Tag Archives: language

The Meaning of Furry

Up until this point, there has been a lot of discussion around furry; on what it means to be a furry, how the identity interacts with the way we see the world, etc… However, it is often beneficial to reflect upon the things we have said, and the way in which we use words. I believe, and will attempt to show in this essay, that we hold an incomplete grasp of words within the context of furry.

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Doxa

This article was first published in 2012.

I’m sure I’ve gone on before about the benefits of working within a community, but I’ll say it again: you guys are ace.

While running the [a][s] Twitter account, I do my best to follow back everyone who follows the account.  This isn’t simply a nice-guy type thing to do; some of the best inspiration comes from all you fuzzies out there.  After all, the articles here would get pretty boring if they were solely about what it was like to be a furry without being a member of the furry subculture.  This week’s article comes from a recommendation and brief conversation with Drenthe, a raccoon of quality, about a book he had seen a review of which I subsequently purchased.  The book was Hanne Blank’s Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality.  I think it’s fairly obvious by now how much gender and sexuality interest me.

One of the early chapters of the book brings up an interesting concept that I only recently thought to apply to the fandom, and that’s the concept of doxa.

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What We Talk About When We Talk About Furry

Guest post by Rick Griffin.  Rick is the creator of Housepets and can be found on FA, DA, and Weasyl, as well as on Patreon. Rick will be Guest of Honor at Confuzzled this May.

I often find, when I’m trying to discuss furry with someone, that we tend to get hung up on personal definitions. Now, while this is considered a boon for the fandom ­– furry can be ANYTHING you want, man! Just like, open your mind, and let the furry flow through you! – this is often a problem when we’re determining whether or not we really do have something in common beyond just the label.

The thing is, most of the time when I talk about furry, I mean it is the most original sense of the word: I like cartoon animals (for varying degrees of the word “cartoon” and “animals”). This sometimes means it’s very hard to discuss cartoon animals in a general fandom sense without someone stepping in and saying “Furry isn’t just about cartoon animals!”

Yes, I know that. I got that. I’m not attempting to marginalize anyone, but you have to admit that the proportion of cartoon animal fans tend to vastly outweigh the others. And when I speak, sometimes I’m just attempting to speak from a very specific platform, for which we all have a word: “Furry”

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Tongues of Beasts and Angels

Guest post by Toledo (@toledothehorse). To the furry community, Toledo has mainly been an amateur artist. But outside the furry community, he can’t stop analyzing religion and furry things – often at the same time.

In April 1906, at a home at 214 North Bonnie Brae Street, Los Angeles, fire fell from heaven.

This was no fiery column defending fleeing Hebrew slaves nor cause for a modern-day Elijah to slaughter idolatrous priests. To those at the Bonnie Brae home, these were the “cloven tongues of fire” that had visited Christ’s apostles at Pentecost. They were a sure sign of Jesus’s saving power, in latter days come again into the world.

And they were literal tongues, too. Late one night, a black pastor and a white friend were kneeling in prayer when the latter let loose a flow of ecstatic syllables. The next day, the pastor, William Seymour, did the same. And when Seymour acquired a church-turned-warehouse-turned-stable as his new mission center—the famous Azusa Street Mission in downtown LA—hundreds more, of all races, experienced the outpouring of divine power. Those on the margins of society, generally poor, found in this power meaning for their lives, healing from their ills, and salvation for their souls and communities. Missionaries, believing themselves endowed with the power to speak foreign languages spontaneously, set out penniless but joyful to spread the Good Word.

And there was neither black nor white in Christ Jesus to these revivalists. To onlookers in an America in which racial barriers were being erected and fortified, the expressions these early so-called “Pentecostals” took for signs of divine favor were horrific breaches in social protocol. Seymour’s erstwhile mentor, from whom he had learned of the gift of tongues, denounced the “Negroisms” on display under Seymour’s ministry: seemingly nonsensical ululations, jerky dancing motions, raucous exclamations, weeping faces and bodies collapsing, beatifically smiling all the while. Black men were embracing white women, a clear racial transgression for those of the time that was all but overtly sexual: everyone knew black men couldn’t be trusted around virtuous white women. While the Azusa Street Revival under Seymour’s leadership was revolutionary in its deconstruction of strict racial boundaries, it suffered the fate of all revolutions: the disapprobation of those who defined “decorum” as “like us.” Even today, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t scoff at the so-called Pentecostal gifts of the Spirit, from healings to tongues to handling snakes.

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Participation mystique 3 – On Pronouns

I seem to be drilling down with this (very spread out) series.  I started out with a general overview of participation mystique in the fandom, narrowed it to some specific uses of words, and now I’m focusing specifically on pronouns.  I can’t say that I have any plans for a fourth iteration, but I’m assuming that it will start going into syllables.  Arf, bark, and the like.  Pretty good syllables, if you ask me.

Pronouns are already short enough as it is, usually only one syllable.  They’re some of the most common words that we use, and for good reason: they help us keep our speech and writing concise and varied by letting us use a placeholder instead of a name or a noun.  They carry a lot of weight for their relatively small size, however. Weight that, I think, can tell us quite a bit about how some people interact with the fandom, or even identify with their personal characters.

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Why Language is Important

In a recent article, I talked about the importance of language in self-criticism. If you are trying to lose weight, it’s useful to use relative terms (I’m getting thinner) and counter-productive to use absolute terms (I’m fat).

It’s helpful to use language that suggests self-improvement, compared to the language of self-hatred. Even though both phrases (I’m getting thinner / I’m fat) describe the same thought, they imply different things: language affects perspective.

Writing here on [adjective][species], I do my best to use specific and neutral language. But it’s difficult, especially when writing about sensitive topics such as sexuality, or fluffy concepts such as “furry”.

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A Rough Guide to Loneliness

Most people are familiar with feelings of isolation and loneliness. Loneliness can lead to feelings of depression.

It’s worse if you are young. It takes a long time to become happy with yourself, if that is ever fully achievable. Most of us experience personal growth as we age. If you don’t like yourself, which is much more likely if you are young, it’s easy to assume that you’re somehow at fault for being lonely.

It’s worse if you are male. Men are more prone to depression and suicide. It’s believed that this is biological.

It’s worse if you have an unusual sexuality or gender identity. Someone who doesn’t fit into society’s mainstream will often find themselves marginalized. This adds stress to day-to-day activities, possibly a feeling of ‘being judged’ or feeling outcast.

Furries fit the description of a high-risk group for depression. We’re young (median age 22 [ref]); male-dominated (80% [ref]); unusual sexualities (69% self-report as ‘not heterosexual’ [ref]) and genders (26% self-report as neither completely male nor female [ref]).

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Meaning Within a Subculture – Part 1

This is an idea that has been tumbling around in my head ever since I started this site. In fact, I suppose you could call a lot of my earlier posts a sort of fumbling around as I tried to articulate this idea. The idea that I’m talking about is the concept of what furry is. That is, not only what a makes a furry a furry, but how is furry a thing, and where did we all come from. A lot of the articles on this site have come at this idea from different angles, but usually focusing on a single aspect or in a stream-of-consciousness manner.

When I write posts for [a][s], I do so in what’s called the “watercolor strategy”, as named by Daniel Chandler in The Act of Writing. That is, for the most part, I start at the beginning, and when I get to the end, I stop. It’s a strategy that, to my mind, would work almost solely for the introspective writer, one who internalizes a subject, then blasts it out on to paper (or screen). The idea is that one works as one does with watercolor, where there is no real way to correct a mistake or change what one has done – one must simply start at the beginning and continue until one feels that the work is done, then stop. There is no editing along the way, as there would be in the “oil painting strategy”; with oils, one has the ability to paint over the paint already in place without worrying about muddying the painting or ruining the paper. As Chandler quotes in the section on the watercolor strategy, “rewrite in process…interferes with flow and rhythm, which can only come from a kind of unconscious association with the material” (Plimpton, 1989, quoted in Chandler)[1].

In a lot of posts, this has worked well. I think that I often work in short enough sections that I can hold most of the article in my head with only the barest of sketches taken down mostly as reminders to what I had already planned rather than a true outline (which would be the “architectural” or “bricklaying” strategies).

My process has occasionally come back to haunt me in that I’ve incompletely captured an idea. It happened very early on when I wrote about the default furry, which eventually turned into the post about doxa: what I was trying to name in the “default furry” post wasn’t so much trends in character creation as the fact that there is a factual basis for much of what we take for granted within the fandom.

One of the big things that keeps me coming back to these subjects is the standard artist’s complaint that I’m never really satisfied with the product. I can barely even call myself an artist, here – so much of what I’ve done with [a][s] is rehashing ideas I’ve heard of or learned about in a non-furry context within the context of furry, and this piece here is no exception. Rather, I’m one with artistic habits.

I was unhappy with both of my posts on “participation mystique”. It’s such a wonderful concept and fits so perfectly with the contiguous fandom that I couldn’t get it out of my head. All the same, I couldn’t seem to get down exactly what I wanted to with it. The first post turned into an idea of how members identify with the fandom, which is close to, but not exactly participation mystique. The second post veered off course and into (still related) waters of the definition of our subculture.

That those posts feel as though they inadequately captured what I wanted to grates on me, so I feel that, as the person best in a position to correct my mistakes, I probably ought to. In order to do that, however, I’m going to have to start with a little bit of background that I’ve picked up over the last few weeks of study and years of background on the subject even if it isn’t immediately applicable to this furry site, and I’m going to have to abandon the watercolor strategy and at least work toward the architectural strategy. It may be a bit of a long travel, and I’m sorry if I wind up coming off as boring, but I believe that a lot of these ideas are pertinent to figuring out what is going on with the fandom, and why the concept of membership is important. If nothing else, I find the concepts very interesting, and I think that many others will as well.

Continue reading Meaning Within a Subculture – Part 1