There is a tendency for people to moralize statistical deviance, to assume that those who are different are morally wrong or dysfunctional. It serves a number of protective functions for people, including preserving self-esteem and maintaining a positive self-image in the face of others whose views may be challenging or contrary to one’s own. Because of this, however, there is a tendency for people (furries and non-furries alike) to assume that there is “something wrong” with furries, something reflected in media portrayals and negative stereotypes about furries,1 which insist that furries, as a group, need to be explained. Some seek psychological explanations, suggesting that furries may be people with developmental problems or psychological conditions. Others assume situational explanations such as a broken childhood or a tumultuous, friendless, socially awkward childhood. After all, most furries have experienced significant bullying,[tagcite tags=10.3] and abundant psychological evidence shows that bullying, stigma, and concealed stigmatized identities can be particularly damaging to a person’s well-being. One would therefore expect furries to show evidence of significantly compromised well-being.
Data collected on the well-being of furries suggests otherwise, however. Across several samples, furries and non-furries did not significantly differ from one another on measures of life satisfaction and self-esteem.2Furries did not differ with regard to their physical health, psychological health, or the quality of their relationships, and were actually more likely to have a stable and coherent sense of identity than non-furries.3
The well-being of furries was also compared across fandoms (see figures above and below.)4 Furries did not differ significantly from convention-going anime fans or fantasy sport fans, and were actually higher in life satisfaction and self-esteem than online anime fans, all groups which experience less stigma than furries do.5
Taken together, these data, in conjunction with the rest of the data in Section 11, demonstrate that furries, contrary to popular misconceptions, are surprisingly well-adjusted. It’s worth noting that this lack of difference in well-being occurs despite the fact that most furries have a history of significant bullying. One possible explanation for this is the ameliorating role of the fandom: given that belongingness and acceptance are both important values in the furry fandom,6 as is compassion, helping, and global citizenship,7 for many furries, the fandom is a source of social support. Social psychologists have long recognized the important role that social support plays in building resilience and fostering well-being, and future studies are planned to test whether this mechanism explains furries’ tendency to thrive despite often enduring significant hardship.
- See 10.2 Experienced Stigma
- See International Online Furry Survey: Winter 2011; Furry Fiesta 2012 and International Online Survey III; Furry Fiesta 2012 and International Online Survey III
- Anthrocon 2012 and IARP 2-Year Summary
- IARP 2014 3-fandom study
- See 10.2 Experienced Stigma
- See 2.10 Furry Motivation
- See section 1.9 Politics