Why are “nerdy” groups male-populated?  Revisiting a debate full of dogma.

by Patch O'Furr

Many corners of “nerd culture” can be guy-heavy.  A lot of people are predisposed to look down on that (with double standards if you flip the situation – only seeing the shadow side of one gender and the light side of another.)  Recently I shared another writer’s comments about it.  I liked them enough to invite her to submit guest posts.  She sent a great new one about animation.  (More please.)

The topic offers a cure for misunderstanding about Furries and gender. 

A typical Furry ratio from Pounced.org

A typical Furry ratio from Pounced.org.

Amanda at “Deep Fried Pancakes” gave open-minded insight:

In my opinion, it’s very telling that most furries are men… In general, men are discouraged from self-expression. They are coached to hide their emotions… stuff like this attracts a disproportionate number of men because it provides something they have a much harder time getting than women: self-expression.  They are encouraged to show everyone their true selves.

There’s an insanely long list of reasons why this is true.  It doesn’t even necessarily come from a problem… Stalwartness and self-discipline can bring as many benefits as lacking it brings drawbacks, and there’s no reason why men, women, or others should follow the same patterns as each other (but more options is ideal.) It does vindicate every guy with a positive interest who’s been slandered for sharing it with other guys.

There are fundamentalists who insist that Furry fandom is “sexist” because it’s “male-dominated” (no, it’s male-populated.) Sexism is bad, but behavior is separate from bodies*. Mindless proportionality ignores why people gather in the first place. When you sweep intentions aside, it’s easy to lump people into the same pot and cook up foregone conclusions about their “original sin”. It’s a fallacy of demographics, based on things people don’t choose when they’re born. It happens if you only look for the bad in people. You can find badness anywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s out of control or worse than elsewhere.

More men than women doesn’t mean that bad behavior drove women out – any more than two male friends are evil, if they get together without a corresponding pair of females to chaperone them.

Some interest groups are just differently balanced, but less exclusionary and more friendly than general society.  When a group is open and growing – there’s no need to trash some members to make room for others.  When the power is in the individual to join just by saying you like it – if you want the numbers to change, the real solution is to invite your friends to make it how you want it to be.

* Not everything’s binary, but “cis” fits the vast majority of people being divisively labeled – who are so flexible about identity that they cross species for fun.

Beef with a Horse

The above link was a look at why Furry fandom has many guys. It happened way back in the first month of this blog.  There was a response from JM Horse at the Adjective Species blog.  It’s really hard to be nice about it, because it’s full of misleading and false distortions, even though it attempts to couch them with pleasantries.  Even worse, it unfairly undermines a group I love, and slanders me.  That’s just not OK.  The nasty impression it makes is still clouding the air like a steaming pile of horse crap. Let’s see why.pile-of-pooJM’s post is dishonest starting with the title, “Dogpatch Press on Women”.  It suffers from problems like these:

1) It rips quotes way out of context, to mischaracterize small pieces apart from extra-super-lengthy reasoning in a post with the title “all HUMANS welcome”.  It bends over backwards to force them into an agenda to prove “inherent sexism”.

2) It distorts an entire forum thread of women’s experiences in Furry fandom, pretending they support JM’s beliefs, when they actually give healthy dispute.  It’s another sign of the “dearth of public support” that he references.  It comes not from outside haters, as he asks you to believe – but from the very people he tells he knows what’s best for them.  Brainwashing does tend to rub people the wrong way. (A good reader comment about that.)

3) I’m libeled as “”egregiously sexist”” for daring to disagree that a group of shared interest has a problem measured by bodies.  Of course I don’t like sexism. I also don’t pre-judge people for debatable offenses done by others. I respect them as conscious and capable of independent thought.

4) It misuses data from a computer security paper about the internet, that doesn’t support conclusions about this group.  There’s a deeper look here.  It’s used for biased beliefs that harassment is some all-powerful force, but says nothing about where it could come from.  Since JM hasn’t defended the weaknesses, let’s boil down what’s wrong with it:

– 90% of activity in the study has to be ignored, before it can lead to conclusions about people. The place it studies is overflowing with porn piracy

– They only used unfiltered chat with “any connection”, so pirates and scammers could do what they want (as if real life never has rules.)

– It uses bots to stand in for human experiences, saying nothing whatsoever about intentions behind people’s activity.

– That’s PEOPLE’S, because it doesn’t measure gender (or NUMBER) of the shadowy figures behind the supposed bad behavior.

– Applying such data to a social group is like using a single Nigerian scammer to prove the wickedness of half the human race.  You might as well blame spam email on furries because they use the internet too.  It’s a breathtakingly biased excuse for guessing games and leaping to conclusions.

– Even without dishonest blame about who is responsible, there’s a false premise behind JM’s belief that harassment happens more to women. Paternalistically honing in on one kind (sex) ignores that different kinds occur in different amounts to different people.  Readers who have experienced bullying will understand this (and can read it from many sources, like: “Men Are Harassed More Than Women Online.“)

5) It mischaracterizes this: “Apparently Patch thinks that women who stay away because of harassment are “insecure”.  That’s a 180-degree twist in the meaning.  “Insecure” actually refers to JM’s biased leaps to conclusions about women “staying away” due to harassment.  JM assumes that fear is why women express furry interest, but go to cons disproportionately less often. Never mind personality differences.

Don’t buy it.  Here’s a clue about personality differences in outgoingness and risk taking: Lightning kills men six times more often than women – (the same gender imbalance in this separate Furry topic).  Is weather sexist?  No – men have risk from going out more for leisure activities like golf, hunting and fishing.  It’s interesting how much those involve solitude.  The furry hobby brings cameraderie, but first, members have to share an urge to seek it.

There’s a million reasons why some people seek things more than others.   Exclusive focus on fragile, one-dimensional victim roles ignores every other part of interest and personality.  It pretends that only one gender has challenges, and the other has the cure.  How do you feel about being patronized as a helpless sheep or an evil scapegoat, just because personality differences exist?Sheep-Vs-Goat

This is divisive and insulting to the majority of people who share the Furry interest.

Take it for granted that furries are familiar with being punching bags in the media. Now it’s troubling how a solution for an internal “problem” requires throwing 80% of the group under the bus.  While it’s not really necessary to single out JM, it’s just one example of wider dogma and bias. (What kind: Confirmation bias.) You’d think that a focus on a maligned subculture would bring sensitivity about mischaracterizing.  But internalizing it can create weird compensation, and enemies within.

Actually it’s not hard hitting to me, because there’s so many ways to point out how wrong this is.  It’s harmful because it misinforms others.  I would invite JM to retract distortions.  Since I don’t expect that, I can only point to cemented bias as a great reason for everyone to be extremely skeptical and give dissent whenever this topic comes up.

That’s only moderately personal.  I’m happy to trade colleage tips or resources when appropriate.  (It was cool of JM to forward contact about a study from Northwestern University put out here, the study has overcome criticism to succeed since then.)  I have no problem with forwarding anything that suits the Adjective Species blog.  But it’s only reasonable to put out some prickly words while a misinforming article stays that way.

For better articles by JM, skip that one and check some of the really interesting ones about books or art, like The Modern Furry Aesthetic.

If empathy with female friends is commendable, so is understanding for male bonding and expression.  A good pop culture trope for this topic is – Misunderstood Loner With a Heart of Gold.

We can ask – when complaints of bad behavior come up, who do you ask for help to solve it?  How many guys volunteer for free, to organize, keep order and give aid at conventions?  Why overlook their generosity? Volunteering is the opportunity for complainers to step up and bring real, pawsitive solutions.

This entire community runs on DIY volunteerism, to a degree unprecedented among others.  From mods and meet organizers, to websites and cons, there’s always a need for volunteers. They don’t have the power – YOU do.

If you’re ever demanded to “check your privilege”, the best response is “unwash your brain”.  These topics can reach mutual understanding when we can all be critical about judgements of original sin, or inherent anything applied to individuals, and their shared interest and potential.

“Whether online or on TV, furries tend to be the scapegoat of the modern age, used whenever something funny, weird, disturbing, perverted or generally strange is needed to keep things going. Unsurprisingly, there are few facts involved in such portrayals…”