AI: Feminist Frustration

I wasn't always a feminist. In fact, I wasn't even a little bit of a feminist a few years ago. Part of what changed was my experiences with Skepchick and being forced to face the fact that the things I understood about men and women were not just-so. And it's frustrating to see how far we still have to fight.

Today is Equal Pay Day in the US, the day that women catch up to what their male counterparts made in 2011. (ie. Men earn $X over the course of 1/11-12/11 and women earn that same amount from 1/11-4/12.)

People have all kinds of reasons for why this is. Like that this isn't the fact at all. Or that women have vaginas and obviously being a mom or even the risk that you may, at some point, become a mom means that your contributions are worth less. Or that women simply don't care as much… we're agreeable and nice and naive and we think that money will be given to us when we deserve it, so we don't ask for more.

But the reality is that the wage gap exists and we do care and we do ask for more money and promotions, we just get them less. In fact, some transgender men have testified that after transitioning in the workplace, their work experience changed dramatically.


Unfortunately, pay discrimination isn' event the beginning or the end… there are still so many areas that women simply are not equal. Like the fact that right now, I'm sitting in a state where poor women can't get basic women's health screenings as punishment for other women having access to abortions. And we're having a national discussion over whether mothers should be required to have the "dignity of work" (to which I can only assume the other option is "the shame of staying home with your children".) And Pixar is finally releasing a movie about A GIRL after movies about boys, men, cars, toys, robots in space, and monsters…  I guess they were running out of "things that exist that some people can relate to" and someone in the writing room decided to be edgy and suggested they might take a risk and write a movie about girls. 

So… Skepchick readers, I ask you: what is your feminist gripe? What frustrates you? What thing do you want to see changed in the world? If you could take on one feminist pet cause and crotch slap it off the earth, what would it be? 


The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET


Image by Clay Bennet


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. My frustration is that gender/sex discrimination as often treated as unidimensional, rather than as one element in a matrix of related issues (race, religion, socio-economic status, etc. all play a role in dtermining a person's status and related social/economic benefits).  Most of the people who understand the complicated nature of prejudice are also feminists, which is good, but many people, regardless of their view of feminism, fall into the trap of seeing all prejudice as unidimensional (this is a case of sex prejudice, THAT is a case of race prejudice, when both cases have elements of both types of prejudice).

    1. Not here so much, from what I've seen. And just because people choose to focus on gender or race or economics doesn't mean that they don't see and understand the bigger picture. There ARE people who think the only real problem is whatever their particular -ism happens to be. We need to avoid the hell out of them… or at least me.  

  2. The thing that pisses me off the most is the inevitable whining about how oppressed (white, able) men are now.  There is a worrying drop in mens education and employment.  It isn't because they're being discriminated against.  It is because we're failing all our children.

    1. Yeah, and non-white able men too (don't do reverse-discrimination here..).  A lot of my non-white male relatives and friends are incredibly sexist.
      But regardless, men complaining about their oppression pisses me off.  And I think it's because they're sitting on top of this mountain of privelege and good luck, and they still complain because someone else demands rights.  "I HAVE TO SHARE THE SANDBOX WAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!  I WANT MY NUM NUM!!!!!"
      Fucking idiots…

  3. My pet peeve is women’s fashion. I hate it when not some but all of the choices I make in clothes mean being slightly handicapped: shoes you can’t walk in, bags you need to devote an entire hand to all the time*, trousers (and jackets, tops, skirts, coats, suits…) with no space for my modern essential “pocket” internet device. Some of them have pretend pockets! I ask you!

    I support all these things as options but why should it be the default that my clothes hurt, pinch or require constant babysitting?

    *This annoyed me less when I didn’t have a small child…

    1. My wife just discovered that a new pair of trousers came with an extra 'feature'–they had pockets, but a stitch had been deliberately made at the center-point of the pockets' mouths in order to make the pockets almost impossible to use for anything wider than a pencil.  We just stared at it, dumbfounded that someone had decided that it was actually worthwhile to go out of their way, just to make a completely sexist fashion call.

      1. While I agree with most of what you are saying, most high-quality men's suit jackets also have a stitch in the pocket.  This makes the pocket lay fla and look bettert, but it is made as a complete pocket, so you can remove it and use the pocket.

  4. How about inside my RSS feed the following screenshot of two giant breasted women telling me 'more hot girls' join every minute for some singles site is shown?   i don't mind ads at all and if you make money showing me them, sure, but this was rather insane to see at the bottom of a post about feminism.   I'm using NetNewsWire and to my knowledge, it in no way puts advertisements into the feed, it just puts them in the app itself.   Maybe Google Reader does it, but not all of my feeds have ads at the bottom.

    1. That's something I have to figure out how to make clear to everyone so I don't have to explain it 8,000 different times . . . definitely on my to-do list. In the meanwhile: Google ads display ads they feel are relevant to the user, not necessarily to the site. So, you see different ads than what we see. Everytime we see an awful ad or a reader emails us about an awful ad (anti-abortion stuff springs to mind), we block it.

      1. Weird. Also sorry that came out harsher than I meant.  I typically block cookies on my computer from google and when you do that it gives you the dregs of the ads.   At least it wasn't acai berry weight loss again

    1. Yes, yes. Lots of bullshit generalizations that libertarians love along the lines of "men tend to go into fields like engineering and science while women tend to go into education" without the slightest regard as to why this happens. Excuse me if I dismiss this as the crass rationalizationthat it is until the underlying causes are at least acknowledged.

      1. Alright, so what are the underlying causes of women choosing jobs like teaching and nursing over engineering? I've always assumed that it's what they prefer.
        For example, in software engineering, there are many guys who are almost entirely self-taught (i.e. they have no formal education beyond a high school diploma), are passionate about programming, and are often among the best programmers. They spend their free time studying computers simply because computers fascinate them. Women have access to the same sources of information, but remain very rare in that profession, and women who display passion for it are even rarer. I'm sure some exist, but in 20 years I've never met one.
        Women have access to the same sources of information as men. Libraries, book stores, and websites don't discriminate. If women really want to learn software engineering, why don't they? I think that by and large they don't want to, and I suspect the same goes for other engineering fields. A large percentage of the guys I know have dabbled in electronics and electrical engineering, teaching themselves just for fun, because they thought it was interesting. What prevents women from doing the same?

        1. You're emphasizing "access to information" a great deal there, but that has next to no relevance today as a factor influencing why someone would choose a particular field of study.  Anyone can acquire information on any field, yes.  But what fields are they encouraged to enter?  Who are their role models, and why do those role models look the way they do and say the things they say?  What suggestions do their family and friends make about an acceptable career?  What is the workplace environment like when it is predominantly occupied by men?  What do advertisements and corporate image say about the makeup of their employees?
          The reasons why women are poorly represented in fields have much to do with gender, especially the perception of gender roles, and little to do with biology or immutable characteristics.  The hypothesis that "they do that because that's what they want" runs perilously close to being unfalsifiable, especially starting from a position which didn't even bother to ask.  A couple of centuries ago, women had almost no representation in many fields that they now have near-parity or better than parity in.  Opportunity and changes in the attitudes and priorities of work explain this.  Appealing to a "just-so" story like "that's what they wanted" doesn't.  Rather, it dismisses the entire issue off hand.

          1. Those are good points/questions and I think you're right that they are important factors in many or most cases. Of course they're not meant to be answered in general since they apply to individual people, but I feel compelled to give my own account anyway. :-)
            In my family, I have three sisters. Nobody was encouraged or discouraged from any particular field — in fact our parents seemed to take very little interest in our futures besides exhorting us to go to church and get good grades — but I can certainly imagine that if your parents are telling you to do or not do something, or other family members are voicing disapproval about your choices, it would make things more difficult, even if your reaction is to rebel and do exactly what they don't want. I never saw that in my own family, but I do believe such families exist, and that's unfortunate.
            On the whole, the workplace environment in tech is, I think, quite good. On one hand, there is a bias against women who want to start out as programmers. But there's also bias against men who are starting out. The fact is that most programmers, male or female, are not very good, so the assumption is that you're no good until you prove otherwise. Women moreso because there are no examples of outstanding female programmers that we can look to (e.g. female versions of role models like Richard Stallman, Brian Kernighan, Theo de Raadt, etc).
            But on the other hand, all tech companies except the worst are highly meritocratic. A female programmer can quickly gain the respect of her peers simply by being good at what she does, and that's really how all junior programmers have to overcome the initial lack of respect. I get the impression that the more skill a job requires to do well, the more meritocratic the workplaces tend to be, but bias would probably be insurmountable in many jobs, because they just don't need you, and that's sad. At the institutional level, large tech companies tend to be biased in favor of women, in that they give them special consideration beyond their technical skills in an attempt to boost the proportion of women in the workplace.
            Based on what you've said, it seems that the real hurdle in getting more women to choose science and engineering is in the home — parents, relatives, role models (the most impactful being family again). Unfortunately, that seems like the hardest part of society to change… :-/

          2. @john
            Did your sisters engage in any popular culture?
            Did they see movie after movie that showed them that girls are mothers or girlfriends or princesses and nothing else? 
            Did they watch TV shows that valued women only if they were pretty and dismissed them if they were smart?
            Where they bombarded with music videos that treated women as eye candy and sexual objects only?
            Maybe nobody openly discouraged STEM participation, these types of barriers are rarely that obvious. Being told that girls aren't good at math over and over and over again might just be enough.
            Or, for a different view. Has there ever been anything you thought you might be good at that you didn't pursue because it wasn't manly enough? Maybe dancing, or cooking, or being a nurse, or singing? And if not I'm sure you can come up with some things that would fit into the catagory of "not manly pursuits". Now imagine that about half of what you might want to do with your life were put into that category, you might be strong enough to go after whatever it is you wanted anyway or you might not, but that doesn't change the fact that you would have to ignore what society is telling you about what is expected in order to follow your heart.
            There are a lot of women who pursue STEM despite expectations, and let's be glad they do, but it would be better if those ridiculous expectations could be gotten rid of altogether.

          3. I'm not sure if those are rhetorical questions, but in case they're not, I'll answer them. :-)  They probably did absorb a lot of popular culture. I don't remember them doing so, but that's probably because I'm projecting based on the fact that I wasn't much interested in it myself. There's nothing I haven't pursued specifically because I thought it'd be too girly, and I like cooking, singing, and dancing, but there may be a subconscious element of that aversion underlying my general feeling of "meh, not interested" regarding some pursuits. And now that you mention nursing, I have to admit that it would be embarrassingly girly. I would be sure I'd be laughed at. (After all, many of the jokes in Meet the Parents were based on that.)
            I did face a lot of ridicule for being nerdy and somewhat unathletic, hanging out in the computer lab during most recesses, being too eager to answer questions or answering too many of them, etc. But science, math, and computers were just too interesting for me to care much about that; I had found my calling. But if my interest had been more tentative, then maybe I would have been dissuaded by it, and perhaps girls feel social pressure to an even greater degree.

        2. Eh, but when boys in physics and chemistry classes are always flirting, teasing, and belittling you, when you've heard all your life from society that "girls like different things", that when perhaps you're raised in a religious background that you should highly consider stay-at-home motherhood as the best way to please god, when you've tried STEM stuff as a hobby that your competency been not taken seriously at work/in-clubs/on the internet, then maybe might feel a little discouraged as well.
          Problem is that you can't see life from a woman's perspective, so you don't know what it's like for women getting into STEM.   I'm not sure where skeptically, you think it's valid to make the claim that "women just like different things".  Sounds a lot like cognitive bias is getting in your way of actually examining the issue, and that's well, dumb.

          1. I didn't make that claim. I said it was my assumption that they chose what they preferred (since in most cases people choose what they prefer when given a choice), and I asked what the parent poster thought the underlying causes were because I wanted to know. I then explained that I didn't see anything that would prevent them, if they were interested, from getting good at it. Kagerato did a good job of explaining.
             I don't know what kinds of schools you went to, but my experience is this: I've never witnessed anybody belittling or teasing a girl for being a girl in any class. Perhaps some things happened in the back row, but nobody who chose to sit in the back row ever seemed interested in the subject. In the front rows, nothing of that sort happened. Maybe it happened outside of class – I can't say – but what I can say is that it probably has more to do with who you want to hang out with. The kids who liked science and learning all appreciated one another and treated each other well, and the "cool kids" and jocks generally treated each other well too (except when they were competing). But if a nerdy kid ever tried to hang out with a cool kid, they would be mocked and teased, regardless of their gender. All the nerdy kids paid a social price for being nerdy. I can certainly believe it if girls don't want to pay that social price, but it's not like it's targeted at them alone.
            That said, this observation only holds through high school. I don't know about university-level science classes, but it's hard to imagine it getting worse as you go higher up. Maybe it does, though. I don't know.

          2. Typically, you're not going to see outright "HAHAHAHAHA LOOK AT THE GIIIIIIIIRL" type comments.
            But, if we're sharing anecdotes, one of the reasons I was kicked out of the gifted science program in my jr high was because it wasn't really a thing for girls, which was relayed to my parents by the instructor. I don't remember other reasons, that was the one that stuck out… but if I wasn't excelling in the program, given that statement, is it really a shocker?
            Now, my parents didn't share that tidbit with me until years later, but being removed from that program changed a lot about how I felt about my education. When I was 10, I wanted to be a scientist and find a cure for cancer. By my 12th birthday, I wanted to be a model.
            So yes, we are ridiculed out of programs for being girls. And being the only girl means everyone is watching. Can you measure up? If you don't, it's because you're a girl. If you do, it's because you're an exception. And when you do, there's always someone waiting for you to fail, to point out that you had no business doing a man's job.

          3. Well, that's a shame, especially if you were really doing well and/or enjoying it up to that point. :-|

          4. Oh John, you are definitely new year.  Brace yourself for some imminent education from the community here.

            //I didn't see anything that would prevent them, if they were interested, from getting good at it [STEM stuff].//

            Well that's the thing, you're a man, you don't see what prevents them.  And to spell out what prevents them:  constant societal pressure. 

            //I don't know what kinds of schools you went to, but my experience is this: I've never witnessed anybody belittling or teasing a girl for being a girl in any class.//

            Tsk tsk, if you've ever taken any advanced math, you know that one example does not a proof make.  Just because you, as a man, didn't notice far from proves it doesn't happen… a lot.  My experience is from tutoring high school girls.  I used to tutor people part time for about 9 years, and very often I'd have my female high school students tell me about gender discrimination in the classroom either from peers (mostly from peers) and even sometimes from teachers.  And these high school ranged from really low income inner city areas, to posh suburban areas.  The most common complaint was that their peers always discounted their competence and their input, something women in STEM so very often experience.  There are a lot of female commenters here with STEM careers that can tell you nearly a novel full of sex-based discouragement they've faced.  And I'm sure they will chime in.  So when they do, make sure you listen.

            //The kids who liked science and learning all appreciated one another and treated each other well, and the "cool kids" and jocks generally treated each other well too (except when they were competing). But if a nerdy kid ever tried to hang out with a cool kid, they would be mocked and teased, regardless of their gender. All the nerdy kids paid a social price for being nerdy. I can certainly believe it if girls don't want to pay that social price, but it's not like it's targeted at them alone.//

            Agian welcome to the community.  Here the posters and community members have talked at length about how in the science loving community of skepticism and in STEM fields, sex-based teasing & oppression are alive and well.  Women experience it in STEM, a lot.  So I wouldn't make the mistake of saying it doesn't exist.  And this kind of societal discrimination all throughout the life of a woman and into the professional world is a major major contributing factor to why we don't see more women in STEM.  I mean sure, anyone can learn and get good at programming, but it sure sucks to throughout your life, constantly be in sausage fests where people are doubting your competency.  I mean imagine being an akward teenager wanting to try out some new skill you've learned and having a good amount of peers be rude towards you because of your gender… you might walk away and think it's not for you as well eh?

            That said, this observation only holds through high school. I don't know about university-level science classes, but it's hard to imagine it getting worse as you go higher up. Maybe it does, though. I don't know.

            Oh it holds, trust me it holds. Sex discrimination is a life sentence my friend.
            Again, I'm sure the female posters will chime in here, so I urge you strongly to listen to what they have to say when they do.

          5. Thanks for the welcome. I have no reason to doubt your experience, so I'll take your word for it. Most everyone I know would love to see more women in the field, but I guess that doesn't mean women wouldn't be teased, oppressed, or looked down on even potentially by those same guys. (After all, if they intended to treat women exactly as they treat men, there might be no reason for them to want more women around.)

          I am not sure what part of the reply thread this is in, John, and I hope it makes sense — anyhoo…
          I've been in the nerd culture a bit. And believe me, when I think about the sexism when I was a teenager in it, or even an adult in college, it was pretty mind-boggling. Hanging with the code jockeys brings with it a lot of other cultureal baggage. And when I think about the way I and other people looked at women generally now it makes me a little embarassed at best.
          Image you are female. You walk into a room full of boys working on some idea. One of them has his gaming rig up and it's Lara Croft. The other has his comic book collection and they're talking about how hot one of the superheroines is. Or he has a copy of Heavy Metal with one of the Richard Corben "Den" stories on the cover.
          Hmmmm…. you might think.
          Then someone makes a clumsy attempt at asking you out. Or because you're dealing with people who have a high percentage of socially awkward types. does something creepy to show his haxx0r skillz.
          Now, none of this would be isible to you. You would see a girl walk in, chat a bit, one of your buddies would have gone to talk to her and maybe you didn't hear the conversation. Girl walks out of room and says to herself, "if these are the people i have to look forward to working with in the future, no thanks."
          Get the idea? How long would you hang out there? This kind of thing isn't unusual. Yes, I know, there's a certain amount of stereotyping here but I'm trying to give you the shorthand version.

        4. Speaking from personal experience (as a female electrical engineer currently at university) I found that for most of my life, I've been fairly well discouraged from engineering. As a child, my brother was bought electronics kits. He wasn't interested so they were put away in the roof, despite me being keen to play with them. He was encouraged to play with Meccano (again, not his thing), but I was always told to leave him alone when my father was attempting to build something. (My parents have always tried to encourage me to do girly things like getting my hair done or buying nice clothes, even though I'll never wear them.) As a result, all through school and college, I was lead to believe that I wanted to do something other than engineering; it never actually featured in my life. I actually spent a year doing chemistry at university before changing course. I actually brought up this bias once, and was told that I was discouraged from having an interest in electronics or engineering because 'girls don't like that sort of thing', and my mother is a pharmacist by trade because she was told it was a good career for a young woman. 
          As it is, my course is 90% male and an incredibly masculine course. I've got a definite feeling that my ideas are less important as I am a woman and couldn't possibly know about programming and the like. 
          So, in answer to your question as to why women are underrepresented, perhaps it's because women are discouraged throughout their lives – not even consciously, probably. But when your father's response to a change in direction that he should have seen coming is 'but she doesn't know anything!', perhaps you ought to question what it is that is still leading people to think that women aren't interested.

      2. Part of the difficulty is pinning down the reasons why this happens.
        The phenomenon undoubtedly exists and only a fool could claim that women are equally represented in these fields, but figuring out why and what we can do about it is hard.
        It appears that the differences happen early. In the UK, at least, there are notably fewer girls taking science courses beyond the age of 16, and the numbers continue to drop the higher you go – my University physics course was 90% male (thought this become about 75% by third year, as men seemed ore likely to drop out, or statistical variation, or something… not enough data in this single sample)
        In some ways the problem is self-reinforcing. The lack of women in the field makes it look more like a boys only club, that perception discourages women, thus you get fewer seeking a place, etc…
        That said, the numbers are becoming more balanced as we become more culterally aware, although I think it will be some time before parity is reached.

  5. Undoubtedly, the wage gap does exist. but I think it needs to be compared for like jobs.  The pdf from the first link that Elyse posted only compares full time jobs by sex and by state.  However, a full time custodian will never make as much as a full time doctor.  I think this article that breaks it down by industry is more informative.  Maybe we can focus some of our energy on one part instead of the problem as a whole, which seems to me to be a Herculean task of fixing it all at once.
    I would like to end the whole controversy on birthing rights for women and be given the same freedom to do what they want with their bodies as men do.  I was watching Bill Maher last night and he mentioned a bill in Arizona (HB 2036, page 6, line 36,37) that states life begins after your last period … before conception!  Women are more than smart enough to make their own choices and shouldn't have to undergo any humiliation for those choices.

    1. Part of the problem with limiting it to industry, or in trying to compare things on an equal basis, is that it glosses over all the other ways that women's pay is indirectly affected by sexism. For a reference, check the link about trans men in the article here. Women not only get paid less for the same job, but they have fewer opportunities available to them in the first place. They get poorer reviews, they get promoted more slowly, and they might not even get offered jobs they're qualified for in better-paying industries.

    2. mrwilson41, if you do some googline, you'll find that there are studies out there that take job and industry into account, and these studies also find tha a wage gap exists. Here is a chart from last year on NYTimes that shows women's earnings as a percenf of men's in different industries:
      And I gotta say, whenever anyone (not you in particular) tries to reject age gap findings based on the fact that  the industries with a greater number of female workers draw smaller paychecks, I have to question why we undervalue this "women's work."

      1. Perhaps if you'd read his comment, you'd have noticed he linked to the very same study reported in another source, and that he is not denying a wage gap at all.

        1. Fair enough. re: linking the same study. Though in my second paragraph I was not accusing this poster of denying the wage gap, but responding to arguments I've read before.

      2. It seems like a rather useless study to me because the categories are too broad. "Financial activities" could cover both bank tellers and investment brokers, who'd have vastly different salaries. "Leisure & hospitality" covers both hotel maids and hotel managers. Et cetera. Lumping jobs together that require vastly different skillsets and have completely different demographics, and trying to make comparisons on that basis, is very dubious.

        1. What I think would be really enlightening is to take, say, level 62 SDEs at Microsoft and compare the average money earned per hour worked for males and females. Then do it for other levels, other titles (like SDETs), etc. Or do a similar thing at any other company. That, it seems to me, would go far to settle the questions of the degree of wage discrimination in the workplace, where the hotspots of discrimination are, etc.

  6. My pet cause changes from day to day, but today I'll choose the fact that even though I like my body, even though I know what real women's bodies look like, and even though I know that bodies in ads and on television are airbrushed and Photoshopped out of reality, I still occasionally feel like the pocket of fat on my stomach and the stretchmarks on my legs are signs of personal failure. I know those images are a lie and I still can't help internalizing them. I can't imagine what it's like for someone who isn't as convinced about what is reality.

    1. I have overwhelming anxiety when I go to the mall, knowing that if I walk into the wrong store, all the sales people are staring at me, knowing I'm going to walk out because nothing they sell is in my size… because I'm a wrong sized woman. It doesn't help that regardless of the reality of who I am and what I'm worth to me, in the real world, fat people are worth less, especially fat women. Because women, ultimately, need to meet a standard of fuckability in order to be worth employing, befriending or engaging.

      1. Psh, you need to stop complaining about your rights, you have more rights than you've ever had in history.  If you want to be equal, act equal.  However, while you're acting equal, remember to be
        – strong, but sweet and light-hearted (if you dare to manage us, don't be a bitch and tell us what to do…)
        – rational and sane (things go wrong, so don't get all upset and estrogen crazy when they do)
        – and above all, fuckable and flirty (but don't be a whore)
        (Also, don't think about getting pregnant if you plan to work here, but that's off the record, mmkay?)

        1. I think I love you.  Reading your list (except for the last) I realized that the more my partner reads reddit, the more he works in a super-male dominated workforce, that list is *exactly* how I am supposed to behave.

    2. I often feel like this is personal feminist failing. I too understand that my feelings about my body are tied to internalized messages from the media, but I still feel awful. I try really hard to accept that my body is normal, and lovely, and sexy, but I honeslty wish that I was thin. 

  7. My feminism pet peeve for today (it changes day to day) is this: I want to pimp slap "boys will be boys" as an excuse for bad behavior out of existence. I want it not to be a thing anymore. I want anyone who says "boys will be boys" or something equivalent to be stared at as if they had just said "well you know the earth is flat".
    I am so very, VERY tired of BWBB as a "valid" excuse for sexism, misogyny, harassment, and assault that it makes me want to punch things.

    1. But it’s so much easier to dismiss a woman as complicated when you’ve been confronted for your simple and immature thinking by a mature woman who has complex thoughts.  ;-)

  8. I second pretty much everything said here so far. My current peeve is this idea that "women are complicated." On the surface, I guess it sounds like a compliment, but it's still incredibly dehumanizing, turning us into complex alien robot things with unfathomable minds. WE AREN'T THAT FUCKING COMPLICATED! We ar people, and exactly as complicated as humans generally tend to be. "Women are complicated" just becomes an out, where you don't really have to listen to someone's concerns, or empathize with them, or attempt to genuinely satisfy them (and I don't just mean sexually), because "OMG they are just so complex and men are so very simple and straightforward and penis, etc. how can I ever be expected to work that thing?!?" Aaaaaargh! Every sitcom, every commercial perpetuated this idea, and women largely accept and internalize it, making a nicy, tidy self-fulfilling prophecy.

    1. This I think is what you are talking about:

      Notice how modern and sexy gaslights are today!  Gaslighting is so much slicker and easier to use today than the old clunky gaslighting of yesteryear.

  9. If I could get rid of a problem,  it would definitely be the idea of gender essentialism or putting people in boxes.  From the time that we're born, we are slammed with ideas about who we can and can't be, and these ideas, unchallenged, affect everyone throughout their lives.  It hurts both women and men. 
    I am so sick of being told that my SO is better at stuff than me because he's a man or an engineer, like, I can't possibly be better than him in some ways unrelated to science.  (Others say this, not him, he's actually really enlightened, thanks to me teaching him feminism.  I think I even helped a woman get hired at his work, because I talked to him about diversity!)

  10. Women my age in the workplace, capable people who do fantastic work and are fun to hang out and complain with over a beer along with the myriad of dudes, are still called girls. On a good day they're "young ladies." I'm definitely never called a boy or young man, but you also hardly need to specify my sex since male is the default.

    1. Yup. I had a d00d call me a girl 3 times last night, even after repeated corrections- and we're tha same age, even. He also tried to convince me (and himself, no doubt) thay the strippers he frequents really LIKE him and want to be with him. Even after I told him that I and every other stripper I've ever known hates the men who frequent the clubs where they work. He still insisted that HIS perception was the true one. Holy delusional D00d Bubble…

  11. I'm the wrong everything here: Over 60, white male. But I married a feminist and helped raise two more, and once debated Phyllis Schafly. So I got some chops.
    The thing about the pay equality debate that bothers me is: who decides? What a boss is willing to pay a worker, and what that worker is willing to accept, is complicated. Age, education, (from where?) experience, appearance, (yes) work ethic, job difficulty, job appeal, that was just some of the factors. Granted, a woman and a man, doing the same job, with the same skills and abilities, SHOULD be paid the same. But that does not happen very often.
    I'm a Republican (not one of those) and I do not want some bureaucrat trying to decide that a 6th grade teacher with 4 .375 years experience and a Masters should earn 73.4523% of what a garbageman with 12.7675 years experience and a route with no more than 10% apartment buildings on it.  Keep it simple — let the boss offer, the employee can accept or reject. It's easier.
    And I know a lot of women who make more than I do, including my daughters. 

    1. The problem with this approach is that it still leaves it up to the boss–who, as others have noted, is probably a dude, and has a tendency to pay other dudes more than employees who are not dudes.

      1. I have to chime in here. As a former "boss" I had very little say in what my employees were paid. There was a VERY formal annual review process that needed to be followed (including keeping running logs and files of work activity throughout the year, shared with the employee in a weekly one-on-one meeting), reviewed by HR, and approved by the general manager. But the GM also had guidelines to follow and if an employee felt that (s)he was being treated unfairly there was a very simple appeal process to the regional and corporate offices. BTW this was in a non-union shop. Every review item had to be justified, and was debated over with HR at a (minimum).
        And, yes, I had a very few female employees (3 out of 25). They worked just as hard, and were rewarded the same, as my male employees. In fact, it was a pleasure supervising them because they did what I asked without much pushback and would come up with good ideas on how to run things better.

    2. Keep it simple — let the boss offer, the employee can accept or reject. It's easier.

      I don't think anyone here cares very much about doing what is "easier". Especially when you define "easier" as standing back and waiting for the invisible hand of deregulated competition to magically protect our basic human rights.
      Are you sure there are "not one of those" Republicans?

    3. That's already the system we have.  Bosses determine pay and raises, employees have next to no say.  The only exception to this rule is through unionization, which I imagine you vehemently oppose as a good Republican.
      We have these discussions because the system as set has empirically failed to produce fair results.  That means we have to try new methods, not continue down exactly the same broken path.

  12. I'm sick of every single version of "Problem X isn't a feminism problem, it is a more generalized problem, and therefore we can dismiss Problem X out of hand." Like "Sexist advertising isn't a feminism problem, because advertising is based in manipulation, and therefore we can dismiss sexism-based manipulation."

    1. We should be careful not to confuse that with arguments that "X is a feminist problem, but it is one part of a much larger and broader issue".  That is different, because it doesn't attempt to dismiss the matter but rather to attack the fundamental causes (which often turn out to be broader and more complicated than initial views show).
      Normally I wouldn't even bother to say all that, except that I saw exactly the same thing come up recently on threads that discussed sex work in the labor context.

  13. Hm. My feminist pet peeve is "look how she was dressed, she is/was asking for it". Victim blaming is simply horrible, and yet so prevalent.

    1. YES. I have many pet peeves, but I absolutely loathe the fact that victims of sexual assault, abuse, harrassment, etc. are constantly scrutinized for their choices, their behavior, their dress…Even if people stop short of outright blame, the spotlight is still entirely on the victim and not on the offender! Shouldn't we be publicly outing the offenders who make the world a shittier place to live? Why is the rapist still a shadowy figure that never comes to public light?
      I would crotch slap rape culture off the face of this earth and into outer space. (No offense, lady aliens–I don't want you to go through it, either. It's just a saying.)

      1. "Why is the rapist still a shadowy figure that never comes to public light?"
        In part, I think that has to do with the false stereotype of rapists as strange men who stalk alleyways waiting for women to pass by.  Most rapists turn out to be an acquaintance, friend, or family member — someone the victim knew before the crime.  Confronting this fact damages the conservative cultural narrative of family as sacrosanct, among other things.
        One of the other reasons would likely be that many (most?) victims are afraid to report their crimes and don't feel it would be worth it, due to the ridiculous shaming that gets piled onto them.  The rapist's reputation won't be challenged much, if at all, in court.  This creates a bias whereby actual rapists are relatively invisible compared to victims.
        There is surely more to it than this, though.

  14. New frustration:
    People who say they're sick of feminists. I'm sick of being feminist. But if I stop, I don't get equal pay or a chance to decide how many kids I don't want shoved into my vag.

    1. What feminists are they even talking about? I never hear about the blog that set them off, or an actual position that people disagree with. It's people younger than me complaining about things Andrea Dworkin said before I was born. I'm surprised people aren't going on rants about feminism and it's open hatred of butch lesbians.

  15. As a scientist (though currently not employed as one), my biggest gripe is how men and women are treated differently in Grad school programs.  The programs often involve big sacrifices of time at the same time that many women would like to have kids.  So…you're forced to make a choice between having a child in your mid-20s or finishing grad school, which then leads on to post-doc work where you have even less time of your own so you put off having kids until….but, if a guy is in the same program and wants to have kids, he just seems to have to have the sense of not having them with a fellow grad student.  He's not exhausted and swollen while preggers and trying to work 14 hour days. it's just another day as usual.  I'm not saying the establishment should make it easier on women but if the field was less male-dominant maybe the conditions of the whole program would change.  

    1. I think it's reasonable to say that the programs could work on making it easier for women… in that right now, it's more difficult for women than for men. Accepting the fact that women have women's bodies and accommodating that would make it easier for women, making their challenges equal to men's.
      Making it easier doesn't mean going easy on women… it means not defaulting to a system that deters women.

    2. Family leave for grad school students would make a lot of sense, considering the average age of the group.  People ought not to be punished for taking some time off to start a family, whether in work, education, or elsewhere.  The bias is there, though, always favoring people who are slavishly devoted to the one narrow goal in front of them.  I suspect this has something to do with general labor conditions which encourage people to fear losing their jobs and other livelihood, as they are in continuous competition with others who would purportedly jump at a chance to replace them.

  16. My biggest complaint is that we (as a society) explored, discussed, and made progress on so many feminist & social issues decades ago, and now thanks to the far-right Republican stranglehold in politics, are HAVING TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!  :: head desk ::

    1. Move over and share that space. My head needs to meet desk on that one too.
      It's gotten to the point where I just feel like not watching the news and being ignorant, but then I get that annoying voice in my head reminding me that won't solve anything. Ignorance isn't bliss unless you don't know you're ignorant.

      1. I feel like following the expression of Dara O'Briain, a comedian who, when discussing homeopathy, mentioned throwing all the wankers in a sack and twatting them with a big stick and not caring who gets the worst of it…
        Not that I really would; I'm not violent, and it wouldn't help. But the sentiment is there!

        1. //wankers in a sack and twatting them with a big stick and not caring who gets the worst of it…/
          Haha, love UK English. 

  17. "Unfortunately, pay discrimination isn' event the beginning or the end… there are still so many areas that women simply are not equal…Pixar is finally releasing a movie about A GIRL after movies about boys, men, cars, toys, robots in space, and monsters…"
    Pixar making a movie about a girl is something that should be encouraged, especially since it appears that this movie is about a girl who is not a helpless victim.  It's not about how long it took, it's about what is happenning now.  Guaranteed the box office results will be watched to see if there is a market for this movie.  It would be a step forward if this could prove that there  is.

    1. It's not that I'm not happy they're doing it. And I fully intend to see Brave, and take my son, when it comes out.
      But GAAAAAH it's so frustrating. 

  18. Good AI. This is the first time I’ve been moved to comment even though I’ve been reading skepchick for almost a year.

    The issue that tears me up inside the most is when feminists start fighting among themselves about whose issue is more important or more worthy. This is part of what killed the movement in the 1800s (are abolitionist issues important to suffrage or will it sidetrack our other goals?) and again in the 1960s and 70s (who counts as a feminist: rich women, poor women, hetero, lesbian, trans?). We can’t let the “I’m a better feminist than you” fight keep us from collaborating and supporting each other. Just as each one of us is different and has had different experiences, we need to acknowledge the fact that different issues are important to each of us.

    I think this thread is a testament to that and I’m very happy to see the diversity of ideas… and the respect that everyone is giving everyone else.

    You do us proud, skepchick community.

    1. I wonder if the prohibition movement also set the woman’s rights movement back as well. I expect that there were generations of men who when they thought of women’s rights activists’ all that came to mind was Carrie Nation and the temperance union, which made it easier to ignore all the other important women’s rights issues because in the end prohibition was a failure.

      But, not before I vote for Katherine Falk.

  19. My biggest complaint is that today it may be Tennessee and Arizona, but tomorrow it will be the world.

  20. There are so many frustrations that come from seeing the world in a different way rather then the convention. But for me my biggest frustration comes from the family I grew up with. If I had a super power, I would erase misogyny and sexism and then we could all talk with eachother again. But until then…

  21. Today's feminist issue I have is the same one I have almost everyday. It's that my favorite forms of escapism perpetually remind me that I don't live up to a narrow expectation of what a woman 'should' be and how unwelcome I am in these mediums. I don't have gravity defying, spherical boobs, a wasp waist and legs that are as long as the rest of my body and then SEVERAL MORE FEET LONG. I'm just so sick and tired of having all the women in comics, video games, movies and TV having to be of a certain standard of beauty to matter.
    I'm sick to death of the trope of evil = ugly or slutty (never both) and beautiful = pure and sexy. I want the virgin/whore thing to just DIAF already.
    I'm also so tired of straight, white, male gamers/comic book readers/movie watchers telling me that something isn't sexist no matter how degrading or dehumanizing it handles women.
    Oh and I live in Arizona so my vagina is getting really crowded what with all the law makers in my state crawling up into it and claiming it as their own. If Mitt and the pubes win out I'll have to make room for the federal government too.

    1. I love this woman and the work she's doing.

      “The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media is the only research-based organization working within the media and entertainment industry to engage, educate, and influence the need for gender balance, reducing stereotyping and creating a wide variety of female characters for entertainment targeting children 11 and under.”

  22. Feminist pet peeve: misunderstanding and denial of majority privilege, whether it be white privilege, male privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.  Every time I try to have a conversation about it people get ridiculously defensive, as if the mere mention of it is a personal attack on them.  I get it, no one wants to feel like an oppressor, like the bad guy; but people fail to grasp that that's not what privilege is about.  We won't fix our problems by denying the reality of the social environment our history has created.

  23. I want my daughter to be able to like Marvel comics, Star Wars, Princess and dresses.  I don't want to hear about how liking "boys" things is so superior to liking "girls" things.  Liking both should be just as encouraged as liking "boys" things, just because something is pink or sparkly doesn't necessarily mean it's bad. 
    I want to be treated like a person, and I want to stop hearing about all these things "real women" are.  It's not helping, because half the time I don't fit that description.  I'm tired of being told how unreal, and I feel like the whole "you can't like this because of an arbitrary reason is along the same lines."  I don't want to be told from either end how I should look, act, or what I should like.

    1. This. I happen to be sort of tomboyish, but I do like the color pink. I just do. And I am ridiculously obessed about making my hair bouncy and shiny. I don't want to be told what I am supposed to like or not like, in order to be the right kind of kickass feminist.
      But sometimes I also worry about trends that infantilize us. You could argue that men don't make a fuss at being sold all kinds of Star Wars stuff and whatnot, and perhaps women shouldn't worry about being sold a product with Hello Kitty all over it. I haven't quite figured it out yet, but I do get annoyed that when I look for sportswear, sometimes all I find is too small, too sparkly or too pastel. Dude, I'm training at the gym. I don't want to leave a trail of glitter on the bench.
      As I said, I haven't completely figured it out.

  24. I hate that the majority of Americans still view women as unclean or slutty if they have a sex life outside of marriage. I hate that we won't completely teach our kids about sex at school. I hate that birth control isn't free or cheap or easily accessible to everyone of child-bearing age. I hate that the GOP is trying to punish women for having sex by limiting their options for abortion. I hate that in the media, we can't talk about abortions that happen simply because a woman doesn't want a baby– we can only mention those sad, extreme cases that can avoid the issue of sex more easily. I hate that we can't accept sex as something natural that men and women alike enjoy for the damn sake of it. 

  25. Peope that insists that they aren't feminist but egalitarians.
    The false dichotomy either makes you have to speak for all feminsists and argue that's not what feminists do or shut up.
    It's especially troubling because if they are egalitarians then they are working for the same goals as feminists and shouldn't be arguing with us anyway!

    1. Yeah, that one bothers me a lot too.  Anyone claiming to be for equality and against feminism is committing a contradiction in terms.  It's as though they see the world through blinders which assume it must either be ruled by men or women; that the structure of society will be patriarchy or matriarchy.
      From my experience, that attitude often comes from people who are anti-affirmative action and who oppose intervention for the benefit of just about any group.  Nevermind that choosing to do nothing is still a choice, and it benefits precisely those currently holding the most power.

  26. Oh God, I just have to vent somewhere about my problems *with* feminism.  Not the goals, or most of the arguments.  But there is so damn much tolerance for woo and cultural relativism.  For fuck's sake, I objected to the presence of a quackass 'Heal AIDS Naturally' book in our queer resource library and I got people telling me that calling chi bullshit is eurocentric.  Anyone who privately agrees with me is too cowardly to back me up, for fear of pissing off the relativist friends. (And damn, when people in the anti-O sphere have set you in their sights for being offensive, you're in for one hell of a shunning.)
    I have a point, I swear.  I'm so damn greatful for the Skepchick network, you have no idea.  I always end up feeling so alone and attacked by people in the feminist community and mainstream skeptic community, but you guys manage to blend those two ideas into an irresistable clear-thinking reality smoothie.  Thank you for everything that you do here.  It means a lot.

      1. Sorry, I always forget when I'm using ingroup jargon like that.  I meant anti-oppression, which is the umbrella term for anti-racist, feminist, gay rights, trans* rights, etc. sphere.  I've gotten so disillusioned by (what seems to be, but probably isn't; i'm just so disheartened right now) most of the people in these movements because they only seem to care about what statements are offensive rather than what statements are true.  Hence the dismissal of science as western, eurocentric, and male, and the admonitions to be more open-minded regarding 'eastern' or 'traditional' medicine, which they see as unjustly oppressed by, like, reality.  It doesn't help that there are a ton of irritating relativists and philosophical skeptics who think science is just one way of knowing among many, despite the fact that it consistently produces independently observable results like computers and cancer treatments.  I've seen so many decently intelligent brains ruined by this drivel.

    1. I had a similar problem (20 years ago now) when I was in a lesbian literature class. It turned me off to most forms of lit crit type analysis.
      In that instance it was Adrienne Rich's "Institutionalized Heterosexuality" essay, which managed to get human evolution and anthropology deeply wrong (even given what was known in the 1960s). Or the idea that to be a feminist you have to reject "male" or "gendered" science — which ends up leaving you with the "way of knowing" mantra. Gawd I hate hearing that. 
      And you know what? The reason it's frustrating is the fact that it is a movement whose goals you agree with and want to support. Just like I get frustrated with people in the environmental movement who talk about being science-based and then go into woo territory.

  27. I would like for many products to be advertised as gender neutral,for example games.And especially toys-suddenly the gender neutral Lego became gendered and pink/purple for girls and for boys it is always combat/cars.
    My equal grudge is the more subtle double standards-like almost all my friends and relatives laugh at men victims of domestic violence from their wives.According to them these men are pussies.Also real man don't cry.

  28. My gripe is ideological policing. And I point the finger at myself on this one by expecting unfair and unrealistic moral standards. I have previously unfairly criticised feminists who themselves play by the rules of the patriarchy. Feminism is not about perfection but fairness and equality in an imperfect world filled with flawed and imperfect people filled with contradictions just like me. Feminism is not a rigid ideological fence with heretics on one side and true believers on the other. Indeed there are multiple viewpoints with some that are conflicting and others that overlap. Or here is a better metaphor. There are many ideological peaks on Mount Feminism.
    So can a feminist enjoy porn or sexual fantasies and simultaneously be critical of the patriarchal social conditioning that leads to the objectification of women? Yes–regardless of whether this makes sense. But hey, I'm an atheist who enjoys Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia–both of which were written by hyperreligious authors (CS Lewis was a pretty hardcore Christian fundy). So I'm filled with contradictions. But I digress.
    The bottom line is if you're a feminist who loves James Bond movies, an atheist who loves church hymns, a socialist who flies first class, etc….Please continue to do these things. Enjoy life and rejoice in being a flawed individual as long as your spinning broken moral compass tries to wobble towards social progress. And don't let anyone criticise you for this because in the end that person's moral high horse will buck.

  29. This seems small, but it's what pissed me off this week (besides the cover of <i>Newsweek</i>, but that's for another day): I am reading a novel that came highly recommended and I got all the way to page 55 before a woman was important enough to the story to name. And she was a whore. A whore named Hetera. She doesn't actually say anything or do anything; she's just some whore the protagonist (male) remembers from his childhood as smelling like cinnamon. And I'm on page 76 now and there hasn't been another woman named, which means I am more than 10% through the book without a woman having said or done anything at all.

    1. Throw the book across the room; pick up anything by Joanns Russ or James Tiptree, jr.
      You'll feel better, I promise.

  30. My frustration is preconceptions that people have about what women can and can not do, or what they know or don't know. And it's not just from men, but other women as well.
    For example, at the quick lube facility, I've often heard women say concerning something about their cars "Oh, I don't know about that, I'm a girl". It irks me, mostly because of the various fields I know women work in. I worked with some in the navy that were diesel mechanics.
    It's a perception that probably does a great amount of harm and ought to be launched off this planet.

    1. Eeek, I've been guilty of that before.  Many times early in my company I'd always expect women to know about casual games and would say something like "hey you're a casual gamer right?  Can you comment on these game mechanics" and they'd say "No, I pwn n00bs in halo" — whoops.  Still I even tend to put Mr. if I don't know the gender of the person.
      This particular issue you bring up is a pandemic across the world.  People constantly make assumptions about female competence and frankly we need to be doing a lot of work to educate our children that this is the wrong thing to do.

      1. Ugh! I know! My boyfriend’s uncle asked us to play at their church’s hallelujah hoedown as a favor to him. He’s a genuinely sweet guy, so we agreed despite our better judgement. We were all standing backstage and one of the organizers asked us a question about our set list. I, the only female in the group, presumed to answer him and (no joke!) he looked at me, said, “You look real pretty, honey,” and repeated his question to my boyfriend who said the same thing I did.

        So, even if we say the EXACT same thing, it is somehow more reliable coming from a male.

        Then, of course, the rest of the evening was filled with good ol’ down home anti-intellectualism and more blond jokes than I’ve ever heard in one place… all told by the pastor. I’ve never felt more disgusted.

  31. My pet peeve is how ridiculously overpaid professional athletes are – we give scarce municipal resources to millionaire athletes and billionaire owners. Why are [male dominated] professional sports considered so much more important than, say, ballet? Or theatre? Or any other form of spectator entertainment? So important that we let our schools crumble as we build palaces for sports.
    Yes, it's hockey playoff time and my Canadian city's team is in the playoffs, so it is bugging me more than usual.

  32. After reading all the depressing posts, I'd like to point out that not all women fit the rule. My sister, who graduaded cum laude with a degree in math and computer science, has a good paying job working for a defense contractor, in the IT department.
    Her husband is a high school physics teacher. Guess who makes more money (hint, the pronoun you want to use is she, as in "she does").

  33. Or how about school sports teams? The team name is always default for the boys' team, whereas the girls' team is the "Lady X's" or the "Girls X's" but never the "Gentlemen X's" or the "Boy X's".

  34. frustration of the day:
    being repeatedly interrupted in a discussion by a man who, when doing this for the sixth(!) time says, 'no, now its my turn' without irony

  35. Primary pet peeve: Same as a lot of people on here; the slew of new uber-conservative reproductive rights bills. Particularly when some senator, after telling women what they can or cant do with their ovaries, spins around and complains about 'big government.' The attack on women is bad enough, but then flip around and be giant damn hypocrite on top of that….effing rediculous.  
    Secondary/inconsequential pet peeve: Guys assuming that saying you are a feminist (as a man) is a slick ploy to 'get girls.' Weak. 

  36. My feminist pet peeve: Why is "women's work" worth less than "men's work"? Why do I, as a teacher, make less than a man who write computer code, or works in the sciences? Part of this frustration comes from knowing the history of my field: at the turn of the century, English lit was considered a prestigious job for learned men. Then, when composition and writing classes were born in Harvard in 1874, it became more service oriented, slung off to grad students and eventually lost its prestige, in part because women were now the ones doing a majority of the work. Just like secretarial work, once the job is 'feminized,' it is devalued, wages lower and the social cache of the profession itself lowers.
      Also, echoing what someone said about about grad school–I was flat out told, "Don't get married or have children until you've got tenure. No one will hire you if you're placebound with a family. You have to be willing to go anywhere and work long hours." I have basically bucked this by being fucking fantastic and rigerously guarding my time, but most of my cohort has lived this.

    1. But is this always a gender issue and instead a class discrimination issue? For example, in today's medical schools students discriminate against PhD scientists (regardless of gender) who give basic science lectures (eg. neuroanatomy, biochemistry). They want a "real doctor" to teach the subject. Most PhD scientists struggle for NIH grants which ultimately provides their salaries. And these folks take the time out of their busy research schedules to try and give a decent lecture to an overwhelming class of a 100 students. They make far less than MDs and their jobs are on the line if they don't get a grant, publish papers or get tenure ie. publish or perish. It's even worse if a postdoc or graduate student is thrown into this arena who is deemed inferior ie. bigotry such as "too stupid to get into med school". Were it not for the kindness of dedication of a graduate student in my Histology class I would have never successfully made it through my first year of med school. Maybe historically this too was a gender bias issue ie. the male doctor reigned supreme over everyone else. Is it a class or gender issue? Is it both?

      1. May I recommend The Caliban and the WItch. It can answer many of your questions about the co-opting of healing and medicine (originally female-dominated) by men, and the mass femicide of healers, who were labelled as witches.
        Also, Google: the Burning Times.
        Anecdote: my uncle is a doctor- a rheumatologist. His son Mark told him he wanted to be a nurse, and my uncles response was to throw him against a wall and scream at him that nurses are always women and thus inferior, that nursing was shitwork, and he'd better become a doctor or there would be a problem (or some such vague threat of violence). I don't associate with any of my family, if you hadn't guessed.
        Paying women less than men for their work is another way of saying that women should just do all the shit/caretaking work for free; 'quit complaining, at least you get paid at all…' just more devaluing of womens' amazing energy and work. 
        Imagine if our GNP included all of women's unpaid labor.

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