Sunday, July 21, 2013

Being Ridiculed vs. Oppression

This is with regard to a conversation that was brought up relatively recently among friends at PSG... we were talking about furry fandom and whether or not furries could be considered an underprivileged or oppressed group.  The point was made by a non-furry that furries are pretty widely ridiculed and made the butt of jokes.

This is actually a conversation that has happened on more than one occasion within the fandom.  In my own experience, the consensus is usually that no, we aren't an oppressed group.  The idea that furries as a whole think that we are an oppressed category is really based on the  opinions of a minority of furries.  And I personally concur totally; I don't believe that furries--or any fandom--qualify as "oppressed."

The thing is, "oppression" and "meanness" are two different things.  Somebody can be perfectly nice while oppressing people (and in fact this phenomenon is one reason so many people don't believe oppression exists), and somebody might be mean without being an agent of oppression.  Oppression requires power-over, which gets sketchy when you're talking about fandoms or things that are merely quirky, uncommon, or unpopular.

So the question becomes this: Are non-furries exercising unjust power over furries on a grand scale?  And as far as I'm concerned the answer is largely "no."  The average furry is simply somebody who enjoys entertainment with anthropomorphic animals... most of us don't fursuit, and the majority of people who do wear furry-related gear are limited to things like ears and tails or interesting hats.

The reason for this is that fursuiting is expensive.  A cheap fursuit is regularly over a few hundred dollars.  It takes financial privilege--or such determination that you're willing to cut a hell of a lot of corners--to fursuit.  So fursuiters wind up being an overall privileged community.  And even fursuiters rarely wear fursuits as a lifestyle.  So in general, furries are being ridiculed but not oppressed.

And yeah, the ridicule sucks.  I've been there.  I felt nauseous when at a kinkwear event and having not only the audience but the announcer snark about a couple of furries who entered the contest, without considering that any LGBT event is going to have furries.  It's intolerant and shitty.  Advocating for the end of shit like that is something I'm totally cool with.  But "shitty" and "obnoxious" are not the same thing as systematic oppression.

Most importantly, although I've said this many times before, it's important to recognize that furries are a fandom.  There are people within the furry community who are also therians, which are--pardon the pun--a whole different animal, but in general saying that furries are oppressed is like saying Trekkies or Whovians are oppressed.  Now, both of these groups of people are ridiculed (and there are actually people in a documentary about Star Trek fans who had their faces obscured because they write slash fanfiction), but the groups themselves are not oppressed.