brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

One of the big explanations/excuses for why various transphobic laws restricting public bathroom use to genitals is that it protects women from men who’d put on wigs and dresses (and shave their bodies? and wear foundation garments? and pad themselves? and use extensive make up? and manage to find size 12 or larger womens’ shoes?) and assault women in the bathrooms while disguised as women, something which has never happened, although men dressed as men have assaulted women in bathrooms and have camped out in portapotties to get a glimpse of women using the toilets.

If legislatures really wanted to protect women in bathrooms, they’d realize that first of all, assault is assault. It doesn’t matter if a man assaults a man or a woman; it doesn’t matter if a woman assaults a man or a woman. If you’re in the bathroom and someone assaults you, that’s already a crime. You don’t need to make a special law that only targets one particular marginalized group of people on the grounds that one of them might maybe commit a crime at some point. Then maybe they’d look into laws across all states, or even federal laws, protecting people from “upskirt” photos. It’s legal, at least in Scotland, to install one-way mirrors in public bathrooms and then sell tickets for men to watch women using the bathroom. Has there been a rash of legislature outlawing that in the USA?

Laws barring Trans and Non-Binary/GenderQueer folk from bathrooms because of their genital configuration are not about protecting other bathroom users. They’re about curtailing the ability of Trans & GQ/NB to exist in the world without harassment. They’re about making it illegal to exist as a Trans & GQ/NB person when there are more and more laws protecting their right to exist. They’re about finding ways, about creating ways, to oppress a marginalized group and make it very clear that they are unwelcome and not fully human.

These proposed laws spin ciswomen as delicate tender flowers needing extra protection and transwomen as sexual predators who are “really” men. They are harmful and they are bullshit and they are created not out of any desire to help or protect but out of the desire to actively oppress and harm Trans and GQ/NB people.

This is a tremendous problem.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Rich, well-dressed, fancy-car-owning, connected, white-identifying virgin Elliot Rodger described himself as a nice guy and a gentleman, and was furious with women for “rejecting” him.

He left behind an online presence like a pustulant rash, documenting his interactions with women and how they made him cry simply by existing. He describes himself as a “nice guy” and a “gentleman” while insulting -and physically assaulting- women. At one point he, in a car, smiled at two women waiting to cross the street. When they didn’t smile back, perhaps not even seeing him, he circled around and threw his coffee at them, lamenting online that it wasn’t hot enough to burn them badly. That’s the action of a nice guy and gentleman, right?

In his many, many brain leavings online he does not talk about actually approaching women. All that rejection he faced? He never asked any question, he never put himself out there. He decided to punish women for not reading his mind, for not sensing his interest, for not flocking to him and being the sexual prizes he felt he deserved. He murdered women because women did not attach themselves to his dick, unasked.

He wrote many, many times and made many videos about how much he hated women, and Black men, and Asian men. He was deeply misogynist, and deeply racist as well. He described himself as “a nice guy” but nothing in his writings, nothing in his representations of himself, can be identified as actually NICE.

There’s an awful lot of guys who identify themselves as “nice guys” with nothing backing that up. And like Rodger, they lash out at women and try to punish them for any perceived failing. They call women sluts, all women, define them as such and deride them as such… then seek to punish them when those “sluts” exercise control over their sexuality and refuse to have sex with them. There’s a lot of comments -a LOT- supporting Rodger and claiming that if some woman, some sacrificial virgin, had just TAKEN ONE FOR THE TEAM, then Rodger wouldn’t have been forced to become a spree killer. There are comments literally saying that women need to pay for their lives with sex, that a woman who does not have sex with a man deserves to be murdered.

But rape culture doesn’t exist, right?

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brigid: A fat faced baby in a cap is stuffed into a mail sack worn by a postal carrier. (what.)

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I’ve seen, a few times now, MRAs explaining fervently that Misandry IS TOO A REAL THING and backing that up with WOMEN FORCE MEN TO GO TO WAR!!!! and REMEMBER THE WHITE FEATHERS!!!!!!!!!!

If you’re unfamiliar with “white feathers,” they were a social tool used in England previous to and at the time of World War I to shame men who didn’t join the military. Specifically, in WWI, they were used to target men who used their money and position to evade the draft and send lower class men in their place. Men who received white feathers from women often responded by slapping or punching the women, and getting applauded for it, recounting the times lovingly in their memoirs. Women who passed out white feathers in public were often ejected from those places. Receiving a white feather may have made a dude feel bad or hurt his feelings, but it didn’t MAKE him do anything, and as a movement it wasn’t very well supported.

Meanwhile, serving in the military (assuming you survived, of course) had a lot of benefits for a man– benefits denied to a woman. There was the prestige and glory, of course. There was the financial benefits… income, pension. There was the social benefit, the way it looked good on a resume, the way it added heft to a career and made one more eligible for certain positions, including political ones. These benefits were all denied to women.

Claiming that it was misandry that consigned so many men to war, and death, during WWI is one of the most laughable things I’ve ever heard, frankly. The argument is about as persuasive as a series of wet farts. Women in England didn’t even get the right to vote until the 1930s. They weren’t politicians. They weren’t making political decisions. They were absolutely not in any position at all to make enforceable decisions about war… what wars to fight or not fight, who should fight or not fight. They weren’t even allowed to fight themselves. The best a woman could hope for was to become a nurse or disguise herself as a man and enlist… the latter, if discovered, would most likely end in being stripped of any rank, medals, and pension.

And honesty, if your best “proof” that misandry IS TOTES REAL!!!!! is something that happened literally a century ago?

When people discuss misogyny, they are discussing things that are actually happening literally right now.

It is misogyny that women overall are paid less than men for the same job, for same hours worked, for the same skillset. It is misogyny that male politicians are doubling down on the idea that women DESERVE less pay than men for the same job, same hours worked, same skillset. It is misogyny that women politicians are discussed based on their physical appearance, that they’re accused of being “too old” when male politicians much older than them are considered viable candidates. It’s misogyny that many MANY men exclude women as potential employees solely on the basis that they’re women. It’s misogyny that doctors are less likely to prescribe pain medication for women patients than for men patients. It is misogyny that medications are tested on men but not women, that there is no information on what safe dosages are for women for most medications because no studies have been done. It’s misogyny that most doctors don’t recognize the signs of a heart attack in women, don’t know how to treat a woman’s heart attack. It’s misogyny that men are lauded for “daring” to state that women are less intelligent, less capable, less able then men… especially in traditionally male fields like math, science, computer science, astronomy, and other fields that women once dominated or helped found. It is misogyny that leads to “best of” book lists and award lists featuring only male authors, that leads to male teachers smugly announcing how gosh darn it, they just don’t LIKE any female author EVER so they only deign to teach male authors because women just can’t WRITE.

It is misogyny RIGHT NOW, existing in the world RIGHT NOW, that negatively impacts my life and the life of every single woman I know. It’s misogyny that prevents women from filing claims about domestic abuse and rape because most likely nobody will believe them… not the police, not the judge if the case even makes it before a judge). IF she can convince someone to do a rape kit, and IF she doesn’t have to pay for it herself (and even if she does), in all likelihood it will languish untested for a decade or more. SHE will be put on trial and called a gold digging whore or a slut or someone out to destroy a poor man’s reputation, regardless of the fact that false rape claims make up a tiny fraction of rape claims… at the same rate as false B&E claims, false mugging claims. It’s misogyny that holds girls, minors, responsible for the sexual attention adult men inflict upon them. It’s misogyny that puts extreme limits on the clothing girls and young women can wear to school without putting limits on the way their male classmates and teachers ogle their bodies, claiming that halter tops and shorts are so distracting that men cannot learn around them… and that a man’s right to learn undistracted by female bodies is more important than a woman’s right to learn wearing the clothing she feels comfortable in, unharassed by unwanted sexual attention.

MRAs are quick to point out individual, isolated examples of “misandry,” of things that happen to some men that they know that is totally unfair. But misandry isn’t actually a real thing, because it’s not a pervasive element of society and because the people (men) affected by it are in a position of power and not marginalization.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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(content note: discussion of body hate, disordered eating, mental health issues, harassment, etc)

What is a microagression?

A microagression is a small, non-physical act that takes a negative, hostile, insulting, etc stance toward people of lower status. The term was originally used to refer to issues of race but is also sometimes used to describe similar actions with regards to gender and gender expression, class, ability status, etc.

On December 11th, Melissa McEwan started the hashtag #fatmicroaggressions on twitter “because I was having a moment of fedupedness with people pretending that fat people’s lived experiences are not spoken about, not known.”

I started college in 1997 when I was 18 and already pretty solidly in the grips of an eating disorder. If you’d asked me about it, I would have talked about diets and willpower and how unbelievably fat I was. At the time, I was still able to shop in “normal” clothing stores and wasn’t unbelievably fat. But adults had treated me, since childhood, as a massive disgusting fatbag one snack away from imploding from my own fatness. Didn’t I know how disgusting I was? Didn’t I know how cute I’d be if I’d only lose some weight? I look back at photos of myself as a kid, and sometimes I was a little chubby and sometimes I was skinny, but I wasn’t a fat kid. But adults around me were super quick to enforce the idea that I was a fat kid and fat kids were fundamentally worth less than non-fat kids. I think a lot of that was in reaction to the fact that my mom is fat… that they were trying to stage some sort of intervention to prevent me from going down the same (constantly dieting, constantly hungry, constantly hating herself) path she was on. And I internalized that. I took it as a given that I didn’t deserve clothing that fit properly or looked good, that I didn’t deserve to sit on the nice furniture for fear of breaking it, that I didn’t deserve people to treat me well, that I shouldn’t expect to ever find a husband or have kids (neither of which I was interested in at the time) unless I was willing to be strong and use my willpower to lose weight and get skinny. Because I was just lazy and indolent, that’s all, and all I needed to do was pay attention and count calories and measure things and work out and walk just a little bit and not so fucking much.

I stopped doing ballet (and tap and jazz) because my instructor told me I’d never be able to go en pointe, I was too fat. Too bad I don’t live in Russia or I could have joined Big Ballet, made up of dancers who weigh 220 lbs and up. I stopped doing tumbling/gymnastics because the instructor refused to help me get into positions she helped the other kids get into, and responded to my complaints of physical bullying (shoves, pokes, punches, and pinches of my little tummy) with an admonition to lose some weight (I was under ten years old). My pediatrician dismissed my mom’s concerns over my recurring ear infections, bronchitis (2-3x a year), and strep throat and advised her to put me on a diet. (When I turned 20 I got a new doctor who immediately had my tonsils removed. In the ensuing 14 years I’ve had bronchitis maybe 3 times total instead of 2-3 times a year. She also, worried about my weight, put me on an anti-depressant because it tended to suppress the appetite. She completely missed the part where I was incapacitated by Depression and Anxiety, but boy did she see my stomach and decide losing weight would do the trick. She missed the obvious signs of PCOS, too.)

By my senior year of high school, I was subsisting primarily on heavily caffeinated diet sodas. They were calorie free and filled me up sloshily and gave me energy which I needed because I was taking in so few calories. They also gave me horrible headaches thanks to the artificial sweeteners, but it was worth it, because no calories! I counted calories to the extreme, measuring out teaspoons of peanut butter for sandwiches and making hot cocoa with half the amount of the mix recommended. And when I was too hungry to keep doing it, when I’d been fasting for three or four days, I’d go on a binge and eat until I hurt while hating myself the entire time. I had excruciating nightmares for years about eating, would wake up racked with guilt from eating in dreams.

At some point in college I encountered the Venus of Willendorf and, possibly somehow through that, Marilyn Wann’s website Fat!So? which was a life changer. They both started me thinking in a very fundamentally different way about my body and my place in the world. I later discovered Intuitive Eating and Health At Every Size (HAES) and Kate Harding’s Shapely Prose and other blogs from the fatosphere.

I’m a lot healthier– and a lot fatter– now than I used to be. I rarely have my blood sugar drop so low I get shakey and nearly pass out. I haven’t fasted or binged in a long time. Keeping a food log can trigger incredibly unhealthy mindsets and behavior in me, but I can keep one if I need to (for instance, to be sure I’m taking in enough calories in a day). I still deal with stress by losing any inclination to eat, and sometimes realize that it’s almost bedtime and I’ve literally eaten nothing that day. I still have deep rooted problems, physical and mental, from the way people have treated me and my body for daring to exist as a fat person.

And I encounter similar problems pretty much every single day, people pre-judging me and my worth based on my size.

When I was pregnant, my first OB-GYN did not have a scale that went above 250 lbs. In order to weigh in, I had to leave his office, walk into a different office of a different doctor, and ask to use THEIR scale. I’ve had doctors fret that I was too heavy for their exam tables (I’m not). I’ve had medical staff refuse to use a larger sized blood pressure cuff (which skews my BP reading, making it register as abnormally high) or insist on using a thigh cuff (which is too big, and also gives a false reading… this time of too low). I’ve had many medical staff offer me exam gowns that were ridiculously small, because they simply don’t stock plus size gowns. When I had just delivered my child via C-Section, which is major abdominal surgery, and was still unable to feel anything from my chest down, I was expected to self-transfer from a gurney to a bed because the nurses didn’t want to touch my fat body. When I accidentally soiled myself (again, just had major abdominal surgery, had no sensation below the chest) they refused to clean me up and I lay there caked in feces for over an hour. When they DID clean me, they did an incredibly poor job. The morning nurse assumed I was simply incontinent and had regular bowel leakage because that’s just how fat people are. Medications, including birth control, are not tested on people over a certain size, resulting in fat people routinely being given the wrong dose of medication.

Every day that I leave my house I know I am going to be judged harshly by people. They are going to pull faces if I sit near them on the bus or train. They are going to be extra angry if I’m too slow crossing the street. People who see me with my kid assume I’m his aunt or nanny and not his mom. I know for a fact that I’m statistically likely to receive inferior medical care, that if I need an EMT they might stand around mocking my size instead of assisting me, or might post photos of me and insults to twitter or facebook. If I go into a grocery store, someone would feel it well within their rights to take photos of me and post them online with insults. In fact, there’s websites devoted to mocking people my size. People feel it acceptable and normal to casually insult me simply for existing, to judge me and find me wanting based solely on what they see.

I’m not going to pull that ridiculous “last acceptable prejudice” card or claim that anti-fat bias is somehow unique in the world of hatred and -isms. I’m also aware that as a white woman who usually doesn’t look obviously disabled I don’t get slammed with as much bias as other fat people in the world.

But still.

Every day I wake up and go out into a world that’s full of assholes. Every day I wake up and brace myself for absolute strangers to attack and deride me. Every day that I post something online i wait for the “lol ur fat” responses to roll in– and they frequently do.

So Melissa McEwan started this hashtag and people started posting under it. And some of it’s petty little shit like cashiers side-eying their Halloween Candy purchases and some of it’s bigger stuff like being denied birth control or having eating disorders and other medical issues go undiagnosed/untreated. And some people responded with WELL THAT ISN’T REALLY MICRO NOW IS IT.

I have 2 responses to that.

1) When you deal with toxic bullshit every single day, what should be a huge instance of hate and bias kind of sinks into a background noise. Pretty much every very fat person I know has had their medical concerns dismissed because they’re fat and “they just need to lose weight.” So on the one hand, that is (or should be) a huge fucking issue. On the other hand, it’s incredibly common. Almost every fat person I know dreads having to find a new doctor (or A doctor if they haven’t got one) because it means you’re probably going to have to shop around extensively just to find a person who treats you like a human being and not a gross sack of lipids. So a lot of the things mentioned under the hashtag? Are super huge things and not micro at all. But you know what? Those things are so common, so ubiquitous, and so many people feel they are deserved, that they just… lie there. Accepted. Acceptable.

2) It’s rare for the voices of fat people to be centered, to be heard, to be granted legitimacy. So fat folks see these kind of thing, and on twitter there’s very little barrier to entry, and suddenly… they’re entered into a conversation with other people who have Been There, who have Experienced That, who have Survived That, who Know How It Is. And the dam breaks. And all this fear and resentment and anger comes pouring out. Yes, there’s a difference between that woman on the bus who got up huffily after you sat down because your thigh touched hers and she didn’t want your gross fat cooties and the time you went to the doctor and he dismissed your questions about MS and advised you to eat more kale and lose weight, but at the same time, those exist on a spectrum of hate that affects all fat people and both are equally acceptable ways to react to fat people: with disgust, with anger that they exist, with dismissal. Just go away and don’t come back until you’re skinny.

The trolls, of course, have come out.

It’s easy to lose weight, they say. You’re just making excuses, they say. One asshole, whose entire account seemed to have been created solely to seek out and harass people who’d participated in the hash tag, tried to dismiss some of my claims. MAYBE THEY JUST SECRETLY HATE YOU.



Sweet troll.

Precious little one.

It’s not a fucking secret.

It is socially acceptable and valid to hate people, to treat them as less than human, to consider them both worth less than thinner humans and also to consider them worthless.

That’s not a secret at all.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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One of the tropes Joss Whedon returns to over and over is The Exceptional Woman. In his narratives, this is a (generally very young, very physically small) woman who is the best ever at what she does without having to really work at it. It’s either a natural talent, or an unnatural one forced upon her against her will… sometimes painfully. On the one hand, you have your Willow Rosenbergs and Kaylee Fryes, and Skye (no last name)s who may work at something but don’t need to work THAT hard because they are NATURALLY GIFTED. Willow did a lot of research, but also had a vast well of world-ending power deep inside her. Kaylee could fix engines she’d never seen before, because OSMOSIS (her dad was a mechanic, it rubbed off on her). Skye does a lot of computer work, but has never had to seriously study anything seriously, or even finish high school. Naturally talented! Gifted! Effortlessly amazing! On the other hand you have your Buffy Summers and your River Tams, cruelly manipulated and forced into something they didn’t want to be, by the actions of old men. Unnaturally gifted, they don’t have to work for what they have either. Sure, early series Giles is always bugging Buffy to practice and study strategy and be serious, but over and over we were shown that she doesn’t need to.

Joss Whedon is often lauded as Feminist, and as good for women. His shows, especially “Buffy,” are considered girl-positive. And it’s honestly rare to see decently developed female characters on tv. But the way Whedon persists in displaying women and their abilities is harmful to women.

Why do I say this?

It’s rare for women to be recognized as experts in their field, even in women-centric discussions like Feminism or in traditionally women-centric fields of employment like teaching or nursing. As Ben Barres has famously pointed out, people react differently to scientific research, to facts and figures and provable results, based on the gender (or perceived gender) of the person publishing the work. It’s why Kim O’Grady only got callbacks on his resume after he added “Mr” to his name. It’s why a man who admitted to attempted murder and “accidental” rape was one of the paid spokespersons for Feminism for years. Patriarchal society accepts that men are superior to women, and that it’s rare for women to be in positions of power or authority, to be good at what they do, because they just are innately inferior. Patriarchal society accepts that men and women simply think differently and that the way women think (and speak and socialize and budget their time and spend their money etc) is inferior to the way men think (and all the rest). Patriarchal society accepts that a handful of women will be super exceptional and naturally gifted and will rise to the top, proving their natural worth, but the rest of women are just inferior or lazy or stupid or too busy shopping for shoes or whatever to do the same.

So when a Big Name in media, someone lauded as Feminist, routinely portrays only Exceptional Women Who Are Naturally Gifted, it buys into the established myth that most women are mundane but some select and glorious few are ~~SPECIAL~~ and ~~GIFTED~~ and ~~DESERVING~~. And it reinforces the narrative that while it’s accepted and normal for men to work hard and get ahead, to study martial arts or science or tactics or wood working or whatever to become successful, the same isn’t true for women. The only really acceptable way to be a stand out woman, a central character, is to have The Hand Of God marking you as innately special and gifted. And that means it’s ok and normal and routine for men to be experts and leaders 95% of the time, because most women just can’t cut it.

It’s a way of both putting women on a pedestal (so special! so exceptional! so naturally gifted!) while also putting limits on them (no need to try to work hard or study or practice, you’ve got it or you don’t). It’s a way of establishing unrealistic role models and goals. It’s a way of dismissing most women and their experiences.

It really sucks.

And it’s harmful.

(NB: I have not discussed “Dollhouse” at all because I found the show deeply, deeply creepy and did not watch it.)

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Nesko and I were watching a run of shows on the National Geographic channel about peripheral vision and sleight of hand and how the brain functions. My breaking point came when a pair of identical twin women “interviewed” for a “job” to demonstrate a study. They were dressed the same, right down to heavy make up and very short skirts. I mean, this was supposed to emulate a job interview, and they looked like they were about to go clubbing. The moment also kind of bought into the “sexy twins” fantasy. They could have used one woman dressed differently each time. They were needlessly sexified. It was kind of a straw that broke the camel’s back moment, though.

Earlier, cheerleaders took their shirts off to demonstrate how when your eyes are tracking something moving you don’t pay attention to stuff in your peripheral vision.

Men were told to use their peripheral vision to pick the “hot” cheerleader out of a pair (one cheerleader was a man dressed in drag) because beauty totally isn’t subjective and it’s easy to discern hotness from a distance. And they were mocked for choosing the “ugly” cheerleader because all men have the same taste and all men prefer feminine looking women.

There’s a very real perception of SCIENCE! as a male field. Statistically it’s true, STEM fields are dominated by men, and women who study/work in them face a lot of explicit and implicit prejudice. There’s been a lot of talk recently about how more women can be encouraged to study STEM fields. Start ‘em young, some people say. Increase their access to STEM programs in high school, in grade school, in after school programs, in camps. Offer more mentoring to college students, say others. Make more STEM-themed toys and games advertised toward girls. Add more pink to the mix! Make videos showing women scientists wearing high heels and lipstick and sexy clothing!

One really easy way to change the perception of SCIENCE! as a boys club would be to strip the male gaze out of pop science productions.

Want to make a show about how the brain works? Get rid of the cheerleaders and the shirtless titillation and short skirts. Operate under the assumption that your audience will be made of both men AND women, in equal numbers. Science is really interesting! If you can’t sell how the brain works on its own merits, if you need sex to sell it, you are doing something VERY wrong.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I was watching ABC news this morning and crying at the weather report when they did a feature on the Special Olympics. The host was an older Deaf woman who spoke verbally and used ASL. A bunch of Special Olympics participants where shown, they answered some question. The entire segment was captioned, although it took a while to kick in. As soon as the segment ended the closed captioning also ended. It made it really clear who ABC considers their target audience: people who don’t need captioning. It felt like there was an assumption that someone who was Deaf/Hard Of Hearing would zip in solely for the segment, then bop back out again.

It reminded me of retailers who balk at ADA compliance and complain that they shouldn’t have to drop a bunch of cash on making their places of business accessible since they don’t HAVE any customers who use wheelchairs/assistive devices.

Which kind of proves the point, you know?

Disabled people exist. They consume media and eat at restaurants and take vacations and stay in hotels and use sidewalks and public transit and drive and buy clothing and books and groceries… or they try to. And most able bodied people give pretty much zero thought to making things… media, locations, businesses, tax-funded public streets and schools, hotels, etc… accessible to disabled people. And then they are shocked!! and surprised!! that disabled people exist. And meanwhile, they’re missing out on the money that disabled people have to spend on goods and services because they’re using businesses/locations/media providers that serve their needs.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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For those of you unaware, I’m on Good Reads. I enter First Reads contests and was lucky enough to score a copy of Weird Detectives: Recent Investigations, edited by Paula Guran. I’m about 2/3s through and was really enjoying it, my only regret that the Sarah Monette story in it is one I’ve already read, when Patricia Briggs’ “Star Of David” really threw me for a loop. A big old racist loop.

The story is called “Star Of David” even though nobody in the story is, apparently, Jewish. There’s a kid who’s Romany and in the foster care system, and he’s ~~A GYPSY~ and ~~A WIZARD~~ because “Most wizards have at least a little Gypsy blood.” Gypsies: they are magical paranormal creatures, not human beings! Totally fictional fantasy creatures! WITH MAGIC POWERS!!! His great grandmother “survived Dachau because the American troops came just in time — and because she kept her mouth shut when the Nazis wanted information.” Unlike all those dead Romany and Jews who didn’t keep their mouths shut and thus deserved to die or something? I don’t even know. PRO TIP MS BRIGGS: It is Jewish people who were marked with the Star of David, while Romany (and lesbians) were marked with a black triangle.

She also makes a snide comment about how “rich people” don’t foster or adopt kids in the US foster system (which is untrue and a weird thing to say), and that instead they chose babies from China or Romania. Which, ok, the story was first published back in 2008, but Romania outlawed foreign adoption back in 2004 due to concerns about black market babies and ESPECIALLY about babies being stolen (or bought) from impoverished Romany women. Like, the government had straight up concerns that some women were being turned into baby making factories for export and said hey now, enough of that. You haven’t been able to get a Romanian baby for a VERY long time unless you can prove you’re related fairly closely to said baby (or child). Maybe in 2007/2008 babies from Africa and Haiti weren’t a big deal yet so she didn’t mention them? Or maybe she’s buying into the idea that that Romany and Romanian are basically the same thing and just had LOLGYPSIES on the brain?

The main character, Stella, has “milk and coffee skin” and dark kinky hair, but her (werewolf) father who literally tore her mother to shreds, killing her in a domestic dispute, has skin “dark as the night” which keeps him “safely hidden in the shadows where he and people like him belonged.” So you’ve got a dark skinned Black man who literally is a violent animal, who murdered his wife (oops, but it was an accident, he’s really a good guy, HASN’T HE SUFFERED ENOUGH?????), and who needs to stay in the shadows where “people like him” (not WEREWOLVES like him, PEOPLE like him) belong.

This anthology features Jim Butcher, Elizabeth Bear, and Sarah Monette– three authors who’ve had moments of infamy for racism in their work/social media dealings– and WHOMP WHOMP here comes a fourth spouting off about fantasy Gypsies being inherently magical. Good job dehumanizing a group of people already widely dehumanized!

I’m so fucking tired of this. I’m really tired of feeling like I’m walking through a pleasant grassy field studded with daisies and WHOOPS! hidden landmines. Am I going to step on one? Is this the step that’s going to lead me into a racist explosion? How about this one? Whooops, just stepped on a sexist landmine! KABOOM! Consuming media shouldn’t be this fucking stressful. And, you know, I’m a white girl in an acceptably monogamous heterosexual relationship, so racism and homophobia bother me but they don’t get under my skin in a personal way the way they do for other people because they aren’t as personal (duh). But it’s still an issue and it’s an issue I am just so fucking tired of running into. Surely we can do better? It’s the fucking 21st century!

I was really getting into this book, making notes about authors I want to read more of. And now I’m reluctant to read further because if the editor let something like Briggs’ story slip in, what’s to stop there being more of the same?

Briggs also has a fantasy series about a were-coyote who is Native American. I’m sure it’s handled with all the deft grace and sensitivity she’s handled this short story.

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Years ago, when I was in college, my university required all students to take cultural sensitivity classes. Not specific check-your-privilege type stuff, but we were required to take X amount of credit hours in classes dedicated to literature of a marginalized group or groups. Virtually all the students, myself included, actively resented this. It felt like a ploy to require us to take, and pay for, extra credit hours. I sullenly took a class on Hispanic-American authors and was surprised at how awesome it was, exposed to a lot of really great literature. So obviously, it ultimately paid off. But why weren’t any of those short stories, novels, or poems taught in “regular” English classes? When I took an English class on American Short Stories, every single author was White and Male. I joked about how testosterone-filled the class was, me and another woman student joked about growing penises just from sitting in the class. Sure, we could have taken classes that covered women and only women, but we would have had to pay extra for that class/classes and at the time it might not have counted as a requirement for higher level general English classes, but toward womens studies classes (this may well have changed).

At that time, in the late 90s/early 00s, it was very firmly established that (white) men were authors and anyone who was a woman, was not white, was other. Not real. Not authentic. After all, if they were REAL authors, they’d be in with the STANDARD authors (who were white and male) and not shunted off to the side in specialty classes taken only by people studying minority authors or required to to satisfy cultural competency requirements.

It’s over ten years later, and Wikipedia currently has editors sorting American and Haitian novelists into “authors” and “women authors.” Male, you see, is the default. If you want to find women authors, you need to go to a special place to do so. They are other. They are marginalized. Amanda Filipacchi writes about it here, listing some of the notable women novelists now consigned to the margins.

Wikipedia’s page on American Novelists notes that due to the vast number of novelists grouping like novelists together is a good thing. But surely every single novelist could be included in one or more group. Right now there’s genre classifications, but you could also add gender; geographical region lived in and/or written about (CF Southern Gothic); arbitrary chunks of time (5 years, 10 years, 15 years); historical epochs (writing pre-WWI, writing WWI-WWII); etc. Or you could just be all WHELP LET’S SEGREGATE THE WOMEN.

It’s an ongoing point of view, the status quo. Men are default, are allowed to be human. Women are other, are special, are special interest.

As Abigail Grace Murdy notes:

Within the Wikipedia community, women make up only 15% of contributors and only 9% of editors, so this unfortunate reshuffling hardly comes as a surprise. Within the publishing community, it comes as more of the same sore thing. Women writers are consistently underrepresented, their work receiving much less attention than that of their male counterparts. In 2012 the New York Review of Books reviewed only 40 female authors, as opposed to 215 male authors.

The subcategory “American women novelists” simply reflects a widespread and belittling perception of women writers that already exists. But in reflecting that perception, Wikipedia perpetuates it, and the sexism marches on.

Remember in 2011 when gosh golly wow Wikipedia just couldn’t figure out why there weren’t more women contributing to/editing Wikipedia and ‘reached out to women’ by complaining how uninvolved they were?

According to the American Novelist talk page the majority of the editing was done by a lone person. As one contributor points out:

It’s worth noting that a single user, Johnpacklambert is responsible for the vast majority of these edits. He has made thousands of edits, removing African Americans from the category “American Television Actors”, and erroneously placing female authors of young adult fiction into the American Girl Authors category (intended for books in the American Girl series).

Discussion on the talk page ranges from vilifying Filipacchi for “being a drive by columnist” who “doesn’t understand how Wikipedia works” to people who recognize there’s a problem and want to solve it, to people who don’t see anything wrong at all with consigning women authors to the fringes, on totally separate pages, because gosh! They’re WOMEN authors! What do you want?

Coverage of the issue, obviously, uses the word “sexist” a lot and those involved are quick to say that woah, wait, they aren’t sexist! They don’t, like, beat women or refuse to hire them or think they should be chained barefoot to ovens all day or anything! They’re nice people! How DARE you call them sexist? And, you know, I don’t think there’s a secret cabal of wikipedia editors sitting in a dark room smoking cigars and plotting how to Keep Women Down. But this sort of thing is an accurate reflection of the constant slow grind of male supremacy, of patriarchal society. This is oppression. Men create things, women are a subcategory. Men are legitimate, women are other. Men are authors and novelists, women are a special interest group. A college level class on short stories features only male authors, erasing women’s experiences, women’s voices. On a larger note, THIS is why we have Black History Month and Women’s History Month in the USA, because the Black experience, the Woman’s experience, the Jewish Experience, the Hispanic Experience, the Asian Experience isn’t represented at all in history classes. It’s all white men doing white things. There’s a cable channel that has a whole series about “the Men Who Made America.” Men. Only men. Not a (white) man? Not important.

This is the status quo. This is the patriarchy. This is why women still fight for equality, still struggle. Because men are still the default, and women are still the other.

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You’ve probably seen the latest Dove viral ad campaign. It’s a video available on you tube about how totally awesome Dove is because of their decade long “Real Beauty” campaign and how now they’re going after the people who are REALLY evil: “art directors, graphic designers, and photo retouchers.” Not ad executives and companies, no. Just those evil artists who for reasons TOTALLY UNKNOWN make women feel bad ON PURPOSE about their bodies. But how to “catch them in the act!!!” and “make them reconsider”? They needed a plan! So they created a Photoshop Action and released it into the wild, where it will be used by amateurs who want to make wedding and baby photographs look better. Billed as a “skin glow effect” they posted it on reddit and other places where art directors, graphic designers, and professional photo retouchers TOTALLY hang out and get their totally professional Photoshop Actions, Brushes, etc from.

In reality, all the Action does is revert all changes made to the original image and pop up a scolding message.

Don’t manipulate our perceptions of real beauty.

Of course, to undo that reversion, all one has to do is hit… well… undo.

BAM! A totally effective message that will OBVIOUSLY CHANGE THE WORLD FOREVER!

Or, more likely, go viral and make Dove look totally awesome and progressive because they just love women so much and are so willing to take on those horrible evil photo retouchers who are just the WORST, right?

Dove, remember, is owned by Unilver which has those atrocious Axe commercials (women! they are fuck beasts for fucking!) and SlimFast (women: you are fat cows, stop eating!). If they really wanted to push for long acting real social change, they could apply pressure to Unilver to at the very least stop marketing Axe the way it’s marketed.

Of course, they could also change their own advertising as well.

I mean, if Dove really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, maybe they shouldn’t find new body parts for women to be ashamed of? I, for one, never knew my armpits were ugly until Dove told me so.





If Dove really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, they wouldn’t market Firming Creams, and their criteria for casting calls wouldn’t be quite as shameful (beautiful skin and hair only! No zits or scars, those are GROSSSSSSSS).


If Dove (and Unilever) really thinks womens’ bodies are beautiful and we should all stop altering our perceptions of real beauty, they wouldn’t market skin-lightening creams (which are physically as well as emotionally harmful) around the world.

Like diet companies who co-opt HAES and Size Acceptance verbage, and companies who practice Greenwashing, Dove is taking Body Acceptance language and using it to sell product. They are telling women what they think women want to hear for the sole reason that they want to sell products to those women. There’s nothing inherently wrong with companies advertising their wares. What’s wrong is the incredibly hypocritical advertising Dove uses. They aren’t trying to change the world, but they very willing to use social justice and activism language to sell their products and their subtle form of body hate. Dove doesn’t give a shit about your body or how beautiful you feel, they just want your money.

One of the worst things is that Dove is actually in a position to make actual changes in the industry. Instead of telling everyone that we should pat them on the back for promoting size acceptance and bodily diversity (while actually showing a pretty narrow range of sizes and skin colors), they could just use a wide variety of women of different body types and ethnicities. They could show instead of telling. They could push for Unilever to do the same with other ad campaigns as well. And they could pressure Unilever to drop the body shaming, sexist, manipulative language and images that other Unilever products use. But Dove isn’t doing that. Instead, they’re creating viral videos that do the bulk of advertising for them (saving them money) and creating good will among their users. It’s an effective ad campaign, but it’s also an insulting one.

Dove claims that they’re against distorting perceptions of beauty, which is harmful to women, while telling women that their armpits are ugly and their skin is saggy and their scars are gross and their frizzy hair is uggsville and their dark/uneven skin is THE WORST, but hey it’s ok because they can spend money on products to make them prettier YAY GIRL POWER WOOOOO now how about a nice round of SlimFast for all? The hypocrisy is thick on the ground.

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I want you to imagine something.

You meet this person. You hit it off. You spend a lot of time hanging out. You discuss your favorite shows and politics, they’re always really complimentary, you go out drinking together. You get sick and they come by armed with Sweet And Sour Soup and you chill and watch tv together. When you go places, you drive in your car. You help them carry stuff home from IKEA in your car, you help them move with your car. You like and trust them. You’re friends.

Then you loan your car to someone, and they find out and flip out at you.

Don’t you realize that THEY wanted to borrow your car? How DARE you loan your car to someone else when they’ve wanted to borrow your car this entire time! How disrespectful are you? Just loaning your car to everyone around except for them. Unless you loan your car to them RIGHT NOW and let them drive it ALL THE TIME, they are leaving your life forever and telling everyone what a shitheel you are. OBVIOUSLY they only wanted to hang out with you because you have a car. Why else would anyone voluntarily spend time with you?

This is what complaining about “the friendzone” is like, this idea that women owe men sex/romance and that’s the only reason a man would want to be friends with a woman. It’s harmful and reductive, saying that the only value a woman has is in her willingness to date/fuck a dude. It’s immensely disrespectful. And it’s a super common complaint.

How dare that woman I’m friends with date someone who isn’t me. I used to hang out with this bitch all the time and talk about comic books but she wouldn’t date me so whatever. “friendzoned.” I didn’t go to that woman’s Doctor Who party because she already has a boyfriend so what’s the point, I won’t be able to bag her.

This attitude reduces women to nothing more than an accessory that provides a (sexual) service and it’s gross and wrong. It states that women aren’t deserving of having and sharing their opinions, talents, skills, hobbies, creativity etc the same way that men are. Women’s friendship isn’t prized. There is only one thing about them that has value.

Two guys can get together and talk about football or Marvel comics or science fiction or cars and be friends and that’s fine, that’s good and normal. But if a guy and a girl do the same and she doesn’t put out she’s a bad person because her friendship, her emotional connection, her very SELF is not valuable.

And that’s so fucked up.

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There’s this dude who makes a living as a professional feminist, writing books and teaching and getting paid gigs writing articles/blog posts about feminism. His take on feminism discusses the following:

  • his boners
  • people he’s stuck his boners into
  • people he wants to stick his boners into
  • people he’s stuck his boners into when they didn’t want his boners in them but LOL WHOOPS sometimes you just can’t tell a woman doesn’t want sex!
  • that time he decided his girlfriend, who was passed out from drugs and had just been raped, needed to die (for her protection!) and he tried to kill her
  • how women need to shut up and let men ejaculate onto their faces because it’s good for men
  • how hard it is to be a man
  • how femninism is gross and hard and unpleasant, but a duty
  • how shitty people who aren’t white are, with their wacky names and terrible fashion sense and how LOUD they are
  • how slutty and gross women are
  • how important he is
  • how it’s totally cool for a dude in a position of authority to have sex with women much younger and less experienced than him, especially in a scholastic setting (teacher and students)

In other words, he goes into feminist spaces and turns them into spaces about him, about his needs, about men. Did you know it’s hard to be a man? Women are just so baffling! And weird! And hard to manage! Whew, thank goodness there’s men like him around to herd those sluts.

He’s also tried to get WOC feminist writers fired by going over their heads to the people who hired them. Truly, he is professional!

So, in addition to Not Being That Guy, what can men who really are feminists/feminist allies do? There’s a growing body of men speaking as feminists who enter feminist spaces and shit them up, some to the point of becoming staunch MRA/MRM (Men’s Rights Advocates/ Men’s Rights Movement) shills. In media coverage of politics and health care and legal decisions that affect women, men are FAR more likely to be interviewed or given talk time. The society we live in automatically gives mens’ words more weight than womens’ words. Stuff that dudes say is taken more seriously than stuff that chicks say. So it can be really harmful when men are given platforms to speak in feminist spaces, because it continues the idea that male words are important words, that male voices have authority. But men take part in society, and raise women, and love women, and work for and with women. Shouldn’t they have a voice as well? What’s the responsible thing to do to ensure that women’s voices and experiences are heard?

One thing that men can do, one very strong and vital thing that men can do, is make all spaces they inhabit feminist spaces.

Any space that you occupy, make it a feminist space.

I’m not saying wave your magic feminist wand and erase all inequality forever.

But I am saying that if you’re listening to the radio and the DJ makes a joke that’s sexist (or racist or transphobic or homophobic or ablist or whatever) then call and complain. Write a letter and complain. When you see a beer ad that’s sexist etc, write an email to the beer company complaining. When you see a trailer for a movie and all the characters that are in the movie are male, talk about that. When you watch a sitcom where all the women are super sexy and pretty dumb and have little in the way of character development or dialogue, stop watching the show and discuss why you don’t watch it. When people make sexist etc comments, call them on it. When someone posts an anti-woman screed online or talks about “having sex with” a woman who was drunk or asleep, call him on it. You don’t have to give a big speech, just say that it’s not appropriate. Take the space that you’re in and change it. Make it better. Do what you can.

A friend of mine said once that we’re not responsible for the past, just for fixing the present. We can all make changes. Men can lend their voices in support of women, and should. And that will make a better, healthier world for all of us.

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We were lucky enough that a friend of our was able to come over last night. I made pizza and we had a low key evening of sitting around eating pizza and talking. We talked about a LOT of different stuff. And at one point, said friend asked if I’d heard about the recent con where a woman was harassed and I was all LOL WHICH ONE BB because lately it seems like just about EVERY con has had that as a “feature.” And then we talked about sexism a little bit.

He mentioned a work thing. He’s a sysadmin for a big company, and he works with a dude who’s been there about two years. And at a recent meeting, New Guy was asked a question about a problem with a program he’s responsible for, and the guy was all “Oh, that’s Benn-Ware.” And people looked at him, all whaaaaat, until it transpired that he was referring to the Benn who’d written the code, and had some issues with it. And then they were all “dude, it doesn’t matter who wrote the code. If there’s a problem with it, YOU have to fix it, that’s YOUR JOB.” and he was all “BUT BRIGID’S FRIEND, you yourself refer to “Jerome-Ware” when talking about your own stuff!” and my friend said yeah, he does, but only as a preface to “and I’m sorry I haven’t fixed it yet, I’m going to, this is my plan/schedule to do so.” In other words, he acknowledges the existing problem, which was created by other people, but then HE GOES ON TO FIX IT. Because that’s his job.

And, because he’s brilliant, he told me this story as a prelude to talking about how he tries to handle sexism/misogyny that he encounters in the world. Somebody Else MADE the problem. But his job is to fix it in whatever way he can.  Which I adore.

I encounter a lot of dudes who kind of throw up their hands at the idea of being a feminist or working to dismantle the Patriarchy because it’s Not Their Fault or Somebody Else Can Do It or What Can Ya Do, Y’Know? But I think that story– that it doesn’t matter WHO instituted the wrongness or how long it’s been wrong, it’s still YOUR JOB to fix it– might help. I don’t know.

I thought it was a great anecdote and I’m sorry I didn’t tell it better here.

I feel very lucky that I have some really awesome dude friends who aren’t assholes, and who like and respect me and think that I, that all women, deserve to be treated as full human beings instead of humanlite or whatever. And then I feel a little angry that I’m reduced to FEELING LUCKY that I’m treated like a human being. And then I shove that away and just enjoy my friends. IT’S COMPLICATED OK.

We also talked about how awesome it would be if The Rapture actually happened and how we’d advance so much as a society if all those nozzles who believe in The Rapture and think one totally cool way of being right with God is to oppress the shit out of women and gay people were actually Raptured. How neat would it be to open a book and find it’s a bit of Post-Apocalyptic fiction but then find that the Apocalypse was all the fundie assholes being removed from the Earth? (which would leave, of course, the non-fundie assholes behind.)


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According to <a href=>an NPR article,</a> about 1% of the population of the USA are millionaires while almost half of Congress–46%– are millionaires. They obviously aren’t representing the actual people who make up the USA. This is, perhaps, explained why in a time of brutal economic downturn and lack of jobs the people running the country are busy slashing funding to create jobs and provide medical, dental, housing, and monetary assistance to people who need it most. It might explain, just a bit, why politicians are soundly endorsing “personhood”  amendments that are failing at the polls. It might, just might, account for why so many people are invested in the various “Occupy” movements.

Power is currently held in the plutocratic hands of people looking out only for themselves. Everyone else, apparently, can go screw.


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Buster Blonde of Persephone Magazine did a really great take down of the mythical college bootstraps studenthere. I want to drive it a bit further into the ground.

"not the 99%"

In case you can’t see the image or read the hand written text, it says:

I am a college senior about to graduate completely debt free. I pay for all of my living expenses by working 30+ hours a week making barely above minimum wage. I chose a moderately priced, in-state public university and started saving money for school at age 17. I got decent grades in high school and received 2 scholarships which cover 90% of my tuition. I currently have a 3.8 GPA. I live comfortably in a cheap apartment, knowing I can’t have everything I want. I don’t eat out every day, or even once a month. I have no credit card, new car, iPad, or smart phone- and I’m perfectly OK with that. If I did have debt, I would NOT blame Wall St or the government for my own bad decisions. I live below my means to continue saving for the future. I expect nothing to be handed to me, and will continue to work my ass off for everything I have. That’s how it’s supposed to work. I am NOT the 99% and wehther or not you are is YOUR decision.


I graduated high school in 1997. Like the anonymous sign holder, I also went to an in-state public university and had savings from high school jobs. My senior year, for instance, I worked over 30 hours a week every week at a restaurant where the owner literally threatened me with a knife, because I knew my parents would be unable to pay for my cheap in-state public university tuition. Instead of padding out my college applications with extra curriculars, I worked and saved money. I was accepted to every college I applied to, and was courted by several I didn’t apply to as well. They all offered me scholarship money… thousands of dollars worth (one college offered me over $10k, which wasn’t enough). None of it covered the cost of tuition let alone books, fees, and living expenses which is why I enrolled at my shitty state university.

I should note that I went to a college preparatory high school. In theory, every single teacher and guidance counselor and staff member was there to promote college attendance, to help and guide students in selecting and applying to colleges, find financial aid and scholarships, etc. In practice, a lot of students (myself included) fell through the cracks. Overwhelmed and immature, not sure what to do or how to do it, we also had the “bad” guidance counselor who was more interested in coaching softball than guiding students. My educational experience was incredibly privileged and I still was unable to find ANY scholarships other than ones offered by schools. (If the internet, and search engines, had existed then things might have been different; instead I leafed through binders and catalogs with no idea what I was looking for). There are a LOT of kids, a huge amount of kids, graduating high school and interested in college who have no idea how to find scholarships and no guidance counselor to help them. The fact that this person allegedly got 90% of their tuition covered by just two scholarships implies that they had a LOT of help. Most people aren’t so fortunate.

I also worked as a student and rarely ate out. My final year of school, before my nervous breakdown and suicide attempt(s), I was working 3 part time jobs and still barely able to pay my bills… bills which consisted of telephone and credit card payments for text books and housing and basic clothing purchases… underpants, a sweater that fit, nothing extravagant. I punched into my first job at 8am, then went to class, then went to my second job, then went to class, then went to my third job and didn’t get done with that until almost midnight. It was a grueling and stressful existence and an appalling way to live. I was constantly “on,” short on sleep, and busting my ass for SIXTEEN HOURS A DAY. I made slightly more than minimum wage and still had a hard time paying the bills for my cheap-ass in-state shitty university education.

Smart phones did not exist at the time, but I currently have one. It’s possible to get an iPhone through my phone company for free, and the basic data plan is not much more than a regular phone plan. Poor people squandering money on smart phones as proof of their not-really-being-poor/making-bad-decisions is a shitty strawman argument that I wish would die in a fire. Credit cards enabled me to enroll at the start of the semester and pay it off over the course of said semester, as UIC did not offer payment plans. You paid all at once or didn’t go to class. I especially leaned on my credit card the semester UIC lost my financial aid payment, leaving me several thousand dollars short (but don’t worry, they found it a year later and gave it to me! Wasn’t that nice of them?). There’s this pervasive rumor that people in the USA have massive credit debt because they are buying frivolous things and are too stupid to make good financial choices. This lets people without credit card debt feel smug and superior and ignore the fact that most credit card debt is to cover emergency situations, like groceries while unemployed or surprise medical expenses or super fun sudden car repairs or tuition or the like. I also had no car at all and continue not to have a car, but I live in a city with pretty great public transit. I do not NEED a car to get to work or the grocery store (although it’s great when my husband can give me a lift places). There are places not-where-I-live where if you don’t have a functioning car you can’t get to work. You don’t go to work, you don’t get paid. You don’t get paid, you can’t pay your bills. A functioning car is necessary in some places, in most places. It’s shitty to sniff down your nose at people for filling a legitimate need.

College tuition and fees have been going up more and more each year while state and federal financial aid have been going down and down. College tuition, even at affordable in-state institutions, is getting out of reach of MANY people in a country where a bachelor’s degree has become the equivalent of a high school diploma, a requirement for the most basic untrained work. Sure, there’s community colleges… assuming those colleges are at all decent. One of the community colleges near where I grew up lost accreditation and didn’t regain it for several years, although people continued taking classes there. A friend of mine put in 4 semesters at a community college, spending time and money and learning things, only to find that most of his credits wouldn’t transfer to a traditional 4 year university because LOL COMMUNITY COLLEGES, AM I RITTE? Further, part of the reason we have the current problem with the housing market and foreclosures is that banks encouraged home owners to take out mortgages to fund their kids’ college educations, to invest in their kids. Which is great in theory, but helped prop up the skyrocketing cost of college tuition while shutting out people who didn’t own homes and couldn’t take out mortgages, and which also affected the people who held the mortgages when their interest rates shot up 10% overnight. WHOOPS. I don’t know about you, but banks that aggressively fuck people over while the government sits back and slashes funding to educational opportunities sounds like a pretty sound thing to get riled up about.

If you want to get really depressed, look at how many European countries subsidize their population when it comes to higher education. Spoiler:  a LOT of them do, while also providing decent, qualitative health care and in general taking care of all their citizens and not just the ones who make six figures or more  a year. The USA is losing vast amounts of money every single year by not taxing the top 1% of earners and not taxing huge businesses. We could stop slashing education and health care and social programs, we could repair our falling-apart roads and bridges and deteriorating infrastructure, we could subsidize higher education and training programs… or we could continue letting a small handful of people go swimming in their giant vaults of money or whatever the hell it is they do with it.

It’s incredibly depressing how many people are at best just barely getting by and at worst actively failing (the dude working 12 hours a day 7 days a week while dying from cancer springs to mind. The American Dream, am I right?) and defending to the death their right to suffer and languish and stagnate while a tiny fraction of people continue soaring to great heights. This person, with their 90% scholarship and their never eating out and their barely scraping by on minimum wage… it’s great that you’re self sufficient but is that honestly all you want, all you aspire to? To barely scrape by while working your ass off? To have no savings and no safety net and nothing to fall back on, no guarantee of employment and no vacation days or sick days? I’m sure you imagine that if you just WORK HARD! and LIVE BELOW YOUR MEANS! and SAVE FOR A RAINY DAY!!!!! you’ll join the ranks of the 1% but let’s face facts: you’re graduating into an employment market with, in some areas, 9% or more unemployment. There is a LOT of competition for jobs, much of it from highly skilled, experienced people. How long will your rainy day savings last you when you’re unable to find a job because companies once based in the USA are moving more and more of their facilities (including office jobs, not just factory jobs) to other countries? When you realize that you’ll need to get an advanced degree to get employment or a promotion, and tuition is higher and state and federal aid lower? When your rent and groceries and gas and taxes (and your boss’s pay and bonuses) keep going up but your paycheck stays the same or even is reduced, as many state employees are finding themselves faced with having to accept pay cuts to keep their jobs?

Baby, you’re part of the 99%, and they’re fighting to protect you and your interests. They’re trying to make the world a better place for you. I’m sorry you can’t see that.



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For those of you who don’t know/don’t remember, I tutor through a local community center. I have one student, and we’re working on Adult Basic Education (ABE), Math. Sometimes we touch on Grammar and stuff, though, as my student is also an ESL student. Her goal of working with me is to be able to take a math placement test that will get her into a math credit course in college– a 101 or higher level class, not a remedial class. You know, something that will count toward a degree.

She brought in a booklet on placement tests, from the college, and if we crammed really hard for a few sessions she could probably take the PreAlgebra test and do well on it. However, the PreAlgebra test wouldn’t get her into a credit class. It gave us a good look at where she’s at, and where she needs to be. We went over some sample questions and she got the hang of some stuff pretty quickly.

Our current plan is to touch on a few more PreAlgebra things (mean, median, and mode; brush up on time zones; continue reviewing fractions; order of operations), move onto Geometry, and then hit Algebra. The current goal is to have her take the Algebra test (which includes Geometry) this summer. We might push it back to the fall, but I’m hoping we’ll get it this summer. We’ve been held up and not really progressing because we keep coming back to fractions… we start doing a quick review and it turns out she’s forgotten stuff, so we spend some time on it, she remembers it all, she does well, we do a bit more review, she seems to have it cold… and then next session she needs to be reminded again. So I’m going to put together some practice worksheets with reminder instructions/steps and a handful of problems for her to work on when we’re not together, and hope that consistent practice will help keep things fresh in her mind.

If anyone has any advice or resources, let me know.

I’m going to try and attend more tutoring workshops this year as well. So far, they all seem to be geared toward reading/writing and ESL and not math, but I won’t be working with my student forever, and my next one might be reading/writing. So I might as well gobble up all the knowledge I can, right?

IN OTHER NEWS, Nesko might have to spend the night at work because it is snowing LIEK WOAH and apparently there are no snowplows out near him and it’s massively dangerous to be on the road. He is a dispatcher for a towing company and they are getting a lot of work tonight. Be safe, everyone!

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Mirrored from Words, words, words, art..

I’m female, fairly geeky, and in my (early) 30s. Like a lot of geeky women my age, most of my friends are male. This isn’t because men are more awesome than women, or because I’m uncomfortable around women. It’s because for people my age, nerdy geeky interests were more heavily discouraged in women than in men, so when I found people who were, say, really into Star Wars and science fiction and role playing games, they skewed heavily toward the male. Thanks to the internet (I LOVE YOU INTERNET) I now have a lot more ladygeek friends and oh my GOSH, ladies, I love you so much. But this is because I can easily chat with people in different states and countries. If I want a face to face get together, most of my friends are still dudes. And there’s nothing wrong with that! Dudes are pretty rockin! I love my friends a lot. But, unlikes a lot of older female geeks, I’m very lucky. My guy friends are pretty feminist and don’t treat me like crap.

That’s sad, isn’t it? I’m LUCKY that my friends TREAT ME LIKE A HUMAN BEING. Isn’t that sick and gross? But for a lot of female geeks, that’s just how life is. Geek demographics are changing and more women are joining the club. But the social hierarchy is still heavily male, and young female geeks face a hell of a lot of prejudice and discrimination and outright hate (hdu invade our boysclub with your tits and opinions! Go make a sandwich!) even while there are more of them. Will their greater numbers turn the tide? Will some measure of equality be achieved? Or will young geeky girls just get turned off by the geek macho posturing and turn their interests elsewhere? No idea.

But there is a reason that the face of geekdom is overwhelmingly male (and white and able bodied).

I’m not saying that every geeky/nerdy guy is a misogynist or a dickhole or evil. I’m just saying that we all live in a culture that privileges (white, straight, able bodied) men over everyone else and subcultures by and large reflect that.

So what’s a guy to do in a subculture that contains The Open Source Boob Project, Big Name Authors Sexually Assaulting Women, Developers not understanding (caring?) just how very real Rape Threats and Violence Against Women are, the overwhelming majority of published authors being white and male, industry editors and publishers sexually harassing (female) employees and potential authors, enough incidents of sexual harassment/casual misogyny that a wiki is needed to keep them all straight, and more? I mean, this is just stuff I found in like 5 minutes of google searching/remembered personally. And this doesn’t touch on racism, ablism, homophobia, or the million other ways predominantly straight white able bodied dudes actively and passively (whether meaning to or not) make it clear that other people aren’t welcome in their social group.

I have male friends who’ve asked just that question. A lot of them have leadership roles in their friend groups. They run games, they’re the ones who have the house everyone visits, they’re the ones who organize movie outings, etc. Most social groups have at least one person like that. So they’re poised to help guide and shape social mores or at the very least speak up when someone’s out of line.

Here’s a post on the effects of making rape jokes or dismissing rape/assault allegations. It’s a good starting point. You can apply those points to any sexist commentary or “jokes.” 1 in 6 women has been raped or assaulted, according to statistics. Almost every woman I know has been raped or assaulted. When people in your social group use “rape” to mean “killed” or “cheated” or “beat me at something” or “stole” or “unfair,” the women in your group hear that you consider a relatively major crime that mostly happens to other people (women) on par with relatively minor inconveniences in your own life. Some women are cool with this but a lot of women aren’t, and unless you know that woman well you won’t know where she falls on the spectrum. 1 in 12 women will be stalked in their lifetime and 25% of women (1 in 4) report being physically assaulted or raped by a domestic partner, which makes jokes about beating your girlfriend/a female NPC kind of tasteless. (And FYI, 1 in 33 men are raped per year. I know two guys who have been the recipients of domestic assault, one who was in a homosexual relationship and one who was in a heterosexual relationship. Male reporting rates of domestic violence are really, really low and a society that mocks and belittles men who are the recipients of violence/have been raped is part of that. If you care about your friends, don’t make them feel bad because someone acted violently towards them. Men, especially, are less likely to talk about having been raped or beaten, so you’re really unlikely to know if one of your male friends has experienced this.)

So purging rape and abuse jokes is a good start.

The next step is purging unwanted attention. Ladies! They are pretty awesome, right? They smell good and have nice hair and they have tits and everything. Wow! How great are ladies? Here is a clue: while many ladies enjoy flirting and being sexy on their own terms, ladies were not put on earth for you to claim as your very own. Which means don’t flirt with a woman who doesn’t seem interested, don’t “hit on” a woman who is anything less than encouraging/enthusiastic, don’t stare at a woman’s body parts or tell her/tell other people how hot she is. If you are a straight dude, think about how a gay dude might act around you. Would he corner you and talk about how great your ass is and how you should totally get together and not give up that line of thought ever? Probably not. If he did, how would you feel? Kind of gross and used? Frustrated? Bored? Threatened? A little flattered but uninterested? Part of why gay dudes don’t do this in mixed company is because it’s considered incredibly socially wrong, but it’s somehow totally ok for straight dudes to do this to (presumably) straight ladies. Why is that? Because straight dudes have power and control that gay dudes and ladies do not have. Don’t do that. It’s really gross and off putting and a lady who had to deal with that in social setting will eventually find a new social setting. Perhaps that social setting will consist of non-geeky people. Perhaps it will consist of people on IRC. Perhaps it will consist of a group of totally awesome geeks that she will never invite you to join because ew, you have terrible manners. WHO CAN SAY.

If you see someone harassing a woman– commenting on her, staring at her, flirting aggressively with her even though she’s tried to turn him down, cornering her, dominating the conversation, step in. On the one hand, women don’t need to be “saved” by men. On the other hand, women are often taught to be “nice” and to avoid confrontation (and you seriously never know when a woman’s tried to turn aside a dude who’s flirting with her and it escalated to violence and so she learned not to escalate or take a stand because she likes having her face bones unbroken). So step in. Go over there. Ask the woman if everything’s ok. Distract the guy. Don’t go in with the idea of saving her– or of claiming her as your own! God no!– go in with an offer of help that she may or may accept.

So that’s another pretty basic socializing thing. What’s a more sophisticated one?

Consume– and discuss– media by and featuring women. I have actually heard actual men who I thought were intelligent up until they said this thing, say that they don’t read books by or about women because they are not worth reading. Oh HO! Apparently women, the gender stereotypically known as the communicative/chatty/talkative gender can’t write books. OH NO THAT IS FOR MEN TO DO. Also: women are just not that interesting! Yes, yes. That’s right. The gender that makes up literally half the population of this earth, the gender that men are told they want to spend their sexy lives with, is not interesting and has nothing important/fun to say. OH WOW THAT IS NOT SEXIST AT ALL. When you say that you don’t read books, watch movies, listen to music, etc when they are by or feature women because they are inherently bad for featuring women, you are saying that women are inherently bad and there’s no reason to talk to them or be around them ever. Which, ok, if you really believe that, please say it loudly enough and often enough that everyone who thinks otherwise can easily pick up on that and start avoiding you. But if you think women are actual human beings whose thoughts and words are worth something, consume media by women and featuring women. Discuss that media. Talk about it with your friends. Review it online. And while you’re talking about books and movies and stuff, talk about the problematic stuff. Like female characters who do nothing but get rescued or give the (male) hero sexual relief or who are killed off quickly so the hero has something to avenge. Or how often rape is the sole defining character trait of a female character.

When someone in your social group makes jokes about rape or makes jokes about how women are stupid or unfunny or whatever, shut him down. Tell him it isn’t funny. Don’t put up with that shit. It’s really easy to sit back in silence and let one person bloviate about how women are inferior or they just can’t do math or drive or they need to make more sandwiches while giving him head. But your silence tacitly supports his sexist/misogynist comments. When you don’t say you disagree, he assumes you agree with him, and everyone else assumes that everyone in the social set holds the same views. Be prepared for backlash, for being called PC or “overly” PC, for being called “butthurt” or “a girl” or “a pussy” (NOTE: the worse thing you can call someone is a feminine designation. SEXIST? NOT AT ALL.). This is pretty much nothing compared to the backlash women get when they point out sexism, which generally starts out with allegations that the woman is “overly sensitive,” “lacking a sense of humor,” “hysterical,” or the like and often ramps up into threats. Why is asking someone not to make comments/jokes that make you feel uncomfortable or safe such a big deal? Because there is power and status in being able to unquestionably put other people in their place. Being called on that is an erosion of power and status,and some people take it as a personal attack. What fun!

If someone in your group consistently makes sexist comments and jokes and acts inappropriately despite interventions, ask them to leave. Stop inviting them to things. Tell them why. If a friend came to your house and was cruel to your dog or urinated in the sink every time he used the bathroom or constantly insulted your dad’s political views/appearance/whatever you’d step in and say something. If they kept doing it, would you keep them around? Probably not, yet people are very willing to sit back and tacitly encourage folks in hateful and harmful behavior toward women.

Remember that the goal of this is not to treat women as “special” or “put them on pedestals.” It’s to treat them with respect and consideration. It’s to leave them feeling welcomed and safe and part of the group, not like an outsider being allowed in and granted a small measure of acceptance which can be revoked at any moment if she doesn’t behave appropriately (laugh at the jokes, endure the tit-staring, tidy up after get-togethers, etc). For some reason, a lot of people think that “not verbally berating someone” means “condescendingly treating someone like a special princess on a pedestal.” If there’s someone like that in your social group, dump them. They’re toxic.

Women have been geeks and nerds all throughout history, and for big chunks of history have been denied, stifled, excluded, or not given credit. We are in the 21st century and it’s time for women to stop being excluded from society and instead welcomed. Do your part.

(a lot of this can be applied to racism, homophobia, ablism, cisexism, etc but I’m taking a lot of my responses and advice from what I know personally, so have focused mainly on sexism. Yes, my privilege is showing. Please feel free to comment on that, as well as offer other advice on this topic.)

(edited to change some mildly problematic wording)


Monday, 25 October 2010 22:27
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I am very unenthusiastic about voting right now, especially as I live in Chicago and a lot of our local political options are especially dire. I kind of feel like I’m being asked to chose between being stabbed in the arm or being stabbed in the leg. Both are going to hurt and be bad for me, but which will hurt less? Which will lead to less long-term damage? Do I want to go with the leg, which will bleed more; or with the arm, which may lead to nerve damage of my hand/fingers? It’s a hard question to face, to make a decision on. Frankly, a lot of the platforms that a lot of politicians are standing on are directly designed to hurt me and people like me. They are literal attacks on me and people like me. I’m talking about stuff like restricting access to health care and abortion (even in the case of rape or incest! BTW: if it’s incest, it’s probably rape! even in cases where it will literally kill the mother! ABORTION: MOST EVIL THING EVER; WOMEN: TOTALLY EXPENDABLE), slashing important funding for stuff like education and government services, cutting funding for WIC and SNAP and programs that feed the poor and also stimulate the hell out of the economy.

I’m disgusted by the continuing attacks on the “Obamacare” initiative and the utterly foolish allegations about stuff like “death panels.” At least once a week, often more frequently, I read a blog post from someone about their personal life or a friend of theirs or someone in their church or community who needs medical assistance. Maybe they need new corneas, or need surgery on their jaws to keep all their teeth from falling out. Maybe they need a new heart and also anti-rejection medication. Maybe they need medication for their mental illness. Many of them either have insurance that simply magically doesn’t cover this expensive thing, or else they are uninsured either because they don’t have the option of insurance at all or because they’re uninsurable or because their insurance options suck (trufax: I once had the option of health insurance that paid out less than what you paid into it. For instance, you paid $X per month, but would have to pay out of pocket for anything that cost more than $Y for the year. $Y was less than $X*12 and also you had to pay into the plan for six months before you could use it. One was better off stuffing one’s money into one’s mattress and praying.). There is a gripping and vital need in the USA for affordable, comprehensive health coverage and access to medical care. People are literally dying without it, but as they aren’t affluent white dudes I guess it isn’t really that important or something so hey let’s talk shit about Nancy Pelosi in political ads. Saving Lives: It’s A Bad Thing Apparently.

Anyway, that being said, here’s Eight False Things The Public “Knows” Prior To Election Day by Dave Johnson.

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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I don’t really have friends.

That sounds weird and possibly pathetic, doesn’t it? I mean, who gets to be in her early thirties and doesn’t have friends?

I keep most people firmly in the “acquaintance” category, in my head. This includes people I’ve known for over a decade; people who I spend holidays with; people who I’ve helped move and who’ve helped me move; people who invite me to parties and who I invite to parties; people who, I’m sure, lump me firmly in the “friends” category. And if I were “normal,” I’d consider them friends and feel how very lucky and secure I am in having so many close friends to whom I can turn in times of need. But I don’t feel I can turn to them, and that’s entirely not their fault at all.

Rather, it’s the fault of every single person who bullied me throughout grade school and made it very very clear that I wasn’t worth being friends with; that nobody liked me, would ever like me, could ever like me. I meet new people and I just wait for the other shoe to drop, for them to realize how disgusting and socially inept I am, to realize how undeserving of friendship and human contact I am. Even when I meet good, kind, intelligent, awesome people I still feel that way. I don’t get fully involved, I hold back, and I assume that they like everyone better. This happens in social situations, and this happens in work situations. People make friendly overtures to me, and I assume that they are either being polite and don’t really mean it, or they want to get me into a situation where they can dig at me and hurt me.

I am 31 and I’m still afraid of people.

I’m married to a wonderful person and I have a son who I love with a deepness and intensity I didn’t think possible. But even with them, I often feel on the outside, like I don’t really belong. They are human beings. I’ve been told over and over that I’m not really a human being, and this was reinforced by the teachers at my very small, tight-knit grade school.

I remember when I was 7 years old, lying in bed in the crushing grip of insomnia, staring up at the ceiling and wishing I’d never been born; that I didn’t exist. A few years later I stumbled on the concept of time travel and spent hours concocting elaborate fantasies about discovering how to travel through time… and prevent my mom from conceiving and giving birth to me.

This is what bullying does. It destroys people. And the onus is often, so very often, placed on the victim of the bullying. Sticks and stones break bones, and name calling and shunning and shitty behavior stay with people forever. Teachers shrug off the complaints– if the victim is able to pull their shit together enough, brave up enough, to make the complaint in the first place– or, in my case, join in on the abuse.

Schools have zero tolerance policies for things like bringing plastic knives (to spread cream cheese on a bagel) to school, or bringing a plastic squirt gun to school, or playing hands-on games like “tag.” How many schools have zero tolerance policies for bullying? How many schools are actually invested in protecting the most vulnerable– and most likely to be targeted and bullied– students?

There are kids dying right now because of bullying. What leads a person to feel so miserable, so unwanted, so torn up and alone, that death is the best and most viable alternative? Take a guess. A lot of the media and blogging focus right now is on kids who were bullied because they were– or were suspected to be, or who lived in places where this was the worst insult possible– gay. But sexual policing, sexism, is often a component of bullying, as is racism and classism and ablism. I’m so, so glad that people are noticing that kids are dying and noticing that this is a problem. I’m glad there is outreach to young people who are queer. But this is a symptom of a larger problem.

Bullying needs to end. It needs to stop. Schools need to take a hard line against it, and need to teach children from a young age that it is not acceptable. Every single school that does not prevent kids from bullying other kids is responsible, directly responsible, for what happens to the bullied kids. There is blood on the hands of the school administrators of those kids who killed themselves, those kids whose souls were murdered by their classmates and peers. Every teacher, every class and hall monitor, every principal, who did nothing to prevent it is guilty.

I spent a really big chunk of my life wishing I were dead and resenting other people. If my high school experience had been different, if it had been at all like my grade school experience, I probably wouldn’t be here today. I don’t think I could have slogged through another four years of that soul killing crap. It’s important for young people to realize that there is life beyond school, that there is life beyond whatever crap hole small town they might be in. But any damage that’s already done is still going to be there, and life usually doesn’t magically improve just because you finally escape a shitty situation.

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

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Someone on a feminist website recently posted a bit about the BMI and ended it with the admonition that fat people should just put down the donuts, a line that was cliche years ago and thinking that is, frankly, dangerous and hateful. I mean, seriously, if it was that easy to lose weight there wouldn’t be so many fat people and the dieting industry wouldn’t be raking in the money hand over fist the way it is. But it’s easy (lazy) thinking that fat people are just weak and immoral and more in love with shoving food into their gaping maws than being slender, and it paints thin people as morally superior since they can just step away from the food and not indulge. Why yes, there is a reason that it’s bad to be fat, it’s bad to be female, and it’s fucking awful to be fat and female. This ties into the whole puritanical don’t-have-pleasure-ever women shouldn’t lust after or enjoy ANYTHING (sex, alcohol, food in general, “decadent” food in specific, chocolate in specific, shopping in general, shoes, money, power, respect) mindset so very prevalent.

I digress a bit.

One of the arguments against fat people being healthy or active is that every single fat person it’s mentioned who is fat and vegetarian, is fat and exercises, is fat and jogs, is fat and participates in triathlons, is fat and hikes, is fat and mountain climbs, is fat and swims, is fat and rows boats, etc is that that particular fat person is a statistical outlier. Sure, THAT fat person acts in ways that are healthy and active and is still fat, but that’s the exception to the rule! Fat people in general are ticking time bombs of obese ill-health, and it is ALL. THEIR. FAULT. If only they’d just PUT DOWN THE DAMN DONUTS and BACK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. On the flip side of that, however, nobody ever says that thin people who are completely sedentary and/or eat nothing but junk food are statistical outliers. They are given an automatic pass for having an acceptable body shape, just as the fat people are automatically damned for having an unacceptable body shape. And yes, “overly” or “excessively” thin people are damned and told to eat a sandwich.

Meanwhile, the USA is a country with a great deal of poverty and many many people– many of them fat– who go to bed hungry each night. It’s a country where many children cannot count on having enough food to eat, where it can be difficult to find fruits and vegetables or anything that doesn’t come in a box or can and loaded with preservatives and additives. It’s a country where a person can be both overweight and malnourished at the same time. But with all the focus on OH MY GOD FAT PEOPLE ARE EVERYWHERE there’s very little attention paid to the fact that these fat people are often starving/malnourished or came from a childhood of food scarcity, and that the body’s natural reaction to starvation/malnourishment is to cling to fat– cling to iiiiiiiit!!!– and that it’s not an issue of overindulgence at all.

Because it’s easier to shame people than it is to address a serious social injustice. And it’s easier to point fingers at people who are lesser than it is to examine critical fallacies in the medical system. And it’s really easy to forget that the BMI was rewritten so that literally overnight a bunch of people were suddenly classified as overweight who before hadn’t been, and that likewise the critical numbers for cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar have been rewritten so that more people now have medical conditions they wouldn’t have been labeled with a few years ago. Explosive epidemic? Not really. Just a re-writing of criteria.

But that doesn’t write headlines, sell diet products and plans, and make people into disgusting non-humans so, you know, it’s not talked about that much.

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