We Heart: SNL’s Tribute to the Feisty and Fed-Up “Women of Congress”


The 2018 midterms welcomed a huge crop of feminist fresh(wo)men who ran as feminists, won as feminists and then stood—or, rather, dressed–in solidarity with their feminist foremothers at the State of the Union last week, wearing “suffragette white” outfits adorned with ERA YES pins.

This weekend, Saturday Night Live paid homage to them the only way they know how.

“Once upon a time, there were women,” a narrator announces at the beginning of the “Women of Congress” spoof on a seventies-styled television series. “Then they became fed-up women. Then they became Congresswomen.” The send-up of the fiery feminists of the 116th Congress also includes a nod to their historic diversity: “They wear white,” the narrator explains, “but they’re not all white—and we love that.”

The narrator goes on to introduce several stars of the 116th Congress, endowing them along the way with hilarious, zeitgeist nicknames. First up is Nancy “Madame Clap Back” Pelosi, in a recurring role played by the hilarious Kate McKinnon, who is “so woke” she can’t close her eyes. She’s followed by Alexandria “I Say What I Meme” Ocasio-Cortez, played by Melissa Villaseñor.

Leslie Jones as Maxine “Don’t Go Chasing” Waters arguably steals the skit with her announcement for viewers: “They call me Auntie Maxine, but I’mma make Trump say ‘uncle.” Kyrsten “Kooky Arizona Lady” Sinema, played by Cecily Strong, tries her own hand at the same when she comes on screen, throws a poison dart into a clueless and nameless man’s neck and boldly declares: “I’m bicameral, bipartisan and bi; deal with it.” Ego Nwodim as Ilhan “Get the Hi-Job Done” Omar brags instead that when Ted Cruz sees her, “he crosses the street.” Anne “Raise the Roof” Kuster, played by Aidy Bryant, encourages fellow women to “break that glass ceiling” with her hands held high above her head.

Abigail “Say My Name, Say My Name” Spanberger, played by Heidi Gardner, bookends the introductions when she brings Pelosi back into the fold with a jab at Republican attempts to sink Democratic nominees by attacking the now-Speaker of the House on the campaign trail. And SNL musical guest Halsey ultimately closes out the ensemble act as Rashida “Impeach the Motherf**er” Tlaib. (You can guess her sassy introduction line.)

The skit also includes a scene from the show: The lady squad, huddled around Speaker Pelosi’s desk, communicate with a faceless Trump over an intercom in the same way the eponymous Angels used to talk shop with Charlie. When Trump attempts to take credit for the record number of women serving in Congress, they grow rightfully irritated.

“You don’t get to take credit for that!” they exclaim. “That is not because of you; that is in spite of you!” After Tlaib smashes the intercom, Waters delivers a final zinger before the women walk slowly away from a fiery explosion in the background: “And you’re not rich.”

We’re crossing our fingers that this series gets renewed for another season.

Roxy Szal is an editorial intern at Ms. After four years of teaching English to Texas middle-schoolers, she earned a Masters in Journalism and Mass Communications at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Her graduate capstone project eventually grew into a misogyny in the media watchdog project called How Not to be Sexist

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We Heart: The Foreign Affairs Experts Bridging Feminist Theory and Practice


A special issue of Peace Science Digest bridges academic theory and day-to-day practice in the field of foreign affairs—and centers issues of women, peace and security.

The “Gender and Conflict” issue breaks down five key areas of theory alongside case studies that guide those in the foreign affairs field toward praxis. At the core of their venture is the notion that gender is not an issue that can be pushed aside and ignored while the violence of conflict is addressed—instead, gender must be seen as integral and central to the solutions and rebuilding processes before, during and after conflict. Within its pages is a conversation that goes beyond urging more inclusion, and into the nitty-gritty aspects of applying data- and mission-driven models of diversity and inclusivity that unravel patriarchy and build peace.

The Digest‘s opening article exposes the links between both masculinity and militarism and gender and conflict. “We cannot think of security without thinking about the militarist logics that are deeply embedded in it,” its authors write. “That militarism in everyday life is ‘justified by reference to security’—and the reliance of both on gender hierarchies and gendered myths/images.” 

A later piece unpacks idea of women’s imperative involvement in peacebuilding, calling attention to the importance of championing women’s roles in peace and security matters without relying on normative models of gender or straying toward fetishization and tokenization. “Women often emphasized this role, drawing on both local norms—like their ‘maternal responsibility,’ tied to their Catholic faith through the image of Mary, that entailed an ‘obligation to protect Bougainville and its people’—and global norms enshrined in UNSCR 1325 to buttress their participation in peace work,” its author declares. “Peacebuilding became a way to re-energize traditional forms of matrilineal authority that had been degraded over the course of the armed conflict, and women peacebuilders also drew on their common identity as women to bridge political differences across Bougainville.”  

Women’s participation has been proven to lead to more sustainable peace agreements and better social outcomes in conflict resolution, but women around the world still lack seats at the peace-making table. The disconnect between data and practice in this instance arises, in part, from the fact that academics have conceptions of field work that are limited—and that though theories about women peace and security can be groundbreaking and thought-provoking, they do little to change the lives of women in conflict unless there is a practical application for them on the ground.

“Every peace and security challenge must be considered through a gender lens,” Ellen Freidman, Executive Director of The Compton Foundation, told Ms. “When policymakers, academics and activists alike are ‘gender blind,’ they ignore one of the best leverage points for conflict prevention and resolution and miss the chance to work toward a more fundamental transformation that can result in greater equity and sustainable peace.”

Enter the Peace Science Digest’s special issue. Confronting the chasm between academia and field work is a pivotal part of expanding conversation and action in the trenches around women’s leadership in issues of peace and security—and improving outcomes for communities on the ground relying on peace-makers to do good work. That gap closes through a better theoretical understanding of the social functions and outcomes of gender and new models for moving from theory to practice.

Rosalind Jones is a writer and global feminist thinker with a focus on international women’s liberation. Her goal is to use her writing and language skills to elevate the voices of gender equality advocates in all corners of the world. She is an Occidental College graduate with a degree Diplomacy and World Affairs and a contributor to Ms.

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We Heart: The New Video for Jennifer Hudson’s Feminist Anthem “I’ll Fight”


The hard-won victories of the feminist movement came after years of struggle by activists and trailblazing leaders from the streets to the halls of power. Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe Award winner Jennifer Hudson celebrates their work in the new music video for her single “I’ll Fight.”

The video for the feminist anthem, written for the Ruth Bader Ginsburg documentary RBG, combines video footage of women’s rights marches from the last decades with clips of Ginsburg articulating the urgency of equality in court. Its lyrics are a powerful celebration not just of champions like Ginsburg, but of the sisterhood that stands shoulder-to-shoulder with them when they raise their fists.

“When you feel you’re taking all that you can take, and you’re sure you’re never gonna catch a break, when it’s dangerous,” Hudson sings, “I will be the one to help you carry it.” Diane Warren, who wrote the song’s lyrics, told CNN that it was “an honor to write a song about such a badass, inspiring, and iconic woman”—and “a dream-come-true” to have Hudson bring it to life.

The video comes months after the song’s initial release as a tribute to everyone who voted in the midterm elections to speak truth to power and send historic numbers of women to Congress and statehouses next year. “Even though the election has ended,” Warren declared to Rolling Stone, “the fight isn’t over.”

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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We Heart: The Podcast Telling the Stories of “Cool Dead Women”


It’s important to know our “foremothers,” as Virginia Woolf advised us—and, today, we all know her name.

But what about Leonie von Zesch, a dog-sledding Alaskan dentist who cleaned cavities with hairpins? What about Alice Ball, the African American woman who discovered a cure for leprosy in Hawaii when she was only 24—only to have her Ivy-League professor steal the credit?

The truth is that some women are canonized—but too many are lost to history. That’s where we come in.

Alice Ball is one of many “Cool Dead Women” featured in a new feminist history podcast produced and hosted by a mother-daughter duo.

In the first season of our new podcast, “Cool Dead Women,” we highlight 10 women (all cool, of course, and and all dead) who bucked convention and refused to be confined by their times. “Cool Dead Women” is our effort to champion the lives and tell the stories of women like Una Marson—the first Caribbean woman writer of significance, who fought depression her entire life—and Betty Pack—a spy who used “sexpionage” to help the Allied cause in World War II.

We’re a mother-daughter duo with diverse interests—daughter Blair in art, film and music; mother Erika moreso in literature and history—but we share a fascination with feminist archaeology, and we’re on a unified mission to rescue these women’s lives from oblivion.

We’ve already done the hard part. We’ve scrutinized and amplified the women’s lives by interviewing scholars, film-makers and librarians; we’ve hunted down doctoral dissertations and out-of-print autobiographies; we’ve studied birth certificates and watched rare film footage.

Now it’s up to you to listen and share these women’s stories to make sure they get heard. And along the way, we’re willing to bet you’ll even uncover some inspiration.

Erika Waters was the founding editor of The Caribbean Writer, a literary magazine from the University of the Virgin Islands where she is a professor emeritus. She has a Ph.D. in Post-Colonial Literature, specializing in recovery research in women’s literature, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Tulsa Center for the Study of Women’s Literature and was a Fulbright Scholar.

Blair Waters grew up on St. Croix and is now a director based in Brooklyn. Her videos have been MTV Hits of the Week, featured in the New York Times and part of Clio-Award winning campaigns. She’s had a life-long obsession with music—as a music journalist for national publications like NYLON and now, as an internationally charting solo artist.

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We Heart: A Girl Named Jean’s Anthem for the Resistance


“We were tempted to wallow in despair,” a girl named jean (agnj) sings on her new track “Resist,” which looks back on the night of the 2016 election, “trying to figure out how we had gotten there.” Although agnj is not usually a political artist, she felt she needed to issue a wake-up call in advance of the midterm elections—and do her part to change the nation’s course.

The song, released this week, is about refusing to accept defeat—and taking action instead. “Resist as long as we are breathing,” she sings, “resist when greed is succeeding, resist when there isn’t justice, resist when there is oppression—our voices exist, to illuminate we must persist.” The song ends with the simple message: “Stay awake through the revolution.”

Although agnj does hope that “Resist” spurs others to action, she’s helping them on their way by donating all of the proceeds from the track’s downloads to the Southern Poverty Law Center, National Endowment For The Arts, Charity Water and The Nature Conservancy. 

What matters most to agnj is that her listeners stay engaged and informed and focus on the power of community in these turbulent times—and she hopes that through her relatable lyrics and foot-tapping beat, people will take up her battle cry to pay attention and never stop trying.  

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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We Heart: Gracie and Rachel’s Tribute to HER


Pop duo Gracie and Rachel didn’t have plans to release any new work this year while they fine-tuned their upcoming second album—but that changed when they woke up early last month to watch Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee about her allegation that Supreme Court nominee (and now, Justice) Brett Kavanaugh attempted to rape her in high school.

We woke up that morning and were glued to screens, watching each other, watching women and feeling empowered by the bravery we saw,” Rachel told Ms. “We started writing a song, which started on the piano in our studio, and created it’s cyclical, repetitive, introspective, unrelenting tone. It speaks to moving forward and uplifting each other and keeping those wheels going.”

“We were writing the song, creating the idea, then pausing the music to play the hearing to feel more emotional and more empowered and angry all of those rollercoaster emotions,” Gracie added. “We wanted to create a musical feeling to represent the cycle that Ford was working to break.”

They wanted to make a song for “HER”—Blasey Ford and all of the other women who have stood up for what’s right throughout history and are still fighting in this moment. They wanted to thank the women who made an impact and inspire more women to use their own voices to seek justice and change. The resulting feminist anthem is a tribute to powerful women who speak out and the survivors and allies who believe them and support them. 

“It just felt like using our voices right now is everything, its the whole point,” Gracie shared. “That’s what we need more than ever. It felt really important to make moves and make art and make statements that will hopefully empower more people to come forward.”

Having grown up in Berkley and been raised by activist parents, it isn’t a surprise that the two friends who met in high school went on to create a song like HER—and once they had, they knew they had to share it. “The next morning after the hearings, we were still singing, and having her in our thoughts, and all the other women that have helped move us forward,” Rachel explained. “It felt like we had no option to not put it up.”

The music video for “HER” builds on the energy of the track, pairing the song’s lyrics with images of resilient feminist trailblazers from myriad backgrounds who have used their voices to fight violence—including not just Blasey Ford and Anita Hill, but Me Too movement founder Tarana Burke, Olympian Aly Raisman, girls’ rights activist Malala Yousafzai, March for Our Lives co-founder Emma Gonzales, the pop artist Kesha and even Ms. co-founder Gloria Steinem.

The message is clear: “If you are a survivor, we hear you and believe you,” Rachel told Ms. “Look at all these other women who stand beside you to lift you up! We want someone to be able to have the courage to come forward after seeing the video, or at least feel like they can.”

The video went viral on Facebook as soon as the music duo posted it—and in light of the big reaction, they decided to put it on BandCamp for purchase in order to raise money for RAINN as they broke the Internet. 100 percent of the proceeds from the track will go to the anti-violence group so that more survivors can have the resources they need and activists will remain equipped for what comes next.

This song never felt like it was for us,” Gracie told Ms. “Usually our songs feel like they should represent us when we’re making an album, but this was cool because it’s felt so much less about us and more about the many hers out there. That’s the part that excites us the most.” Looking forward, Gracie and Rachel want to continue using their music and their platform to raise awareness and foster dialogue around important issues.

I think conversation is where it all begins,” Gracie said, noting that their experience in the weeks since HER debuted are proof of how powerful raising topics like violence can be in different communities. “Since the video came out, there have been a lot of conversations,” Gracie added. “Some of that is difficult, but a lot of it is people rallying together—people saying ‘this is empowering me to talk about what I’ve gone through,’ people sharing and tagging friends saying ‘here is a song for us to come together and enjoy.’ Hopefully people feel empowered and hopeful and know that there is strength in numbers.”

Gracie knows that highlighting that strength right now is more important than ever. “This is the moment and time for us to rally and be loud.”

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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We Heart: The New Initiative Empowering Couples Who Say “I Do” to Help Girls Say “I Don’t”


Couples tying the knot in the U.S. can now do their part to save children from forced marriages around the world—simply by purchasing and registering for the products and wedding experiences they want and need. 

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Thank you for saying ‘l Do’ with us @adelleonyango !! #Repost 💍 _ 12 million girls under the age of 18 are forcefully married off every single year. That's one girl every 3 seconds! A new campaign called “VOW – to end child marriage” is raising funds; 100% of raised funds will go to Girls First Fund who work with on ground organizations to end child marriage. ———————————————————————- Take a pic of your ring finger (with or without a ring) post it up with the #VowForGirls and nominate 3 women to do so too! For each post and likes @theknot + @crateandbarrel + @maliamillsnyc will donate $1 to @VowForGirls!! ————————————————————————- I nominate @chmba_ @kamz26 @thatchicklyndan

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The VOW initiative unites a coalition of influential brands and empowers couples to fight child marriage while they purchase and register for products for their own weddings. VOW partners will donate a portion of profits from products and experiences purchased through the program to the Girls First Fund, which supports local organizations working to end child marriage on the ground across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

The effort launched with support from some of the most influential brands in the wedding industry. The Knot has launched a “Knot Gifts Back” program donating proceeds to VOW. Crate and Barrel has pledged $100,000 to the initiative. Malia Mills is donating 100 percent of net proceeds for special VOW items through this year. Anyone can also support VOW by giving directly to the org or texting VOW to 44321.

“Americans spend tens of billions each year saying, ‘I do,’ and VOW is about investing part of those funds in supporting girls to say, ‘I don’t,’” Mabel van Oranje, the storied human rights activist who launched VOW and previously ran Girls Not Brides, said in a statement.”A young girl is married somewhere in the world every three seconds—thrust into a relationship that she usually did not choose and often can’t escape.”

In many communities, girls are often seen as an economic burden, and marriage is seen as a “way out,” transferring the responsibility for her well-being to another man. Persistent sexism and a lack of opportunities for girls, economically and educationally, also increases their vulnerability to child marriage. “Sometimes, it’s poverty that drives it,” van Oranje explained to A-Plus. “Sometimes it’s tradition. Sometimes it’s the fear that she will get pregnant before being married and thereby dishonor the family. But in the end, it always has to do with the inequality between girls and boys.”

12 million girls become child brides every year throughout the world. Now, the 1.8 million couples who choose to enter into marriages in the U.S. each year can support them and help ensure that they find justice and the resources they need to improve their lives.

Kohinur Khyum Tithila is a journalist based in Bangladesh. She is a Fulbright scholar and received her second master’s degree in Magazine, Newspaper, & Online Journalism from Syracuse University, first master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice from Dhaka University, and bachelor’s degree in English from East West University. Kohinur writes about LGBTQ and women’s issues, feminism, crime, secularism, social justice and human rights. She is also addicted to anything caffeinated.

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We Heart: The #VoteYourMainStreet Campaign to Preserve Feminist History in Seneca Falls


The first American women’s rights convention took place in Seneca Falls. Some of the earliest feminists—among them Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott and Frederick Douglass—were in attendance. The two-day convention, which produced the historic Declaration of Sentiments and led to a series of women’s rights conventions throughout the United States, took place in the Seneca Knitting Mill.

170 years later, the National Women’s Hall of Fame wants to set up shop in that knitting mill to best honor the achievements of the activists who bravely sparked the modern women’s rights movement—but they need your help. The organization is calling on feminists nationwide to help them secure a grant through the #VoteYourMainStreet campaign and make the move possible.

Paola Franqui, @monaris_

Partners in Preservation, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and American Express launched the national grassroots campaign, which is offering grants to significant sites in order to preserve American history. Partners in Preservation has raised over $22 million for over 200 sites since its creation in 2006; the National Trust for Historic Preservation has over 60 years of experience in advocating for the preservation of historical sites. Now, these groups want to help local communities educate others about their rich and diverse history.

The Seneca Knitting Mill is one of only two out of 20 competing sites in the campaign related strictly to women’s history, and it’s the oldest and most foundational of the batch related to feminism in the U.S. Should the site win the competition, the $150,000 grant would allow the National Women’s Hall of Fame to move to this significant location.

Today is the last day feminists can vote in the campaign, but the old political punchline “vote early and vote often” still applies! You can vote five times today—and all at once, in the click of a button.

Victoria Sheber is an editorial intern at Ms., a debate instructor at Windward School and a member of the JusticeCorps at the Los Angeles Superior Court. Victoria is currently a senior at UCLA studying American Literature & Culture and History; she is also the President of the American Association of University Women chapter on campus and Assistant Section Editor for Fem Newsmagazine. She loves to read and write about feminist literature. 

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We Heart: The Website That Keeps Your Voter Registration Straight


Voter suppression laws across the U.S. make it harder to vote—and often leave people of color, people with disabilities, students and senior citizens bearing the brunt of new burdens at the ballot box. And while there isn’t an app that can change the hours your polling place is open or remind you of the intricacies of a complicated voter ID law, a new website can help you make sure that your voter registration is safe.

Voters unfairly purged from the rolls are losing their chance to be heard. A new website helps them safeguard against just that. (ClatieK / Creative Commons)

States often permit officials to purge names from the voter rolls after years of inactivity, or in case of death or relocation, but many voters in recent years have found that they were unfairly purged—and when they turned up to the polls, they were swiftly turned away.

With voting rights more under attack than ever, it’s important that everyone stay vigilant to ensure that their registrations remain active. That’s where Don’t Get Purged comes in—a new website that checks the voter rolls in your state so that you can be sure you’re all set for election day.

The way it works is simple: Users go to dontgetpurged.org and enter their name, address, date of birth and email. The system then searches through the voting rolls to find that user’s registration file. If a user finds out that they are no longer registered, the site can help them re-registered before election day; if it turns out a user’s registration checks out, they can breathe a sigh of relief and figure out which shirt looks best with their “I Voted” sticker.

The upcoming elections are the most important in our lifetime. Play it safe: go to dontgetpurged.org today to make sure your registration is active. Potential voters are encouraged to check back more than once to make sure they are still eligible to vote, too—so make sure to register, resist and repeat.

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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We Heart: The Video Series Telling the Stories of Young Feminist Voters


A new social media campaign by A Band of Voters (ABOV) is empowering activists and everyday voters from across the country to speak up about the issues that drive them to the polls—and commit to bringing their friends along for the ride when they show up at the ballot box on election day for a #PartyAtThePolls.

“We know what it was like when abortion was not legal,” Rosalind Jones, a Ms. contributor, declares in her video for the #IVoteFor campaign. “We know what it was like when these services were not available and we know for a fact that we can never go back to that, because our safety and our lives are on the line.”

Explaining the ways in which abortion access and reproductive justice are under attack in different states, Jones encourages voters to never go back—and to show their support for pro-choice policies on election day.

“For me, what’s at stake is like, trans people’s lives!” Adriana Ibanez-Martinez, a trans activist representing the Human Rights Campaign, shares in her video. “Like, minorities’ lives. I vote for the people like me who are going to be born in the future.”

In her own video, undocumented immigrant Diana Laurenao urges anyone who can vote to cast a ballot on her behalf—and then proceeds to use the spotlight as a teaching moment about how her life is impacted by policies she can’t shape.

“One thing that a lot of folks don’t think we do is pay taxes,” she explains. “We actually do. When I started working I saw my first paycheck and I noticed that—wow, like, look at all this money going to taxes—you’re paying for taxes regardless of whether you’re undocumented or not, but the thing about that is that taxes are also going to Social Security, but for undocumented folks, we’ll never see a penny of that money that we put in.”

You can watch all 12 videos on the #IVoteFor series at abandofvoters.org. Tell your friends why you’re voting—and why they should come with!—by posting videos with the hashtags #IVoteFor and #PartyToThePolls on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Miranda Martin is a feminist writer and activist and an editorial intern at Ms. She has written for a variety of publications and been published by The Unedit and Project Consent. Miranda recently graduated from University of Wisconsin La Crosse with a major in Interpersonal Communications and a double minor in Creative Writing and Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies. She loves to travel, read, exercise and daydream about the fall of the patriarchy.

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