Friday, February 09, 2007

A site for the discriminating gentleman

Many bloggers have accused the proprietor of Bear411, the largest social networking site for bears, of racial and other forms of discrimination. Asian men have found it particularly difficult to get accepted for membership, but anyone who doesn't fit the webmaster's limited notion of what makes a bear is subject to denial. I have used the site for years and never heard about any of this until yesterday.

It's a given that private clubs have the right to refuse anyone, but isn't it bizarre when an oppressed people actually come out in favor of discrimination? The issue is being debated over at Joe. My. God., where I was stunned to read plenty of gay men believe excluding people on the basis of appearance is just fine. They rationalize it's okay because bears are associated with a certain look. Never mind that nobody can agree on what a bear looks like in the first place.

Why am I shocked though? Body fascism is hardly new in the gay community. As a chubby guy I always felt marginalized from the gay mainstream and its impossible twink ideal. People engaged in bear studies (yes, there is such a thing) will tell you the subculture formed as a reaction to that exclusivity. But men with other body types are just as marginalized in places where twink is not the dominant paradigm. I know a couple of guys who were denied membership to Midwestern bear clubs for not being "bear enough". This divisiveness makes no sense to me.

Bear411 is a shite site anyway and there are a number of good reasons not to use it. The webmaster is guilty of all kinds of censorship, there's no privacy policy in place and it has a clunky, ridiculously difficult to navigate interface. But he really dropped the ball with his arbitrary membership practices. A social networking site is designed to bring people together by definition, and everyone in the bear world knows that plenty of bears are into non-bears and vice versa. So it doesn't make sense from a financial perspective either.

I will never support a discriminatory organization and anyone who does can fuck right off. I urge anyone who uses the site to message the webmaster Greg aka BuddyBear to complain, then check out one of the many other bear sites on the web. BearCiti is recommended by a lot of Bear411's detractors. Before I cancel my account I will post about the site's evildoing in my profile and get the word out to as many people as possible. That'll probably get my membership revoked anyway.