Furry and Sexism: a Review

With Gamergate’s rabid sexism gaining traction in mainstream media, this seems like a good opportunity to review how we furries are doing. We have demographic similarities with gamer groups—we’re geeky and male-dominated with a heavy online presence—and, like gamer groups, we have had issues with sexism.

Any serious journalistic attempt to understand Gamergate, a loose banner for a small but loud group, inevitably starts with “it’s complicated”. After all, how can a small group of people ostensibly worried about ethics in game journalism end up earning a reputation for vile harassment of women? The short answer seems to be that there is an undercurrent of sexism within gaming, and that internet flamewars and clusterfucks over journalistic integrity have, for one reason or another, managed to attract a extreme misogynistic subset of the larger group.

(To put it another way: we know that geeky groups are precious about the art that inspires their fandom. Gamers concerned about changes in their community can be expected to react much like, say, serious Star Wars fans reacting over the sale of Star Wars IP to Disney. There is nothing wrong with intense advocacy against change, but there is a serious problem if this devolves into harassment and rape threats.)

Furry’s problems are similar in style to Gamergate. The most obvious touchstone is the drama that began in late 2010, when a prominent male artist was accused of sexual assault by initially one woman, and eventually several. The women involved were subjected to abuse that was similar in tone and style to the targets of Gamergate.

It is probably fair to say that misogyny within furry isn’t as extreme or widespread as it is within Gamergate. However we certainly have a problem, something we here at [adjective][species] have written about, on several occasions.

The most common response to the suggestion that furry is sexist? Denial. This is a natural reaction for anyone who has never personally experienced or noticed any sexism. It is also natural to see an accusation of sexism as an attack on furry, and so it’s natural to be defensive.

In the writing below there are several concrete examples of sexism, including review of a scientific study that demonstrates that women experience sexist behaviour within furry. I encourage you to read (if you haven’t already), digest, and share.

Furry’s sexism is largely a product of our demographics. We are around 80% male, and that affects the way we collectively respond to the world around us. Furry culture naturally reflects who we are, and we will naturally give more regard to things that are more important to more people.

So while it is right to say that furry is a sexist culture, it is not right to say that furries, themselves, are sexist. (Although some certainly are.) Sexism is part of our cultural wallpaper, always there but largely unseen. Here at [a][s], we are trying to draw attention to this, because we love furry and we want it to improve.

We have published several articles that explore aspects of furry and sexism in detail:

Eight-Twenty, by Makyo: an introduction to furry’s skewed demographics and the anatomy of inherent sexism.

A Bitch About Furry, by JM: an exploration of sexist language common in furry.

How to Pick Up (Furry) Women, by JM: for single heterosexual and bisexual men, how to get to know furry women in a respectful way.

Dogpatch Press on Women, by JM: a look at an egregiously sexist but well-meaning article published elsewhere.

Gay Furries and Sexism: A Recursive Loop, by WitchieBunny: how the preponderance of gay furries leads to reinforcement of misogyny.

Furry Women at Furry Conventions, by JM: hard data demonstrating the challenges that women uniquely face in furry environments.

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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12 thoughts on “Furry and Sexism: a Review

  1. Only just started reading [adjective][species] and was a bit hesitant to click this at first, expecting, given interactions I’ve had in the past when gender issues were brought up in the furry community, either flat denial or some attempt at justification.

    What I found instead was a reasoned, well written article. Thank you.

    1. Thanks CV, that’s very kind of you. You’ll be happy to hear that all the contributors to [a][s] have received overwhelmingly positive feedback to our articles on this topic, as you will be able to see in the comments section of each article I linked. (And we’re very proud to have a readership that provides us with intelligent and thoughtful comments, a rarity.)

  2. So did you actually do any research on gamergate or was that single Gawker article you read sufficient? Or maybe you backed Anita’s kickstarter and can’t cope with the fact you got burned by a bad purchase? Because even spending just a minute in the gamergate hashtag, you’d see it’s men and woman, gamers, who are plain fed up with these journos, the collusion with both devs and other journos from competing companies, their unwillingness to provide simple disclosure, and with the literally who’s fear mongering. The MSM and SJW’s have been constantly barraging us with slander, insults, and threats, but that’s just another day in gaming, isn’t it? So yeah, I’d suggest actually reading about a subject before you go off on it.

      1. So here’s this graph that shows that of a sample size of 25%, about 5% of tweets mentioning them them were negative in nature. Clearly a hate campaign! Pardon me, I have to head to the gas chamber now. Hopefully I don’t trip and fall on these knives I was sent. Hey, if you’d prefer, I could just hang myself so you could use me like a pinata. That, or you could just come over and beat me.

  3. Wow, this was extremely disappointing. Gamergate only has a reputation for being a sexist, misogynistic group because the people THAT THEY ARE CRITICIZING is calling them a sexist, misogynistic group in an attempt to silence them.

    Gamergate is made of thousands of individuals from all across the globe of all races and creeds, as #notyourshield shows, and the only thing that they want is to expose the bullies who are co-opting movements like feminism as an excuse to bring harm to others.

    For more information, try http://gamergate.me/

      1. That is a bit of a different subject, if I had intended to write counter-points to that article I would have written them on that article, but since you bring it up here I might as well.

        I disagree with the notion that hate groups dissolve when confronted by members of the target group. Hate groups tend to flourish when confronted by individuals of a target group in any space where the group can gang up on the opponent and harass them without repercussions, whether that means shouting over them in person or through social media comments where they can tag the individual but not address them directly, effectively insulting the individual behind their back while also making sure the individual knows about it. Hate groups tend to fall apart when people who are more willing to listen to a rational argument or debate are presented with a more rational argument or debate. How many people are like that in a given hate group is a different question, and the lack thereof of people who value a rational argument in a hate group can do wonders for said hate group’s longevity.

        By “rational argument” I don’t mean “reasonable” or “common sense” in the ways exploited by agenda driven groups as a cover for their own lack of evidence. By rational argument, I simply mean an argument that is able to be respected and critically examined in ways that do not rely on appeals to emotion, ad hominem, strawmans, or other logical fallacies. Granted, both this post and the hate article have some, but the attempt to keep it to a minimum I feel certainly counts for something.

        This goes into the core of what I would say is the problem with these sorts of groups, which may not always be hate groups: the value of emotion over logic. If you can find someone who values a rational argument in a group that you consider a hate group, and is willing to listen and debate by the rules, you might be able to convince them that they or the group they are in are wrong. This is not likely for self-labeled members of groups as a whole, but on the internet, it is much easier to single out and argue with those who at least have some chance of being receptive to your arguments. This is the entire concept of “redpilling” and why making arguments and counter-points to hate groups continues, on the off-chance that someone in those hate groups fails their armor save and succumbs to reason… which is why I also disagree with the notion that hate groups should never be reasoned with, and anyone who is a member of such should be written off. The ATTEMPT at diplomacy should still be made, even if futile, as you never know who you may persuade when presented with the facts. Sometimes it might even be yourself.

        What’s more is that #GamerGate has been all of this put into practice over the last seven months. The sheer fact that Anita Sarkeesian’s mantra is “Listen and Believe” where GamerGate’s is “Trust but Verify” should accentuate the core ideological differences between Gamers and Anti-Gamers.

        1. Hi BH, thanks for the long and considered response. Given the that this article in nearly six months old and had long disappeared from the front page of [a][s], I figured there was a chance you’d come across it with some deep Google search, looking for some accusation against Gamergate to refute. But clearly you have read around on [a][s] and presumably you’re a furry, which after all is the topic at hand. Thanks for taking the time to read and engage.

          I suggested the “Hate” article because I wrote it with Gamergate, and similarly counter-productive internet blowups, in mind. I tried to write it so either side of that particular ledger – be that anti-feminist or anti-gamergate – would be able to identify with the piece. You’ll note I tried hard to use balanced, or at least uncontroversial, examples.

          There is only one thing I’d disagree with in your comment – I didn’t say “confronted by”, I said “exposed to”. You are quite right that confrontations do nothing but entrench people’s extreme opinions. As I say in my article, people rarely change their opinions through argument (or “rational argument”, as you put it), but “cohort replacement”, where they get to know and empathise with someone with the opposing point of view.

          Rational argument doesn’t change minds – there is a lot of behavioural psychology that demonstrates that – but rational argument can help form opinions. That’s the point of these articles in [a][s], that by drawing attention to sexism in furry – something that is often invisible (especially to men) – we can help change the culture.

          I was getting at this towards the end of the piece on Hate. Being negative doesn’t do anyone any good; being positive does. I’m sure you will have seen that with your own peers – those who focus on the haters end up becoming haters themselves; those who pursue their goals in a positive fashion are the ones who drive and change culture.

  4. I was introduced to this blog via the furry survey, and wanted to research what sort of group was running the survey after answering questions on it. I have a furaffinity account and live with two other artists who also have furaffinity accounts, though in the past I have been told that I’m not a furry because I don’t have a fursona and “don’t act enough like one” whatever that means. “furry” has become such a loaded term that I’d personally like to see what recipients of the survey think “furry” means to them, both in terms of the fan and the art. For the fan, do they need to be a member of the subculture or just someone that appreciates anthropomorphic animals/therianthropic humans in general? For art, what are the boundaries of furry? Are aliens like the Halo Elites or Mass Effect’s Turians included? Are kemonomimi “furry?” Do people consider lion king-esque talking animals “furry?”

    In addition, just from my own observations I think there are two mutually exclusive draws to furry – xenophilia and zoophilia, and different persons could have one, the other or both. The Xenophilic person has a greater value placed on the mind and expressions of the chimera depicted in furry art, where the zoophilic has a greater emphasis placed on the body.

    The appeal for the xenophilic person is the concept of a human mind in a nonhuman form, to varying degrees of exoticness. An extreme version of this would be an attraction to a completely nonhuman entity with a human mind, such as GLADoS or the AI of a starship.

    The Zoophilic attraction is much simpler, as it’s the marriage of the human form and the animal, and the mind of such doesn’t matter.

    In a future version of the survey, I would like to see some manner of question or series of questions that determines what exactly the recipient finds appealing about furry art, and whether more people in the fandom are xenophilic or zoophilic or both.

    But, I’m getting very off topic now. Once again I have a few things that I disagree with in your post:

    I disagree that Gamergate is anti-feminist. While some of the people under criticism in this scandal claim to be feminists, it is not because they are feminists that they are criticized. There are many feminists in gamergate, rather famously the likes of Christina Hoff Summers, and while the focus of gamergate is on corruption in games journalism there is also an overlying conflict between sex-positive feminists and sex-negative feminists, or on a broader scale, social authoritarians versus social libertarians. Polling on Gamergate has consistently shown that the members tend to lean towards the left end of the political spectrum, as you can see in this aggregate political compass formed on 8chan: http://i0.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/original/000/841/842/7e1.png

    I also disagree that gamergate has been counter-productive; the websites that the consumer revolt hit have been hurting or going under, and other websites like IGN, the Escapist and more have updated their policies in the light of the ordeal. The demand for better journalism has, for the most part, worked. On the subject of negativity I’m not sure how to respond, I would say that Gamergate has a lot of creativity and humor on top of the bitter atmosphere, like https://youtu.be/sw8FZa_7Gjw and so while it is harsh and cynical it is overall positive.

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