In the wake of the Trump election, communities across America are bracing themselves for a rise in bigotry and violence. The anti-fascist movement (“antifa” for short) has surged to confront hate rallies, sometimes even using physical force. Members of minority groups are rushing to take self-defense classes. And in the furry community, where a well-intentioned culture of acceptance has allowed a small group of neo-Nazis to fester, people are putting up their paws to fight fascism, too.
What are furries, and why are there Nazis in there?
Furries are a subculture of people interested in anthropomorphic animals. People involved in the furry community might wear fursuits, draw furry art or role-play as their human-animal “fursonas.”
The community is generally very open-minded. Many furries also identify as LGBTQ, and last year, a furry convention threw an unplanned welcome party for a group of Syrian refugee children entering Canada. The community is a place where you can be yourself no matter what and still be accepted.
Unfortunately, it’s difficult for such an open-minded community to deal with creeps. One anti-fascist furry we spoke to who asked to be identified as “SF” said, “We have a bad habit of dismissing any negative event as ‘drama’ regardless of its severity, and community celebrities who turn out to be rapists and so on commonly retain their status even after multiple such events.”
Some bad elements inevitably seeped into the subculture and took advantage of its openness. There’s a small group of neo-Nazi furs, who sometimes call themselves “alt-furry” (like the alt-right) or the Furry Raiders. The furry community’s unwillingness to ostracize anyone has allowed them to stick around and cause trouble.
Since the election, it’s only gotten worse.
“A lot of alt right furries were very happy that Trump was elected,” an anti-fascist furry who referred to himself as “Mapache” tells us.
What do Nazi furs do?
Alt-furries haven’t carried out any physical violence, but they can find other ways to harm members of the furry community.
“Alt-right furs have harassed people of color and trans furs in the past,” Mapache says. “Last year the Furry Raiders block-booked 25% of hotel rooms at Rocky Mountain Fur Con in Colorado, which meant that many convention guests couldn’t get rooms.”
Most alt-furries just stick to standard internet troll tactics like violent threats or doxing (exposing an enemy’s personal information or identifying details). But in a community like the furry fandom, this behavior can have serious consequences.
“It’s worth noting that relatively small acts of petty abuse, such as banning political/social opponents from FurAffinity (a major online furry community) can have a really dramatic impact on someone’s life when it’s both their only social network and for many their primary method of income,” SF explains.
Another anti-fascist fur who calls herself “Light” expressed concern over the future of the fur community, saying, “The furry fandom is one of the most creative and artistic fandoms alive at the moment, and if we let fascism rise through it, we’ll probably lose it.”
So what do anti-fascist furries do?
Antifa furries don’t usually get a chance to organize in real life. Most of their activism is remote and web-based; they aren’t rioting or punching Nazis. But they are working to drive the alt-fur menace from their community. They’ve convinced certain conventions, like Anthro New England and Rocky Mountain Fur Con, to ban the use of the alt-right Furry Raider symbol (a Nazi-style red armband with a paw print instead of a swastika, pictured above).
They’re also politically active in anti-fascist work outside of the furry community. Many furries are queer—in particular bi, trans or non-binary—and are already part of the LGBTQ rights movement.
Some are pushed into activism as a result as the pressures of today’s political climate, particularly discrimination and economic factors.
“The fandom is way more politically active now,” one furry who calls himself “Chip” says. “If our lives get more difficult in reality, it makes it a lot harder to enjoy the fantasy. Buying and making art, fursuits and so on isn’t cheap.”
He adds, “I think a lot of us would like to go back to enjoying the fandom, but real life is more important right now.”
(Header image via imgur)