This is a great CBC interview with an amazing woman at Vancouver WAVAW (women against violence against women). It explains why women don’t report. Think of three years under the legal microscope. This is so sad.
Okay am I crazy or is this the most offensive thing ever. Is it possible that four men (not one!) who are paid to defend our laws and our lives did not know that they might be doing something a bit wrong when they had sex with women they were interviewing for a 6 person murder trial? There are only two reasons: they either did not know or worse, thought they were above the law (so privileged and powerful). Either way this is so wrong at so many levels I am speechless. Officers Danny Michaud, Paul Johnston, Derek Brassington and Dave Attew should be ashamed. [Source Kim Bolan, Vancouver Sun, 30 Oct 14]
Here is the 4th strategy of 50 strategies from my upcoming book. I am looking for beta readers so email me if you want to read the whole thing! I welcome any feedback!
“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”
Strategy 4. Burden women with completely absurd expectations
“Society teaches women, as young girls, not to be bossy, too aggressive, or a “know it all.” Did you ever have a bossy friend in your play group or in your class at school? She probably didn’t have a lot of friends because no one liked the way she bossed everyone around. Girls are taught to share, take turns, and play nicely together. In the business world, we try to preserve the inclusive cooperative nature of our play groups. Because we don’t want to be perceived as being too bossy, we phrase things in a less threatening, non direct manner. Unfortunately, it is not only less threatening but demeaning and signals a lack of self-esteem.” (Susan Solovic)
I have always been surprised at how many of my female lawyer friends are willing to work twice as hard as their male colleagues to get ahead. They volunteer for the non-paying committee jobs and work overtime well into the night. And because the “normal” work hours of a typical law firm are already completely absurd these women turn into complete workaholics and neurotics. Then worst of all, this becomes the standard for the new female lawyers!
Sadly most women accept this absurdity as the cost of a career of a professional woman. They fall for the lie that unless you want to be really successful you must sacrifice everything for the firm. Because men face similar expectations, women think its all fair in love and war. After all they have the choice to leave at any time. And leave they do.
Women are expected to have the highest marks, the most degrees, the most relevant experience and are expected to be completely dedicated and loyal to the corporation or firm. Then to add icing to the cake, women are expected to be kind, sympathetic, considerate, generous caring and friendly – to absolutely everyone. And if women want to reach the top they must also be tough, strong and even cut-throat. Women are not only told that they must be perfect but that they must work twice as hard as men to even be noticed.
What women do not see is the particular cost to them as females and the pressures that are specific to them being a woman. They do not realize that the bar is not only different but much higher for them. They cannot see, or are not willing to see the astonishing pressures and expectations they face that are often inconsistent with who we have been taught to be and opposite to what we know intrinsically as females.
From the time we were little girls, we were fed very specific cultural messages about what we can do and what we should do as females. From grandma to television females are told to be quiet and calm, to be nice to everyone and never show outward anger, particularly at another person. Even to this day we are told to be “sugar and spice and everything nice.”
One of the most offensive cultural expectations show up as double standards. This means that we label certain behaviors as good when males do them, but bad when females do them. The exact same behaviors are slotted into a gender category so women and men learn very quickly that boys and girls well be perceived very differently even when doing the exact same thing. Here are a few examples from the book, “He’s a Stud and she’s a Slut and 49 other double standards every woman should know” by Jessica Valenti:
- He’s rough, She’s dainty
- He’s neat, She’s neurotic
- He’s a hero, She’s damsel
- He’s going to be a success, she’s going to be a stay-at-home-mom
- He’s angry, She’s PMSing
- He’s a porn watcher, she’s the show
- He’s childless, She’s selfish
- He’s a player, She’s a ho
- He’s a bachelor, She’s a spinster
These messages are reinforced constantly in our culture via families, teachers, television, magazines and the Internet. As we observe hundreds of media hits every day we subconsciously normalize this behavior slowly over time. Thousands of pages of scantily dressed skinny women in sexual and vulnerable poses not only undermines the idea of a strong corporate female executive, but reinforces in men’s minds, that women are not to be taken seriously. Business magazine include only a smattering of women feeding the stereotype that women aren’t really in positions of power or influence.
And sadly, we are not only blind to them when we see them, we are oblivious to the impact and the specific ways it holds women back. We actually accept them as “just the way things are.”
The bottom line. Most of us do not notice the absurd pressures and expectations that professional women face. And if we do see them, we assume they are normal. There are the ridiculous modern day workplace expectations like the 24/7 work hours that both men and women face plus a host of gender-specific pressures. Professional women expected to be brilliant and hard working, to be kind and likeable (by everyone), to work twice as hard, to volunteer lots and to be completely loyal and dedicated to the firm or corporation. But this is not all. They must also be attractive and well, perfect.
Even if women tried to meet these impossible standards the odds of her succeeding are very low. Plus the pursuit of perfection takes a toll on her health and her relationships, if she has any. So when women do succeed we all applaud, yet wonder how many enjoyed the journey.
What to do. We must all pay more attention to the kinds of pressures we place on women and begin to challenge them. Although the rest of this book is dedicated to this topic, the easiest way to learn about gender-based expectations is to watch, the video, “Killing us Softly” by Jean Kilbourne. It shows how media pressures girls and women to be sexy, small and passive. It is my favorite video on gender. You simply have to watch the images and photographs to understand how the media reinforces our societies expectations of women. It promotes stereotypes and sexualizes and degrades women and girls, usually without us even noticing. I discuss several other women-based expectations below.
In his book “Making Love, Playing Power,” psychologist Ken Dolan-DelVechio suggests that the main problem in relationships is the imbalance and misuse of power. He suggests that men suffer form an attitude of “male entitlement” and this wreaks havoc on relationships as well as the less entitled partner. He defines entitlement as: “the pattern in which we men prioritize and enact our thoughts, feelings and desires without adequately consulting or even considering the implications for those closest to us, and, in most cases without even noticing that we are behaving in this fashion. In other words, it is blind disregard for the inconsiderate nature of our pattern of choices.” (Dolan-DelVechio, p 23)
Here is the 3rd strategy of 50 strategies from my upcoming book. I am looking for beta readersso email me if you want to read the whole thing! I welcome any feedback!
“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”
Strategy 3. Tell women they just need more courage
“A male executive once counseled me to be less direct and assertive because he found that my style offended people. When I asked if he would make the comment to me if I were a man, he admitted that he would not. Therefore, I told him that I considered his comment a compliment.” Susan Solivic,
It drives me crazy when someone says to a woman, “What’s wrong with you? Why didn’t you stand up for yourself!? Why didn’t you negotiate harder? Where is your back bone? Have you no courage?”
Have you ever noticed how often we tell women that they just need a bit more courage or confidence? Indeed Sheryl Sandberg, in her best-selling book “Lean In,” tells women over and over that they lack courage and confidence and without it, they will never be truly successful. She also suggests many practical solutions such as raising our hands more, and negotiating harder, all of which sound awfully sensible and familiar, yet don’t feel quite right.
If you look more closely at these comments you will see that they are pure rhetoric. They are not only bad advice, but they send women off onto a path of self development, that not only does not work, but actually holds women back. Here is how this trap of “get more courage” rhetoric works.
Stage 1: First we tell women that they need more courage and must act more assertively. So women sign up for courses and read books on self-esteem and assertiveness and begin to employ strategies like speaking up more often and negotiating harder for raises.
Stage 2: As women put to use their newly found skills, they begin to feel pushback. Her colleagues no longer like her, men avoid her and she gets excluded from meetings. Women call her a bitch boss. She is told by her supervisor that she is too tough and that a more gentle approach might work.
Stage 3: She blames herself and hires a business coach to teach her the fine art of being a strong woman in power. The coach (usually a masculine woman) shows her how to lead from behind, how to stop offending men by appearing too strong, how to be both firm and kind, and do things like, give credit to your boss for your work. And above all else, smile.
Stage 4: So the woman works day in and day out trying to master these very delicate, difficult and often self-effacing tasks. Eventually she feels like a fraud or cameleon. People pick up on this and call her untrustworthy. She loses self confidence and decides to lay low, below the radar of attacks. Eventually some boss sees her amazing potential and wonders why she has little courage. He tells her to get some! And the cycle continues.
It is not her lack of courage that is the problem at all. Women have lots of courage. What they don’t have is the strength to put up with continual pressure to be something they can never be. They can’t actually becaoem someone they are not. When we reject women for who they are (such as caring, considerate and collaborative) over and over, they do one of two things. They either pretend forever and hone their acting skills or they leave. This is the damning power of “courage rhetoric” and this message is reinforced every single time we hear someone tell us that we simply need to raise our hands more often.
If we looked more closely at research and had a better understanding of women within our cultural settings we would quickly come to the conclusion that women do not need more confidence, nor are they spineless or passive. It only looks this way to most men. Rather women are masters at relationships and assessing complex interpersonal situations. Many have high empathy, high sensitivity and are intuitive.
Many women who rise to the top actually play “the game” perfectly, otherwise they get shoved out. They state their assertions as if they were questions, not wanting to make others feel stupid. They offer their brilliant ideas as if they were just randomly contemplated to allow others to feel part of the process. They say things like, “That’s a great idea Bob” knowing they mentioned it to Bob last week.
Women have learned all their lives exactly how to behave to get things done. From the day they are born, girls learn who has the power and how to use their somewhat limited power to persuade others to listen and follow. They are not stupid. They learn very quickly what to say and when to say it. They learn early on that it is inappropriate to seek or wield power particularly in relation to boys or men. They learn not to yell, learn not to be seen as too pushy or bossy and they never get physical. They learn how to include everyone, to like everyone, and also to put others first.
As a result most women have learned precisely when they have the power to push and when they do not. They eventually learn the exact point at which they will be perceived as too aggressive. And even more importantly, women know the high cost if they don’t get it right. If women speak too loudly they will not be invited out to lunch. If they embarrass a man in public, they will never get a promotion again. Indeed, one male author advises women that if they dare to make a man feel bad about himself she will be “deep sixed” and her career will evaporate!
Many women I know have told me of situations where they inadvertently “burned bridges” or damaged relationships with men so badly, they could never be repaired. Yet men often trash relationships with other men with apparently little impact. To men its all part of the game – you win some you lose some. To women, losing is simply too costly and must be weighed out carefully or avoided. And because so few women succeed, we have come to know that we are very lucky if we can dance this dance without being tossed off the dance floor for stepping on someone’s toes. All of this explains why so many women do not want to take risks and do not want to raise their hands.
Indeed in my opinion many of the women who succeed in business the ones that actually have less courage or not concerned with asserting their power. Whether naively or with disinterest they stay silent, don’t rock the boat and viola- they get promoted. This may be great for them, but not usually for all the other women who spoke up and got left behind.
The bottom line. Too many people tell women that all they need is confidence to get ahead. They tell women to be assertive and raise their hands more. This advice is killing women for the following reasons.
- It assumes that women are to blame for their lack of success and that the solution is within their individual power and very easy.
- It suggests that women are naïve, unskilled and weak-minded. Women are so dumb that they have not learned that all they need is courage or are so weak to have not obtained some by now.
- This advice often backfires as women get rejected for trying too hard. This results in women feeling even worse about themselves, feeling like frauds and suffering self-doubt and low self-esteem.
- There is absolutely no research showing that women who act more confidently are actually more successful, more likely to get promoted or more happy. If confidence were such an effective strategy for women why has it not worked over the last hundred years at getting women into positions of power?
What appears to be a lack of courage in professional women are actually well-crafted behaviors. Women are masters of navigating a world where women not only have little real power, but are put in their place if they try to assume too much power. They are brilliant at navigating the land-mine filled world where men control the game.
So let’s be clear, women are not sabotaging themselves when they put themselves down or put others first. They are simply smart in assessing risk. And to tell women that there is no risk, would be foolhardy and put women in danger. Women know all too well, just how easily they can be knocked out of the game and just how hard it is to get back in.
What to do. Do not fall for the rhetoric that says women’s lack of confidence is holding them back.
- Stop telling women that they simply need more courage to succeed.
- Stop blaming women, stop asking women to jump off cliffs and stop putting them in jobs where only an Olympian would succeed.
- Understand how confidence- building techniques often backfire, when women are rejected and feel even worse about themselves.
- Honor the skill and brilliance of women as they assess risk and navigate the work and business world of hidden power-laden land mines.
- Understand that the epidemic of lack of self-esteem can only be cured by accepting women for their true strengths and stopping the constant pressure to be something else (like tougher).
- Give women many chances and tell them you have her back if she wants to do something risky. Don’t crucifying them for making mistakes.
If we really want women to be more confident, we need to stop rejecting them and making their lives so difficult. We need to truly accept them for who they are and stop telling them to meet impossible expectations. END
copyright Maureen F Fitzgerald PhD please copy only with permission.
In Canada October 18 is “Persons Day” or the day we celebrate women being declared persons. Here is the blurb from the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
Every October, Canada celebrates Women’s History Month, with the highlight being Persons Day on October 18. The month of October was selected because of the historical significance of the “Persons Case“ decision of 1929, which represents a landmark victory for Canadian women.
The “Persons Case” honours the five Alberta women whose determination led to a landmark victory in the struggle of Canadian women for equality. The Famous Five achieved not only the right for women to serve in the Senate, but they and their many contributions paved the way for women to participate in other aspects of public life. Status of Women Canada is responsible for annually administering the Governor General’s Awards in Commemoration of the Persons Case, in which five individuals and one youth are recognized for their contributions to the goal of equality for women. The ceremony is held in October on or around Persons Day (October 18).
Here is the third excerpt from my upcoming book. I posted the Introduction and the first of 50 strategies over the last two weeks. I welcome your feedback!
“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”
Strategy 2. Expect Women to act like Mini-men
“Therefore to be a more effective communicator, you must begin opening your mind and exploring the subtleties, nuances, and preferences of a foreign culture, the male culture, as if you were preparing to do business in a foreign country.” (Susan Solovic, p 44)
There is a well known Canadian inspirational speaker whose famous advice to women launched him into fame a few years ago. The title of his talk was: “What Women do Wrong in Business.” I went to see him speak to a group of women lawyers and was shocked that he was in his early twenties. Although he had not attended college he had “years” of experience as an entrepreneur. He said he was bothered and dismayed by what he saw happening to women in business deals. They were failing badly and obviously had no idea how men conducted business. As a result women kept making huge mistakes and men were apparently running circles around us and taking full advantage!
Women stumbled in negotiations, left money on the table are were failing to secure big business contracts. He told us that men did not view us as tough enough or serious enough and we were sabotaging ourselves and other women. His solution was to convince us all to start behaving more like men. He told us to speak louder and more assertively, stop trying to be liked and be a bit more “cut-throat.” Sadly, I watched women line up afterwards to sign up for his coaching program hoping to find out what it really takes to succeed in a man’s world. I had done this my entire life and was living proof that none of his advise really worked.
For my entire career as a lawyer, mediator and professor I was told to act more like a man. Although I was rarely told this directly, I was often pulled aside by well meaning colleagues who told me that in order to be liked and to fit in better I should do things like:
- Try to avoid pink, yellow or “soft” colors, red was for partners only
- Wear ‘power” suits, preferably navy or black
- Wear buttoned up collars, never open neck blouses
- Stop riding your bike to work
- Don’t show any legs or cleavage
- High heels were fine.
There are hundreds of books that tell women that they must behave more like men if they want to be truly successful. Although it might not be obvious from a title, most books for executive women try to convince them that they all need to start looking, acting and even thinking like a man. And on the surface this seems to make sense.
The bestselling book Lean In is the most recent example. Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook created an entire revolution based on her best-selling book. And although a fantastic start, the truth is that Ms Sandberg specifically chose to not talk about institutional barriers and instead decided to speak only on individual barriers. Like the many books before her, she asks women to act more like men. She does not really ask men, corporations, governments or the media (who demean and sexualize women) to change. In her preface she says this:
“Women face real obstacles in the professional world, including blatant and subtle sexism, discrimination and sexual harassment. Too few workplaces offer the flexibility and access to child care and parental leave that are necessary for pursuing a career while raising children. Men have an easier time finding mentors and sponsors who are invaluable for career progression. Plus women have to prove themselves to a far greater extent than men do.”
But then she goes on to say:
“In addition to the external barriers erected by society, women are hindered by barriers that exist within ourselves. We hold ourselves back in ways both big and small, by lacking self- confidence, by not raising our hands, and by pulling back when we should be leaning in.… My argument is that getting rid of these internal barriers is critical to gaining power. Others have argued that the women can get to the top only when the institutional barriers are gone. This is the ultimate chicken-and-egg situation. … Both sides are right….They are equally important. I am encouraging women to address the chicken [women as individuals], but I fully support those who are focusing on the egg.” [the culture and institutions that hold women back]. (my emphasis and bracket insert)
Although I agree that both approaches are necessary, they are most definitely not of equal importance. I do not agree that women should continue to twist themselves in knots and make personal sacrifices to fit into a brutal world. I do not agree that women should exert energy to spend time on both fronts – self and institutions. However, I do know that we women feel a whole lot better when making personal change. We feel in control when we believe change is within our power. We buy self-help books and we get busy on our few minor adjustments. What we don’t realize it that it is just as easy to deal with institutional barriers if we know how. And the impact of these changes is not limited to our personal sphere, but impacts many women over a more sustained period of time.
As a read “Lean In” I was also reminded of Gail Evans, the CNN executive who wrote a book in the late 1990’s similar to Lean In. She told women to be tougher and more manly. Luckily she came to her senses and wrote a follow-up book years later (“She wins, You win”), admitting that her first book was all wrong and that women needed to address the hidden systemic barriers in order to truly succeed.
The truth is that asking women to behave more like men can actually help them – at least in the short term. Many women actually get into higher level positions. Some actually think they are being treated fairly or at least like other men. Others however suffer a deep crisis in confidence, wondering why they can’t seem to fit in. Many lose a chunk of their self-esteem and allow their feminine aspects to atrophy. Too many find it’s just too damn hard to grow a penis and leave – a whole lot poorer.
But it’s not just the women who suffer. Men too suffer from narrow-mindedness and do not have the benefit of diversity and creativity. They cannot appreciate what women bring to the table. Like Henry Higgins in the film, “My Fair Lady” they end up leading a bizarre, lop-sided life when they demand, “Why can’t women just be more like men?”
And the organizations who suffer high turnover and lose these valuable women continue to wonder what they are doing wrong. Why don’t women stay? Why can’t we recruit more women? As women leave in droves, few are left to challenge the very structures that caused them to leave in the first place.
The bottom line. We continuously tell professional women that if they want to succeed in mans’ world, they must look, think and act like men. We are essentially told to “get out of the kitchen if it’s too hot” or that we “don’t have the balls.” We promote women who look and act masculine- but only to a certain point. Eventually someone discovers that the woman is not a man, and new barriers arise. And the deeper problem is that by asking women to become men, we not only compromise women, we masculinize and sterilize workplaces and ultimately hold our entire society back through lack of necessary diversity for sustainability and survival
What to do? Stop telling women they must act more like men. Stop expecting them to wear suits and speak in loud voices. Stop telling them there is something wrong with them if they cry, show empathy or have personal relationship in business. Question our why it is that we so highly value masculine values and characteristics and de-value feminine strengths. Pay attention to the current business trends that identify critical leadership skills such as emotional intelligence, compassion, collaboration and trust – all more feminine traits. END
[copyright MaureenFitzgerald . PLEASE use only with FULL credit or permission]
I am glad that my favorite singer, Anne Lennox has spoken up. She says that Beyoncé is holding the word “feminist” hostage and using it to promote herself (obviously but that she does not represent wholeheartedly the depths of feminism. As Annie, “sex sells” and she has an issue with Beyoncé selling sex to young girls as young as seven. Yeah for Annie! [Source National Post]
Here is the second excerpt from my upcoming book. I posted the Introduction a week ago. This is the first of 50 strategies. I welcome your feedback!
“Men’s Guide to Ultimate Power -50 Strategies to Hold Women Back (Or Not)”
Strategy 1. Convince women there is something wrong with them
“I’m a perfectly good carrot that everyone is trying to turn into a rose. As a carrot I have good color a nice leafy top. When I am carved into a rose, I turn brown and wither.” Mary Pipher, School Girls
A few years ago I attended a talk with over 200 professional women tilted: “The Seven Deadly Career Mistakes Women Make.” It altered the course of my life. The speaker, a beautiful, tall, thirty-something executive from a large recruiting firm told us in no uncertain terms that women were seriously lagging behind. Here are a few of her statistics:
- About 5% of all CEO’s of the top 500 North American companies are women
- About 20% of elected political positions are held by women
- Women receive on average 75 cents for every dollar earned by men
- Women rarely advance as the same rate in careers as men
- Women who raise children face hurdles returning to quality and high paying careers
The speaker told us that women have barely made headway into top positions in corporations and are rarely seen in influential or political positions. We still earn much less than men, have almost no mentors or role models and get offered fewer promotions. In other words, women lag behind men in terms of income, status and influence.
But rather than point to real causes of these problems, she blamed women. According to her, there were seven main reasons why we women were not succeeding in our careers. These included wearing the wrong clothes, not bragging enough, being too concerned about what others think and being too friendly, among other things.
Later that night I became deeply depressed and kept asking myself the same question over and over: Why are there no talks like this for men? Don’t men think they could be making some deadly mistakes as they climb the corporate ladder? Why are women so concerned about getting ahead?
A slow crushing wave of sadness crept over me as I began to imagine the hundreds, perhaps millions of unbelievably talented and successful women who think there is something terribly wrong with them. These women, like me, somehow came to believe that we are not quite good enough. We think it is our fault for not getting ahead, our fault for not asking for bigger raises, our fault for not managing our workload and childcare responsibilities better. And because we blame ourselves completely, we take on full responsibility for engaging in our own self-improvement no matter what the obstacles.
Then I had an “ah ha” moment. What if the problem is not women? What if there is absolutely nothing wrong with women? What if instead, the problem is our thinking about women? What if the real problem is a world that cannot see women’s true value? What if women are actually doing things correctly, but their bosses, their friends, their husbands are telling them that they are all wrong? What if we stopped asking women to improve themselves and instead asked men and all our systems and institutions that reject women, to change. What if we embraced women and all their strengths? Imagine that! Crazy talk, I know.
Most women think that they are entirely responsible for their slow success and advancement. We attend courses and read books on self-esteem think we come to believe that we just need a few more tips and strategies on being tougher and more ambitious. These beliefs are turning women into workaholics and also this continuous cycle of self-blame, self improvement and failure makes women feel like we are going crazy.
We women have no idea how universal their difficulties are. But they are not due to a genetic malformation or female-gene. Women are not born incompetent, weak, or stupid and yet we as a society tell them day-in and day-out that they are not quite good enough. Women are not good enough to be CEO’s or heads of countries, not good enough to be parents and professionals at the same time and not good enough to get paid for child-care or domestic work.
We not only tell women directly and indirectly that they are not as good as men, particularly in leadership roles, but are actually intended to assist and support males in their comfort and pleasure. We refuse to pay women for much of the work they do (such as childcare) and through the institution of marriage cause them to become financially dependent on their husbands.
Girls and women world-wide are being held back, because we have created a world that still sees them as second-class citizens. We then treat them unfairly, normalize this treatment and then hide evidence in propaganda so it’s almost impossible to see, yet alone question. And to add insult to injury, we convince everyone that it’s a “women’s problem,” it’s their own entire fault and that they must change as individuals if they want things to change.
The bottom line. The brutal fact is that millions of women today are unhappy, stressed, depressed and have almost no time, energy or power to change things. This is primarily because they are overworked, underpaid, undervalued and have limited meaningful choices. They are absent in high levels of corporations and politics so unable to change the very things that hold them back. They blame themselves when they get squeezed out of high paying jobs and think they are selfish to demand the supports that would allow them to excel and free them from some of the drudgery work and financial dependence on spouses. And to add insult to injury, we tell women that it’s not only their fault but also that there is something drastically wrong with them and they need to change!.
What to do. First we must stop telling women that there is something wrong with them. We must admit that since all women are impacted it is a society-wide problem – not a women’s problem. We must turn the tide and begin telling women that they are perfect just as they are. Instead of telling women to make better choices or find balance we need to look instead at the barriers that keep women down and out – from absurd societal pressures and expectations to corporate practices. In other words, we must stop telling women to “lean in” and start asking everyone (men and women) to “lean out” against the beliefs, systems and institutions that hold women and our whole society back. END
I am so delighted that parent and friend Rachel Rose is the new Vancouver poet laureate! I will look forward to three years of poetry inspired by food…and other beautiful things! Congratulations Rachel!
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