Who are the people behind the animal masks?
South Dakota Furs
held a potluck in Falls Park on August 14th, and hosts monthly events for furries located throughout the Midwest. The furries who attended were well aware of the stigma surrounding their hobby, but still love to gather with each other to bond over their shared interest in anthropomorphic art.
In recent months, there have been claims by some concerned parents that school children are identifying as and acting like animals, and that schools have responded by putting litter boxes in school bathrooms.
Although that rumor has been debunked, an air of mistrust still surrounds the furry fandom.
Furries describe their own subculture in very simple terms: a celebration of anthropomorphic art in various forms, such as visual art, costumes, performance art, and interactive virtual reality spaces. As an art subject, anthropomorphism dates back at least 35,000 years to the Lion-human of Hohlstein-Stadel
, an ivory carving with the body of a human and the head of a lion. Anthropomorphic characters have been a literary subject for thousands of years, from Classical mythology to the short stories of Beatrix Potter, before gaining popularity in cartoons and video games. Many furries cite cartoons such as Disney’s “Robin Hood” or “Zootopia” as the catalyst for their interest in anthropomorphic art, and have surprisingly wholesome ways that they view their hobby.
“Kids can enjoy the furry fandom. It’s just an enjoyment of anthropomorphism,” says David, who is one of the event organizers for South Dakota Fur. “I like to draw anthropomorphic characters because they have more variation than human characters. I can be more creative.”
Miggs, who traveled from Edgerton, MN for South Dakota Fur’s August gathering, believes that “The litter box rumor is related to transphobia.” Miggs runs an online business
designing and building custom fursuits that start at $4,000 each, and is familiar with the cultural backlash against furries. “It’s easier to hate someone with a weird hobby than to hate trans people,” she explained, noting that the furries are adjacent to the LGBTQ+ community, and that events like the potluck in Falls Park are a welcoming place for self-expression.
Most of Miggs’ fursuits take about two months to construct and are one-of-a-kind creations, although most of the requests are for wolves or other canines. Some of her custom built furry masks feature bendable ears, magnetic antlers, LED eyes, or squeaky noses. Each costume is built individually based on sketches of what the client wants the front, back, and side to look like. Her most time-intensive request yet has been a porcupine costume that took five months to construct. Some of the costumes require a special cooling vest and can reach 107 degrees inside, so many of the wearers take frequent breaks at events.
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
A D V E R T I S E M E N T
Although Miggs loves running her own business and is happy to be so successful at age 20, she feels that the stigma around being a furry can be hurtful at times. “The rumors about the litter boxes started with twelve and thirteen-year-old boys on Tik Tok saying that we think we’re really animals. We do not actually believe that. We all work normal jobs.” When not in costume, she says, some furries are IT specialists, doctors, lawyers, scientists, and even members of the military. “Two furries have been to space,” Miggs explained to illustrate how highly educated many of them are. “The inventor of the Moderna vaccine is a a furry” Miggs said. [Editorial Note
- according to an Input magazine article, published 6/2/21,
Dr Chise helped to develop mRNA technology and always wanted to be a Disney Character]
Shiloh, 22, who lives in Sioux Falls, says that the “after dark” aspect of furry culture has been exaggerated, and that not all furries partake in those activities. Online content creators are careful to tag certain pieces as “18+” and block minors from seeing them, and furry conventions are strict about carding and checking the ages of participants for their “after dark” activities.
Shiloh sees that “there’s a confirmation bias,” to what people believe about the furry fandom because “dressing in animal costumes seems surreal in concept”, and people are sometimes disturbed by that disruption of the status-quo. For some people, the unmoving eyes on the masks create an uncanny valley
effect– kigu masks and mascot suits can have a similar effect, although they are intended to look cheerful and cute. Playing peek-a-boo while in costume can almost create the effect of the eyes blinking, but many people still find the uncanny valley effect of kigurumi masks
and furry costumes unnerving.
All masks, whether a full animal head built over a bucket foundation or a simple piece of cloth, disrupt the ability of the person interacting with the wearer to fully grasp their emotions, expressions, and intentions. The inability to tell if there’s a threat behind the mask or not can cause people to intuitively assume that there is a threat.
For people wearing them, however, masks can be liberating. “I turn into a completely different person and feel more comfortable being silly,” Shiloh says, describing how fursuits can pull people who feel insecure and socially awkward out of their shells and help them grow more comfortable and expressive over time.
Jacob, 25, of Sioux Falls, also feels that costumes and masks can be socially liberating. “I’ve gotten compliments on my dancing, and I didn’t even know I could dance!”
He also credits the furry fandom with introducing him to his partner, because they initially met online. “I found Deviantart and met a lady who had a dragon drawing tutorial on there, and then found a community through that. Relationships can grow in virtual reality spaces because VR can close geographical gaps.”
Online experiences such as Furality
grew in popularity during the covid-related closing of conventions as an alternative to in-person events, and the virtual worlds for furries became more immersive and convincing during that time. Even with in-person furry events resuming, Fureality is still a popular option because the graphics can close the gap between fantasy and reality in a way that the costumes cannot, such as making the eyes on the characters move. To be as inclusive as possible, the furry community helps people who are interested in participating in Fureality gain access to virtual reality spaces so that they can feel a sense of belonging even if they aren’t located near other furries or don’t have the financial means to travel to conventions.
“The furry fandom spreads positivity and acceptance. I didn’t have that growing up,” says Chibby, 19, who traveled from St Paul, MN and stayed with friends to attend the furry gathering in Falls Park.
“At first I was skeptical because of the rumors,” Jacob says. “But they’re wholesome, inclusive, and connected. Never once have I felt excluded or hated, and I have great memories of furry conventions. Hatred stems from not understanding, and not wanting to understand.”
: The term Furry
refers to an individual who knows they are human, but likes to dress-up as an animal, similar to cosplay.
refers to an individual who actually identifies as non-human, believing they are an animal, or another mythical creature trapped in the wrong body.
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|Post Date: 2022-08-17 19:00:00||Last Update: 2022-08-18 16:54:15|