Whatever Happened to RainFurrest?

There used to be a fairly large #furry convention in Seattle called #RainFurrest. RainFurrest conventions occurred annually beginning in 2007 and ran through 2015 for a total of 9 conventions. Attendance for the inaugural 2007 convention was 370. This grew steadily until it reached its highest attendance of 2,704 attendees in 2015. Unfortunately, 2015 was the last RainFurrest convention to occur. What happened?

RainFurrest 2015 was a 4-day event that began on Sept. 24, 2015 and ran through Sept. 28, 2015. From what we have been able to uncover, a myriad of problems that occurred at this final convention is what brought about the end of RainFurrest. While not all of the information that lead to RainFurrest’s demise has ever been published, enough information exists to get a good idea as to what probably occurred. What it essentially boils down to is multiple types of inappropriate behavior & activities that some of the convention attendees had engaged in while at the convention’s venue: the Hilton Hotel located near the Seattle-Tacoma airport (known as Seatac).

The full extent of what had occurred at RainFurrest 2015 came out in small chunks, the first of which appears to be a letter to attendees from the RainFurrest board that was posted on Reddit. While the letter begins by mentioning many of the good things that occurred at the convention, it includes a list of problems identified by the RainFurrest board that occurred at the hotel:

  • For the last few years, the Hilton sustained more damage during RainFurrest than it did from every other event at the Hilton the entire rest of the year. This doesn’t even include damage to guest rooms or other incidental wear and tear like the elevators.

  • This year’s incidents include two plumber calls, a flooded bathroom that soaked the offices underneath, towels stuffed into a hot tub pump, and multiple petty vandalisms and thefts. A final damage report is still being compiled.

  • We had to send three people to the hospital and call the police twice.

  • By Sunday morning of con this year, the hotel was so exasperated that they were threatening to evict attendees for single noise complaints.

But this wasn’t all. Hilton’s headquarters sent a letter to RainFurrest that included a long list of complaints:

* Two attendee drug overdoses that required medical response and hospitalization for both attendees;
*Over 2000 spend nitrous oxide cartridges which are used as an illegal inhalant were found discarded in a guest corridor after the group checked out;
*A drug arrest in the adjacent parking lot of a person that police believe had ties to the RainFurrest group;
*A RainFurrest volunteer staff member was reported to have sexually assaulted a female attendee (the responding Sheriff charged the man);
*A guest room smoke detector was tampered with and discarded in a guest corridor;
*An elevator inner door cable was broken by an attendee trying to force the door open;
*A RainFurrest security staff member was seen using marijuana;
*Hilton received a phone call and follow up e-mail from an attendee complaining about rampant drug use and alcohol consumption that was allowed by RainFurrest staff.

While we’re not sure when Hilton’s headquarters sent their letter, it was probably sometime in October, 2015 as suggested by a Feb. 5, 2016 post on the RainFurrest website explaining that RainFurrest organizers had been looking for a new venue for 2016 since October, but had failed to find one. A snippet of that post is listed below:

“As many of you know, RainFurrest has been in search of a new venue since October 2015. We have discussed and explored facilities in many wonderful areas, finding options with a number of excellent venues in Greater Seattle and western Washington state. Our hard-working hotel team has fought for every possible option that would suit what our fans want out of RainFurrest. Tonight, the last of those options has closed to us.”

Hence, RainFurrest 2016 never occurred. After the search for a willing venue in western Washington (which is closest to Seattle) had been exhausted, attempts had even been made to move the event to Spokane, which is in eastern Washington; but according the Tank Winters (a.k.a., Trapa), someone had sent letters to the hotel in Spokane that encouraged them not to sign a convention contract with RainFurrest. (That is further explained in the video that we posted below.) RainFurrest was then completely shut down in or before February, 2017, which is when the final tweet was made on the RainFurrest Twitter account saying farewell.

The following video is from a 2016 convention panel in Vancouver, B.C. with Tank Winters (a.k.a., Trapa) who was one of the organizers & board members of RainFurrest. He gave a rather detailed look into what happened at and after the final 2015 RainFurrest convention, as well as the attempts to have a 2016 convention at a different venue.

Another YouTube video was posted in early 2017 summarizing everything that had occurred at RainFurrest 2015 and why the convention could not find another venue. Some of the things in this video are exaggerated, but it still gives an idea as to what was occurring:

A longtime RainFurrest attendee & helper also posted a video blog regarding his thoughts on RainFurrest in Feb. 2016.

From everything we’ve seen, the number one problem that got RainFurrest shut down was drug use by some attendees at the final 2015 convention. Residents of Washington state had approved the use of recreational cannabis in 2012 and the first recreational cannabis stores in Washington opened to the public on July 8, 2014. That, however, didn’t obligate hotels like the Hilton to permit the use of cannabis at their locations. Unfortunately, some attendees chose to ignore this prohibition by the hotel and used cannabis anyway, along with a variety of other prohibited drugs and inhalants.

The question is, did all of the attendees truly understand that drugs couldn’t be used at the hotel? When we read the RainFurrest 2015 Code of Conduct, there is actually no mention of drugs in the Code of Conduct at all. While there is a reference to following the hotel’s rules and policies,

“As a convention attendee, you are a guest of the hotel and must abide by the hotel’s rules and policies whenever you are on the premises.”

there was no link to what those hotel rules and policies were as of 2015. This, in our opinion, was something that the RainFurrest board failed to publicize.

While tampering with a smoke detector was probably a major issue for the hotel (due to liability), we strongly believe that the lack of adequate security provided by the RainFurrest board was the other major contributing factor to the demise of the convention.

Thus, drug use and lack of security (plus all of the vandalism that occurred at the hotel) greatly damaged the reputation of the RainFurrest convention, its attendees and its board. While the problems were likely only due to a small number of attendees, it was enough to harm the entire convention.

As we posted in April of this year, the public perception of costumers, cosplayers & furries is the responsibility of all costumers, cosplayers & furries. Once reputation has been damaged, it’s usually very difficult to rebuild.

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Spatial Awareness in Cosplay

#Costumers & #cosplayers who wear bulky #costumes & #cosplays that effectively make themselves physically larger than they aren’t in #costume need to be aware of how that larger size affects their movement in relation to other objects, including people, doorways, furniture, etc. This is called #SpatialAwareness and it’s a complex skill that’s learned when we’re children.

Spatial awareness is the ability to be aware of oneself in space that includes an organized knowledge of objects in relation to oneself within that given space. It also involves understanding the relationship of these objects when there is a change of position. Thus, it can be said that the awareness of spatial relationships is the ability to see and understand two or more objects in relation to each other and to oneself.

As people walk & move around in their daily lives, they encounter a variety of obstacles, but they rarely bump into those objects because they’re spatially aware of their own size in relation to the distances between themselves and those objects. This awareness can be completely lost when wearing a costume that makes oneself larger than one normally is and it doesn’t require a significant increase in size to increase the probability that the costumer or cosplayer may bump into something or someone.

Any costume with bulky armor, a large hoop skirt, protruding parts, etc., will throw the wearer’s learned spatial awareness out the window because that internally learned sense of one’s own size is no longer valid. Thus, the possibility of bumping into others, furniture or doorways suddenly becomes a very real problem not only for the wearer, but for the costume itself.

Any costumer or cosplayer who’s planning to wear a bulky costume needs to not only spend some time learning new spatial awareness skills while wearing the costume ahead of time, he or she should also learn not to make any sudden swinging, turning or bending motions that could potentially bump into something (or someone) as this could potentially hurt someone, damage the wearer’s own costume or damage someone else’s costume if they’re standing nearby.

Spatial awareness will also be adversely affected if the costumer or cosplayer is wearing a mask or helmet that reduces the wearer’s side and/or peripheral vision. Our spatial awareness is dependent upon having a wide view of our surroundings, but a mask or helmet that limits vision to being more straight ahead makes spatial awareness to the sides impossible. If the costume includes bulky parts that extend out to the sides, then bumping into things and others is going to be difficult to avoid, especially in a crowded setting. In this situation, the wearer should have a handler who isn’t in costume and can help the wearer manage the movements that he/she can’t otherwise see.

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Public Perceptions of Costumers, Cosplayers & Furries: Who’s Responsible?

All #costumers, #cosplayers & #furries share one common responsibility: public perception. That public perception applies to the fandom(s) being represented by costumers, cosplayers & furries; the perceived reason(s) why costumers, cosplayers & furries dress up in #costumes; and (most importantly) the types of activities that costumers, cosplayers & furries engage in while in costume.

Any time that costumers, cosplayers or furries are in costume in a public space, members of the general public who are not costumers, cosplayers or furries themselves will also be present and they will be able to observe what the costumers, cosplayers or furries are doing while they are in costume. A public space could be a public park, a city street, a convention center, a hotel lobby, etc.

Who are the members of the general public? They are, in all likelihood, a combination of adults and underaged children. Also, members of the general public are going to be a cross-section of society itself, which includes a myriad of beliefs, as well as a myriad of ethical, moral and political points of view.

While there will always be a wide variances in the points of view that different people have, there are also going to be some points of view that are probably going to be commonly held by most people when they pertain to intimate behaviors between people who are in a public space and how acceptable those intimate behaviors are.

  • Some types of intimate behaviors that are likely going to be regarded by most people as being acceptable while in a public space include a couple holding hands; family members or friends hugging each other; someone kissing another on the cheek; a brief kiss on the lips between adults; etc.
  • Some types of intimate behaviors that are more likely going to be regarded by most people as being unacceptable while in a public space include very long passionate kisses on the lips; physical contact that is more than a simply embracing or hugging; touching parts of the body that are never shown while in a public space; etc. At this level, these types of intimate behaviors can cross over to being regarded as sexual; and anything construed to being a sexual activity or imitating a sexual activity while in a public space is probably not going to be an acceptable behavior.

Let’s ask a question: what may happen if people (the ‘participants) are observed by others (the ‘observers’) while they are actively participating in unacceptable intimate or sexual behaviors while in a public space?

Obviously, many (if not most) of the observers are going to quickly develop a very poor opinion of the participants. But it doesn’t end there: if the participants are identified as being part of a specific group, there’s a good chance that many of the observers are also going to associate other members of that same group with that behavior, then apply the same poor opinion to other group members even though they weren’t involved. It also won’t necessarily matter if the group as a whole doesn’t condone that type of unacceptable public behavior: they’ll still bear the burden of that low opinion caused by the actions of a few.

Now, let’s take this up a notch. We live in a very interconnected society thanks to the Internet and smart phones that include cameras capable of taking both pictures and videos. If an observer takes out his or her smart phone and takes pictures or or video of the participants as they are actively engaged in an unacceptable public behavior, then that observer shares those pictures or video on the Internet, what’s going to happen? Within a matter of seconds the total number of observers will increase from a handful of people to potentially millions of people.

As we have discussed in past posts, some costumers & cosplayers are members of costume clubs; and many costume clubs have written charters that include codes of conduct that define specific types of behaviors that are not acceptable for costume club members to engage in while in costume or otherwise representing the club. Why? To maintain a positive public perception of the costume club and its members. Members who engage in an activity that violates the costume club’s code of conduct face potential punishment that could include suspension from the club or even banishment.

Similarly, many businesses and corporations require their employees to take annual training in order to prevent the employees from engaging in behavior that could potentially cause a negative public perception of the company,  which could undermine the company’s bottom line: it’s ability to conduct business and make money. If an employee violates a company’s policies, he or she may be suspended, be put on probation or possibly be terminated.

So, who then bears the responsibility of public perception in the costuming, cosplay & furry communities? We all do!!!

Are there any examples of what could go wrong when one or more costumers, cosplayers or furries engages in unacceptable behaviors while in a public space? Unfortunately, yes; and the most recent occurrence that we are aware occurred at “Furry Weekend Atlanta” (FWA) two weeks ago. Ironically, our previous post was about the dance contest that occurred at FWA.

2 weeks ago, 2 individuals (presumably men) dressed as human pups (by wearing what is typically viewed as being fetish attire) started to play with each other as puppies in the hotel lobby where FWA was occurring. The 2 individuals wrestled with each other and then one got on top of the other and remained there for roughly 30 seconds, which gave the appearance that some sexual stimulation was occurring in that position. As these 2 individuals were engaged in this actively, other furries were walking by, as well as members of the general public. Then, one of the FWA attendees who was on a balcony overlooking the lobby took video of the 2 individuals and did what? Posted an edited video emphasizing the 30-second period when one of them was on top of the other onto their personal Twitter feed. The backlash was immediate and includes an unflattering article in a well-known British publication.

We learned about this incident from the World of Rooview YouTube channel:

One very important distinction that Roo points out is the difference between fursuiting and the adult activity known as “pup play”:

  • Fursuiting is the creation of anthropomorphic characters through costuming. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities, including animals and animal characters.
  • “Pup play” is an adult activity in which one or more humans behave like a puppy. It is a type of zoomorphism, which is the attribution of animal behaviors and characteristics to humans (or other things). Thus, it is the opposite of anthropomorphism.

While the 2 “pup play” participants that were publicly wrestling with each other in the hotel lobby were not wearing fursuits at the time they were filmed, there is a presumption that they were also FWA attendees because they were wearing fetish pup play attire. Whether or not they were actually FWA attendees, they’re costumes associated them with FWA, other furries in attendance and the broader furry community at large. Had these 2 individuals only engaged in this activity in a more private location (such as their hotel room or some other site away from FWA) then this would not have become an issue. Also, had the person who filmed their questionable public activity taken their concerns to an FWA representative instead of posting it online for millions of people to see, then this would not now be associating FWA or the furry community as a whole due to the actions of only 2 participants.

Our request here is simple: if you are in costume in a public space, please do not engage in behavior that could be deemed as sexual, imitating sexual activity or be otherwise interpreted as being inappropriate or unacceptable in a public setting. Because if you do, it can reflect poorly on everyone in the hobby.

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Fursuiters Do Something that No Other Cosplayers Do: Dance Contests

What you won’t see at a typical comic or anime convention you will see at a #furry convention: a dance contest! These #fursuiters (or #furries) not only put a lot of effort into their #fursuits, but their dance moves while wearing their fursuits as well.

Here’s a furry dance competition that occurred this past weekend at Furry Weekend Atlanta (or #FWA) and was filmed by Fursuiter Blazzer:

Regardless of what type of #cosplay you enjoy, it’s ultimately about having fun.

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Inappropriate & Unacceptable Cosplays

At the end of 2017, we posted a topic regarding the rules of #costuming & #cosplay. Beyond those rules (that are based on actual laws, venue rules, etc.), some #cosplays are inappropriate and unacceptable because of cultural standards. While some jurisdictions and venues prohibit these types of cosplays & practices listed below, not all do; but that doesn’t mean that they are any less inappropriate & unacceptable.

The reasons why certain types of cosplays & practices are inappropriate & unacceptable will become clear as you read the examples below.

Blackface

For anyone unfamiliar with this term, blackface refers to the practice of non-black individuals (usually performers) putting on dark makeup in order to appear black. Dating back to the 18th century, blackface was used by white performers to create demeaning, stereotypical caricatures of blacks for minstrel shows. The practice continued until the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s in the United States, but continued elsewhere for several years or decades longer, such as the U.K., where it continued until 1978. Some occurrences continue to this day in some counties.

Blackface is widely regarded as being completely inappropriate & unacceptable due to its demeaning & racist portrayal of African Americans. Movies and cartoons that were filmed with blackface scenes are no longer broadcasted in the United States, even by cable-only TV channels.

Any cosplayer that decides to apply dark makeup in order to appear to have darker skin than they actually do may be accused of being racist even if there was no racism intended by the cosplayer. We therefore highly recommend that no cosplayer use any form of blackface.

An example that was posted to Twitter in 2016:

From Twitter.

Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation can be defined as the appropriation of elements of an oppressed culture by a people who have historically oppressed those they are taking the elements from and who lack the cultural context to properly understand, respect, or utilize those elements. Thus, it is not a a mutual cultural exchange that has occurred in an equal manner, nor was any permission granted by the oppressed culture.

Within the context of costumes, the wearing of anything that represents a cultural or racial stereotype should be avoided. Anyone wearing a costume that is deemed blatantly racist & stereotypical may be called out as being worn in poor taste or the wearer may be accused of being racist. Examples would include the following:

  • Traditional Native American dress.
  • Mexican sombreros and ponchos.
  • Jamaican dreadlocks.
  • Japanese geisha or samurai.
  • Dressing as a homeless person.

An example that was posted to Twitter in 2015:

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From Twitter.

Nazi Symbols & Uniforms

Nazism began as a 20th century political party in Germany before the outbreak of World War II. It’s leader, Adolf Hitler, adopted a symbol (called the swastica) originally used for peace in Buddhism and reversed its direction to represent the Nazi Party and its extreme racism and antisemitism. Under Hitler and the Nazi Party, Germany started World War II in 1939 by invading neighboring Poland, which then escalated to consume nearly all of Europe and parts of North Africa in war. But, even before the war started, German Jews and others that the Nazis didn’t like (including homosexuals, communists, people with disabilities, etc.) were systematically rounded up and sent to concentration camps where Nazis began to murder them in large gas chambers that were disguised as showers. By the time Nazis were defeated in World War II, they had murdered at least 12,000,000 people in the concentration camps. Of those 12,000,000, half were Jews.

Long after the end of World War II and the Nazi Party in Germany in 1945, white nationalists in the United States and elsewhere have adopted Nazi symbols and continue to spread similar racist, homophobic and antisemitic hatred. Thus, anything associated with the Nazis, including its symbols and uniforms, is highly inappropriate and unacceptable. In fact, some conventions have banned the wearing of any Nazi symbols on cosplays.

Unfortunately, there are some who do actually wear Nazi symbols and uniforms to comic, anime & even furry conventions. In fact, one such incident just occurred this weekend in Houston at Anime Matsuri, an anime convention.

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Cosplayer dressed in a Nazi uniform at Anime Matsuri 2018.

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