An interesting aspect of the furry fandom is its independence as a fandom despite its overlap with similar or related fandoms or groups (e.g., Disney, anime, cartoons, bronies, science fiction, Fantasy, therians, otherkin, gamers, ravers, just to name a few.)1 This led us to question the extent to which the furry fandom is perceived by furries as being unique and distinct from a similar fandom: anime.
We asked furries to indicate, on a 7-point scale, whether or not they agreed that furries were distinct and unique compared to anime fans.2 The figure above shows that furries strongly felt that the furry fandom was distinct from the anime fandom. In further analyses, furries and non-furries were asked to judge the perceived distinctiveness of the furry fandom from the anime fandom. Furries, who have a vested interest in protecting their unique and distinct identity, were significantly more likely (M = 5.19) than non-furries (M = 4.75) to say that the furry fandom was distinct from anime. In fact, the more strongly a participant identified as furry, the more strongly they felt that the furry fandom was distinct from the anime fandom. 3
Another potential way to study distinctiveness of the furry fandom is to look at something called “essentialism”—the belief that a group is based on some naturally-occurring, physical, tangible feature (examples of groups commonly perceived to be “essential” include gender and ethnicity, while examples of “non-essential” groups may be things like “a band class” or “the group of people standing in line at the bank”—groups with nothing inherently “groupy” about them except for superficial or transitory features). Included in the survey was an “essentialism” scale, measuring furries’ beliefs that furries, as a group, were based on essentialist traits (e.g., hard-wired, biologically based, or physically “real”). Consistent with the above findings, the more strongly a person identified as a furry, the more they considered furry, to be a more highly essential group which, in turn, was associated with how distinct it was seen as being from anime.4
In sum, it seems to be that the more closely attached one is to the furry fandom, the more distinct it is seen as being from other fandoms. This makes sense, from a psychological point of view: the groups we belong to serve a number of functions for us, one of which is to provide a source of identity for us. We like to have a distinct and positive sense of identity. The more our group is seen to blur with other groups (especially if those groups disagree with our perception of ourselves or our attitudes), and the less clear our groups’ boundaries seem, the more threatening this is to our sense of identity—who we are as defined by what groups we belong to.