If there’s one thing that’s a large part of the furry community, it’s conventions – and as mentioned in a previous article of mine there’s a bunch and they’re only getting bigger and bigger in terms of attendance. Conventions, for the most part, are mainly fun and games for the furs that attend it and a trying but ultimately rewarding endeavor for the folks that run them.
Unfortunately, conventions can be targeted for things like harassment, and in some cases, these bouts of harassment can cost the con more than ramped up security costs. In the case of a small SoCal convention named Califur, it ended up costing the convention more than just fees. Let’s take a look at what happened, and delve into the issue of what I term “In-Fandom Harassment.” It’s a little heavier than what I usually talk about, but I feel in the wake of what happened this is an important thing for any fandom to have a discussion on.
The Successor Con
But what exactly is Califur? It’s a small time con that’s been hosted here and there in SoCal. And I say “small time” because while it’s definitely been around for over a decade it never got to experience the growth that other cons such as Biggest Little Fur Con or Midwest Fur Fest did. Despite that, some furs actually like that about Califur, citing that it kinda gives the con more of a laid-back atmosphere.
Califur’s also what I like to call a “Successor Con” – it actually is the sequel of sorts to an older and now defunct con that was known as ConFurrence, which is arguably the world’s first ever furry con. In fact, a lot of the fandom found its footing thanks to various furs in SoCal. So it seems this small-time con has some big-time history behind it as well.
However, while Califur is a successor con, and has more of a laid-back atmosphere to it – I once heard some furs say it was essentially just a larger furry meetup – many have criticized the con in the past for failing on one or more accounts. These reasons range from a lack of decorations to registration being infamously slow and painful, to not really having much to offer to set it apart from other cons – let’s remember that some cons like BLFC are set inside a casino! Despite that, Califur has still remained, trucking along with the other cons every year, and personally, I feel that if the con got more support and help from the local community it might be able to push past its faults and join the bigger cons. But that’s just my thoughts – and a whole other ball of wax for another day.
Enter the Problem
But Califur would get a whole new round of problems during last year’s spooktacular “Califur the 13th” con; see, furries tend to be okay with discussing a variety of adult themes and interests, and as such it should be no surprise that at furry cons these adult topics might pop up in their own age-restricted adult panels. It seems that last year a group of furs took a severe issue with one of these adult panels, claiming that it was something bad, and would enable foul and illicit behaviors within the fandom. Though once the chips fell it became clear that there wasn’t anything illicit encouraged at all – and it was little more than a mere case of bad wording.
Unfortunately, those that took an issue with this panel didn’t take the time out to do some in-depth deep-dive research into this and proceeded to act off of their own impressions and the words of others. The Pomona Sheraton Fairplex, which was the venue for Califur at the time, was reportedly hit with tweets and even a fake phone call where someone pretended to be a newspaper reporter looking for info on the panel, as was Califur itself. This caused so many problems for the Sheraton that they ultimately demanded Califur pay an extra security fee to the tune of $24,000, which echoed some earlier convention-related drama when earlier that same year an argument between two furries on Twitter caused the now-defunct Rocky Mountain Fur Con to face increased security costs.
On the good side of things though, Califur did as Califur always does and managed to roll with the financial hit, and the con was on for the year, much to the relief of furries fearing that drama and harassment would bear bad tidings for the con like the ill-fated RMFC. Things seemed to be going well until some unidentified fur(s) called in security threats to Califur, which ended up with police showing up – an act the convention claims was an instance of swatting. The con would later post a statement on the matter, but unfortunately, it seems as though that was taken down. There were even claims that a bomb threat was called in, though I have not seen evidence of such, nor do I know if that was the threat that caused the police to show. To make matters worse PETA of all people showed up on the Sheraton grounds, though fortunately, they were there to protest another event happening on the other side of the grounds.
Fast forward to February of this year, when Califur posted this tweet to their timeline.
The issues with last year (in regards to the threats and protests) are the cause of this venue issue, and because of it, we were just informed that they are now refusing to host the convention this year. Thus we are trying to do an emergency move and checking all open venues.
— CaliFur Wild West 🐴 (@Califur) March 1, 2018
That’s right, Califur became homeless due to the harassment that had happened the previous year. After talking with one of the higher-ups for Califur I learned that while hotels usually make years-long contracts with events, they can legally back out of said contract if they feel threatened. And they certainly did after being hit with phone calls, tweets, and who knows what else.
Now Califur is frantically scrambling to find a new venue to call home so us SoCal furries that enjoy the small-time laid-back nature of the con can have a place to go this summer. One can only hope that they will be successful in their endeavors, and they have even reached out to the fandom itself to help with finding a suitable venue.
The Issue of “In-Fandom Harassment”
Harassment, at least in regards to furries, is usually something one expects to come from outside the fandom. I can’t tell you how many times someone tries to set me up for harassment on online games like Counter-Strike; then there are situations like the early days of YouTube where furries were often met with disparaging comments – and on occasion, you can still catch it here and there.
However, events such as the one leading to Califur becoming homeless shows that harassment can come from within one’s own fandom as well, and this should be something us fellow nerds should try to guard against. I’m not necessarily saying we should all put on a cape and cowl and become Batman – personally I’m more of a Paul Kersey or Shadow sort of guy anyways – but at the very least discouraging the behavior could be a good start. Some folks push the idea of “Ignore it and it’ll go away”, but that only works for trolls trying to bait you into getting into an argument about your fandom on Counter-Strike and not so much when people are harassing a venue over an adult panel.
Even if the furs who lead the initial charge had their hearts in the right place, it still doesn’t excuse what they did. Which brings to mind another thing to consider – is there another way to handle a venue or someone doing something you dislike without it ballooning into harassment? Granted, we all can’t predict how The Internet will handle things, but one can always mitigate risks. Repercussions can always be more far-reaching than one can imagine; even if these furs were only aiming to get the panel shut down – which they were successful in, ultimately – it ended up with Califur becoming homeless and on the verge of being canceled. A good example of “We won – but at what cost?” That is, assuming they even care that their actions caused collateral damage.
This also shows the danger of knee-jerk mob mentality. Imagine if these furs had a more open mind and did some good ol’ fashioned deep dive research? Perhaps things would have turned out differently after they found out the panel was far less sinister than they thought. Research and getting the facts right is crucial, especially if you’re going to try to play Mr. Vigilante online. But that means being able to take a step back and consider the facts and heck, even talking to the people in charge of something like an adult panel to get the facts straight; and I’m sure there’s plenty of folks online and off that can think of situations where being quick to judge and act ended up making a problem worse or leading to the wrong conclusion.
So, here’s hoping that Califur will be able to roll with the punches yet again and survive this terrible blow. Things do seem to be looking up, however, as they have tweeted recently that they’re in talks with two venues and things seem promising – they’re even trying to stick to the convention’s original planned dates of the first weekend in June.
Currently talking with 2 hotels about hosting Califur this year. One of which sounds very promising.
— CaliFur Wild West 🐴 (@Califur) March 5, 2018
Let’s hope they can pull it off so folks can have a good ol’ rootin’ tootin’ time.
About a week ago we got this tweet from Califur:
Hey guys. So, we are awaiting a contract to be sent from the location for the chair to read over and sign. So far so good.
— CaliFur Wild West 🐴 (@Califur) March 23, 2018
Looks like the con might be on its way to survival afterall. Fingers crossed!
Unfortunately, Califur failed in its efforts to find a new venue. They announced via a redesigned site that they were unable to do so, and would set about refunding those that pre-registered. Here’s hoping either Califur or someone else will be able to provide SoCal with an awesome convention experience.