Dear Papa Bear,
I have been getting bullied because I’m a furry. He has been bullying me for about a year now. We finally got him to stop. My question is why are furries picked on? Is it because we are different?
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In a word, yes, you have hit it on the muzzle. Human beings do not like people who are different from them. It makes them uncomfortable. And when they don’t understand someone who is different, they make fun of him or her, or they exclude the person, or they are violent to the person. It is not just furries. Humans find any excuse to hate others: you’re a different color, you’re a different religion, you come from a different culture, you speak a different language, you don’t dress the same, you’re gay, you’re a Democrat, you’re a Republican, you have red hair, you’re disabled, you don’t have enough money, you’re overweight, it doesn’t matter. Anything different will do.
When I was a cub, I was bullied a lot. It was because I was shy and quiet and unathletic. Also, apparently, because I committed a cardinal sin in Southern California: I didn’t tan. I’ve always been very pale and I was laughed at a lot for this.
This behavior against those who are different is instinctual; it is found in Nature as well. It goes back to the basics of mating behavior and preservation of a species. In Nature, it is actually a practical thing. For example, a red-tailed hawk will not mate with a bald eagle because, even though they are birds and the anatomy for mating would work, they are different species, and they recognize this because their plumage and other things about their appearance are different. This way, they will stay away from each other and not try to interbreed. Instead, a bald eagle will find another bald eagle and perpetuate the species. That’s kind of oversimplifying things, but you get the idea.
Even though all humans on the planet are Homo sapiens and are able to breed with each other, these prejudices remain. Instincts tell a white guy with English heredity that the black guy with curly hair and a broad nose is too different from him, and he becomes uneasy. Culture enters into it, too. The black guy who enjoys Hip Hop and wearing baggy pants thinks that the white guy who dances like he has a piece of doweling up his butt and likes Kenny G is bizarre (again, oversimplifying for effect here).
So, if this is true with such minor differences, imagine when a fursuiter (or even just a furry wearing a tail) walks into the room. Alarms go off in the “normal” or “mundane” person’s mind. He or she thinks, “What is WRONG with this person? Why are they acting so strangely and wearing such weird things?” Such reactions are born of ignorance.
The shame of it all is that furries do this, too. They all have their cliques, and I’ve been learning more and more about this for years now. A while back it was the whole “Burned Furs” idiocy in which a group of furs set themselves apart from others. Then there is the current “popufur” nonsense, the Brony bashing by some furs.... There are even divisions within divisions. For example, I’m led to understand that within the otherkin community, the elves stand apart in their corner, the fairies in another, and the dragons in another and so on.
We are all diminished when we isolate ourselves and don’t try to understand and empathize with others.
I wish furries everywhere could step back and look at the conflicts within the fandom in this way: as a furry, don’t you feel badly when mundanes make fun of you, exclude you, and harass you? So, why do you do it to other people in the fandom? When you tell Bronies that they don’t belong in the fandom, or you ignore a shy furry because she isn’t as popular as you are, aren’t you doing the same thing that others did to you to make you feel bad?
There are furries out there who set themselves up as the definers of what a furry is and seem to think that some other groups are “watering down” what furry is. This makes me laugh with a cynical chuckle because it reminds me of something J. K. Rowling wrote about extensively in her Harry Potter books: the fear and hatred and evil done by the “pure-blood” Deatheaters against the “mudbloods,” people with muggle (mundane) backgrounds who nevertheless are wizards. There are furries out there who think they know the difference, set themselves up as “better” than other furries, and the results are appalling.
Furries bashing furries, furries ignoring furries, furries excluding furries—it’s all just as bad as what we complain about mundanes doing, how we feel unfairly persecuted by mundanes. It’s sad that we are no better than them—at least, not at this time in our history—and unfairly persecute and are prejudiced against those who simply are looking to belong to our community.
How much healing a simple hug would accomplish ... a simple kind word of “You are welcome here, my furiend” is all most people want to hear. Is it so much to ask?
It is Papabear’s belief that we can evolve beyond this base animal instinct and become Enlightened and recognize that the similarities between us are greater than our differences. Indeed, many people HAVE reached this step, but they are far and away the minority of the species.
One reason I came to the fandom was to distance myself from the pettiness of human conflict—only to find that it is here, too. You cannot run away from it; you must face it. I am facing it now by founding the American Furry Association, an organization whose purpose is to bring furries together for their mutual benefit.
Zaneth, my apologies for using your question as a springboard to leap onto my soapbox, but you did give me the opportunity to try to talk to furries and human beings in general that their ridiculous squabbles are selfish, ignorant, destructive, and without ultimate purpose other than to cause harm and pain like what you have experienced from that bully.
So, I ask you, Zaneth, to take this bear’s paw and swear with me that you will not treat other people—furry and mundane alike—the same way that you were treated. One of the best things to come out of the Bible is the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That is, really, all you need to know to be a good person in this life. You know, now, what it is like to be a victim of hate. Do not perpetuate that circle of unkindness by hurting others because of your own pain. As Kurt Vonnegut said, “There's only one rule that I know of, babies—God damn it, you've got to be kind."
Be kind, Zaneth.
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