To Friends Old and New...
Earlier today, Furlandia’s executive team was made aware of a blog post written by a member of the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team which we feel misrepresented both Portland’s annual anthropomorphic convention and the wider fandom in general. In the interests of goodwill, education and outreach, we feel it appropriate to issue a formal statement challenging her inaccurate misrepresentation of our fandom and to extend a paw of friendship to the team in the hope that they will come to know the ‘furry fandom’ better.
While the blog post does not mention our annual convention hotel or the convention by name, she did link to our website, making it clear that we were indeed the convention she was referring to. Tapping into an oft-debunked myth about the fandom and its interest in anthropomorphic animals, her post insinuated that attendees were present for one thing and one thing only: adult content.
As Portland’s premiere family-friendly anthropomorphic arts convention, Furlandia has grown from its humble beginnings in 2013 to become one of the Top 20 anthro conventions by attendance, anywhere in the world! Over the past three years, we’ve learned a lot, and we’ve grown a lot. We’ve made mistakes (every convention has) but we think we’ve learned from them and become a great convention in just a few years.
Just like the fandom in general, Furlandia is welcoming of fans of anthropomorphic art in all its forms, from digital arts to storytelling, puppetry, music, crafts, dance and costumed performance (fursuiting), and we’re proud to welcome all to our convention, regardless of race, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic status, or age.
Our 2016 Furlandia convention – the steampunk-inspired Furlandia 1850: Age of Industry! – was our largest convention yet, attracting a total of 763 attendees from all across North America and the world. Like the wider fandom, our attendees represented a broad spectrum of the population. Some of our attendees were professionals such as teachers, doctors, engineers, and lawyers. Others were artists (both professional and amateur) as well as students, children and other fans of the artform. Our youngest attendee this year was just 8 years old, while our eldest was far past retirement age.
Looking at the fandom in a wider context, there are plenty of things to celebrate that prove our fandom is more than a few inaccurate characteristics would suggest.
Anthrocon, the oldest and most famous anthropomorphic convention of them all in Pittsburgh, PA, just celebrated its twentieth year. Aside from injecting millions of dollars into the local economy every year, it has even helped struggling local businesses gain a new lease on life from the support of local furries. Meanwhile, an anthropomorphic convention in Canada (VancouFur) recently dominated the headlines when its attendees entertained Syrian Refugees who were fleeing persecution in the Middle East.
But we digress. Back to Furlandia.
With multiple tracks designed to inform, entertain, and educate, our programming for 2016 was the best yet. Some highlights included our annual fursuit parade, workshops on drawing cartoon animals and honing vocal voice-over talents, and our excellent dance competition. Even with so much going on, we still managed to raise more than $1,000 for this year’s charity, Animal Aid PDX, and several attendees even signed up to become volunteers at the animal shelter as a result of visiting the Animal Aid table outside our Dealers’ Den.
Given how diverse the fandom is, Furlandia and its executive team work hard to ensure the majority of Furlandia events and panels are aimed towards a family-friendly audience. Like so many other conventions in the science fiction, cosplay, and fantasy world, we do also offer a small selection of adult-themed panels that are not suitable for those under the age of eighteen. But not only are those panels clearly marked as not suitable for children, we also have staff present to make sure under-aged children are not allowed in the adult areas when those panels are in progress, which are all after-hours. Even though the adult panels take place behind closed doors.
To ensure that nobody under the age of eighteen can access these panels and presentations, or even witness them, Furlandia issues special badges to underage attendees, follows a strict minor curfew policy for after hours events, and hosts all 18+ panels after that watershed in a specific part of the convention space where access is only granted to those with age-checked credentials.
Additionally, minors who attend Furlandia must have a parent or legal guardian present with them at all times on site.
Looking forward to 2017, we’re already working hard to ensure that next year’s Furlandia is bigger and better than before. In fact, we already have teams working hard on our early 1929-themed convention (Furlandia 1929: Age of Prosperity!), bringing together a wide set of people and skillsets to make our convention family-friendly, and welcoming to all.
Of course, we understand how easy it is to jump to conclusions, especially when there are so many negative stereotypes out there. But we hope the ladies of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer Team will be just as willing to challenge negative stereotypes about the furry fandom as they are to challenge negative stereotypes about women in sport.
Our door is always open and if you fancy challenging preconceptions, we’ll be happy to show you what our world is really about.