher because the government noticed a dearth of Jewish baseball players one day and imposed quotas, but because he was so good that the Dodgers could not afford to ignore him, despite the fact that he would not pitch games on Yom Kippur.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jackie_Robinson

    Another possible issue, which Sowell points out, is societal bigotry against minorities that do better than the privileged majority:
    http://www.hoover.org/publications/hoover-digest/article/7727

    I’ll post some more links if you’d like to explain better where I’m coming from on this, it would take a while to find them all right at this minute.
    Anyway, great post, but I have yet to see evidence that government intervention in private property makes us freer.

    1. D.S.R., thanks for the comment, and I’m looking forward to seeing a bit more background on your point. I’ll also hold off responding in more detail for now.

      Pretty clearly, I think that positive discrimination can be a very good thing. However I understand that it can be problematic. It’s certainly worth exploring in a bit more detail.

      Please keep in mind that it’s easier to remove discrimination from the sporting world, where value is much easier to judge and people can be easily compared. It’s more complex where value is less tangible, such as the business world, and that’s where I think that positive discrimination can accelerate progress towards a more equal world.

      Thanks for the kind words as well. I’m looking forward to reading through those links.

      1. Thanks for doing that. Also thanks for not being like Cesar Tort (Mexican Neo-Nazi) and deleting my posts (his blog, “The West’s Darkest Hour,” is full of the lulziest Nordicism I’ve seen in a long time).
        Spoiler alert: I’m a libertarian. The short, non-eloquent version:
        My first objection is that if affirmative action, particularly that imposed by the state, resulted in a qualified workforce and actual improvement for minorities, I would be all for it. I used to be for quite a while. What I didn’t realize until I read “Give Me a Break” by Stossel (I give credit to that book, not Ayn Rand, for deconverting me from neoconservatism) was that there is a difference between the intention of a policy in theory and the effects of a policy in practice. For example, if we have a mandatory percentage of African-American freshmen in the student body, then that takes away slots from applicants who aren’t a minority with official quotas, such as Arab-Americans, who may be better-qualified. Is it really more egalitarian to admit Obama’s kids instead of Bobby Jindal’s kids? I think the Sowell article I linked you to described an instance where Japanese-Canadians were classified as “privileged” because they did well academically, which is galling when you consider how much discrimination Japanese were subjected to in Canadian society, not including stuff that continues to the present day.

          1. (Your first comment was auto-moderated, probably because of the embedded links, so it took manual intervention on my end. But we certainly don’t go around deleting or editing intelligent discussion, whether we agree with it or not.)

        1. I like the libertarian point of view because it doesn’t deny that positive discrimination can have a good effect, or even that it has an overall good effect. It’s a philosophical point, and there is a lot of value in the base assumption that the simplest things are usually the best.

          However I’m not sure that your examples – which are all valid examples of where positive discrimination can have a negative effect – are particularly compelling. There are always going to be plenty of cases where arbitrary rules are going to have a negative effect. Positive discrimination works where the good outcomes outweigh the bad outcomes (and that includes the inherently negative effect of the application of any blanket rule). It feels like you’re saying that the rule shouldn’t be applied, because the rule is imperfect: I’d argue that the status quo is also imperfect, and that the rule tips the balance in the right direction.

          But, I suspect, therein lies a difference between you and I. I don’t think that your opinion is wrong, and I certainly don’t think that I’m right. We’re both just doing our best.

          In any event, your contribution toward the discussion is an interesting and valuable one. Thanks for taking the time to stop by, and I’m sure that future readers will also appreciate your thoughtful counterpoint.

      2. I brought up that objection first because my college has a lot of international students; one guy I know–let’s call him “Nigel”– is a chemistry major from Zimbabwe (the simple fact that he survived Comrade Mugabe’s brutal, racist, genocidal regime–in the case of the latter two, particularly against the Ndebele people–until reaching college age impresses me).
        You could argue that admitting a lot more low-income applicants from the north side of town would result in social uplift, but presuming for the fact that this supposition is correct, is it really fair to turn down Nigel in favor of a Latino-American kid who didn’t do as well in school?
        Also, if you notice, there were teams that refused to hire Robinson despite his talent. The same goes for companies in a truly free market (which the US is not, as any potential business-owner quickly finds out); there are definitely stupid companies that insist on bigotry. The fact that they don’t hire the best people, when other companies do, imposes a cost on their profits (Milton Friedman explains this better than I can, I’ll see if I can find the quote). If affirmative action were the only way equality could occur, it would be impossible for Irish immigrants–subject to discrimination and “no Irish need apply” signs when trying to find work– to come to my country as pretty ghetto people with low education and worse behavior on average than Swedish and German immigrants (see: “Paddy Wagon”), and end up in the twenty-first century with higher average income and test scores than the latter two “superior/Nordic/Protestant” ethnic groups.

  10. While I am coming to this article pretty late, I’m glad I found it!
    I find it interesting that you chose to focus on the words “bitch” and “cunt” to talk about sexism in the furry fandom. It’s certainly an issue, and I’m glad there’s an article about it here! What’s inspiring me to comment here is not disagreement, but to share the variety of intolerance towards women that I’ve observed which affects my experience much more than the use of slurs.
    In what I’ve seen, the most apparent sexism is actually in the realm of erotic art, and comments on it. In perusal for “adult” furry material that includes female bodies, I’ve found and a slew of comments from subtly misogynistic to outright horrible.
    I’d expect it to be a tired point by now, but if there’s a heterosexual furry couple/group being shown, it’s not unusual to see “This would be better if the woman was a guy,” and “Ew, vagina,” as well as other, more graphic/rude comments about how disgusting the female body is to certain viewers. And if it’s a lesbian situation, well… you get the same “ew, vagina,” as well as a general lack of understanding about lesbian sex – the furry version of mainstream lesbian porn (long nails, big boobs, etc.), targeted at straight men and depicting women who don’t look like they actually have sexual interest in one another.
    This dips into transphobia and inappropriate fetishization of trans* bodies as well (which is a different but related issue in my thinking, so forgive me for jumbling the two together); I’ve seen probably the most saddening comments on art depicting transmen, also deriding the presence of a vagina or else fetishizing its presence as if the genitals are not attached to a male-identified character.
    What I’m trying to say is, yes, the unchecked use of the word “bitch” etc. in a sexist way is a problem. Women not feeling safe in furry spaces is a problem. Feminist furry women lurking in corners only for fear of backlash, so that their view of the community is not comprehensive enough to write articles for popular furry blogs is definitely a problem!
    And I think at the very bottom, there is an all-too-common disrespect and disgust for female *bodies* in the case of many gay male furries especially, which ties into a lot of my personal feelings about not feeling safe or comfortable participating heavily in the furry community (on top of the more common I’m-not-a-sexist-but-here-I-am-spouting-misogyny type of sexism). This is something I’d love to see addressed, as disgust for the female body, in a community that is fine with inflatable bodies, jelly bodies, impossibly small or large bodies, etc. is …well… mind-boggling.

    (Tangentially, I also know of fairly few lesbian/queer female furries, and most of the ones I do know of tend not to publish erotic art of sex among female characters, because the comments they receive are sexist or otherwise exhibit ignorance. On a rather personal note, makes me feel incredibly alone in the furry community, as if people with preferences/sexuality like mine simply don’t exist here, and is another reason that I am not as involved as I’d like to be.)

    1. Hi Deer, thanks for the comment. I couldn’t agree with you more, especially where you’ve talked about some important issues that are beyond the scope of this article.

      The furry community has, in my opinion, some pretty severe shortcomings in the way women are treated. I think that the example you give about the comments received about female characters is a good one. There are a lot of furry gay men who feel comfortable making asinine “ew girls gross”-type comments online, even though gay men make up less than a quarter of our community. It’s simply the current furry culture, and it needs to be improved.

      It’s ironic, in a sad way, that many women I have spoken to have echoed your comments: that the behaviour of gay men is contributing to their discomfort in furry spaces.

      We will continue to write about feminism and the treatment of women here on [a][s], both among the regular writers and our guest contributors. It feels to me like we’re just pissing into the wind at times, but hopefully these articles have a small impact each time they are read and shared and mentioned. And, as it turns out, I’ve just finished a draft article that touches on trans issues, which should get published next Monday.

  11. “Anyone using the word ‘faggot’ in a furry space can expect to be shouted down.”

    Yeah, this is not true, though. I think this is something that needs to be pointed out: Many furs see the word “faggot” as a non-offensive word. Including us gay men. Many of us have had a tendency to just accept that people were going to use the word “faggot”, because we knew the world would hate us.

    I am not saying this to suggest that it’s okay to use “bitch” as a derogatory term, but I do believe that people should keep this in mind when they tell other furs not to use that word. You’re telling people who don’t even consider the word “faggot” offensive to be more mindful about the word “bitch”. It’s something I think anybody should keep in mind about who they are dealing with.

    You can get a feel for attitudes that furs have about the word “faggot” in this thread:

    http://www.furaffinity.net/journal/5925226/

    I remember when I first found out that “bitch” was a derogatory term towards women. I looked it up on the dictionary. I stopped using it for that reason, and started thinking “Hmmm… maybe I should use more gender-neutral insults towards women that irritate me!”. I admit that my brain has a tendency to be gender-specific when describing my frustration for certain people.

  12. “A quick semantic aside: ‘bitch’ can refer to a female dog. This makes it an appropriate term under some circumstances”

    Especially in the furry subculture when referring to a woman with a canine fursona. “Let me remind you that I’m no bitch; I’m a mare.”

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