Category: Editor’s Blog

The Poison of White Supremacist Masculinity

Photo Credit: Tim Foster By Rob Okun Like our slaveholding first president—not our current one—I cannot tell a lie: we must chop down the poisonous tree of white supremacist masculinity. I felt tears well up when I heard about the alt-right violence unleashed in Charlottesville on August 12.  Some of my tears, though, were in frustration. How is it possible after all the years colleagues and I have been writing and speaking about the gender of the killers—from Columbine to Orlando—that coverage of murder suspect James Fields. Jr. failed to point out the obvious: he was a disaffected, alienated...

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Taking on the Misogyny of a Failed President

Photo by Samantha Sophia By Rob Okun The white male bully temporarily occupying the White House represents the worst expression of manhood the U.S. has ever seen, but that dangerous truth is being obscured by so many of his other treacherous actions. Millions of words have been written excoriating the questionably elected president on a host of topics — from denying climate change to restricting minority voting rights; from sanctioning draconian drug laws to promoting harsh prison sentences for nonviolent offenders. Almost entirely absent in this blizzard of assaults on social progress is the predator-in- chief’s misogyny. A virtual...

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MEN’S LETTER TO TRUMP: Show Us You Believe in Gender Equality

By Rob Okun Will Donald Trump change his attitude toward women? After the release of the 2005 Access Hollywood video caught him admitting to sexually assaulting women, many citizens couldn’t believe he could receive enough Electoral College votes to become president. I was one of them. On January 31, I was a signatory to an open letter to Mr. Trump in POLITICO calling on him “to support this country’s, and the world’s, women.” (An accompanying petition is gaining names).  My co-letter writers and I challenged the president to set a high standard, to show that he is a man who believes in women’s equality and who opposes discrimination and violence of all kinds by men against women and girls. During the campaign, Mr. Trump often repeated, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” even as he said and did things women and men consider disgraceful. (No need to reiterate here his many vulgar, offensive characterizations of women.) We reminded Mr. Trump that there is nothing manly about disrespecting women, and called on him “to make amends and to set a new tone.” Will he? The White House plan to gut funding for Office of Violence Against Women Act grants, and his executive action barring from receiving US government funding any international NGOs that perform or promote abortions, suggest it’s unlikely. Because the U.S. has long been a leader in promoting women’s empowerment around the globe, we...

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Donald Trump and Patriarchy’s Last Stand

The future is (still) female. The bumper stickers and T-shirts with that slogan that have long energized women and girls, and many male allies, are still alive and well. Let’s not forget who overwhelmingly won the popular vote in the U.S. presidential election November 8, even as Donald Trump won the presidency. (Trump is right about one of his refrains; his election can absolutely be attributed to a rigged system: it’s called the Electoral College.) What would have been for a majority of the country an electrifying moment—U.S. voters electing Hillary Clinton as the country’s first female president—became for...

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Donald Trump and the Crisis in Masculinity

The crisis in masculinity and the presidential election got hitched in an October surprise unintentionally engineered by Donald Trump. While a vast majority of men—the 2016 election season’s silent majority—reject Mr. Trump’s “locker room” ideas about manhood, many are reluctant to publicly say so. That may be changing. Mr. Trump’s vile description of how he treats women, and his subsequent disingenuous “apologies” may have encouraged men to speak out as the question of American masculinity took center stage in the campaign. Ironically, the Republican candidate’s attempt to downplay his behavior as locker room banter had the opposite effect, highlighting a culture of sexual assault that men need to play a greater role in uprooting. I have been part of a movement committed to transforming masculinity for three decades. The kind of manhood I want to pass on to my son and grandsons, and the hopes and dreams I have for my daughters and granddaughter, could not be more different from Mr. Trump’s, a man who is on tape admitting to sexually assaulting women. Ironically, through his vulgar remarks, he may have advanced our cause. Mr. Trump exhibits virtually every negative trait about manhood the gender justice movement is challenging. Antagonistic. Boastful. Bullying. Conceited. Condescending. Crude. Defensive. Dishonest. Entitled. Inflexible. Juvenile. Lacking in self-awareness. Merciless. Obstinate. Predatory. Privileged. Rapacious. Sexist. Vindictive. All ingredients in a toxic masculinity sludge that men...

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Summer 2016 Edition

Dads Don’t Babysit; It’s Called Parenting Men, Masculinities and Climate Change Transgender Rights Under Attack An Apology for Sixties Anti-War Sexism Black Men as Anti-Rape Activists Features Finally…A Bill of Rights for Rape Survivors By Stacy Teicher Khadaroo Shaheen’s Sexual Assault Survivors Act would offer states small grants to help them share information with victims about their rights when they first step into a hospital or police station. A Men’s Apology for Sexism in the Sixties Anti-War Movement By Tom Gardner Our email occurred as planning was under way for the first reunion of the antiwar movement. It would...

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Fear vs. Safety in North Carolina

No cities or states that have passed legislation supporting transgender rights have witnessed increases in sexual assaults in public restrooms after the laws have gone into effect. Raising the specter of the sexual predator in debates around transgender rights should be unmasked for the multiple ways it can perpetuate gender inequality. Under the guise of “protecting” women, critics reproduce ideas about their weakness, depict males as assail-ants, and work to deny rights to transgender people. Moreover, they suggest that there should be a hierarchy of rights in which cisgender women and children are more deserving of protections than transgender...

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Father’s Day Present Worth Unwrapping: Overdue Policy Advice

Millions of men will wake up Sunday to handmade cards, neckties and, maybe, a new electronic gadget. It’s Father’s Day 2016, a time to acknowledge dear old Dad. But beyond this increasingly commercialized dof purchasing manly presents (often overwhelming sincere expressions of love), lies a deeper, more important question: where is fatherhood in the United States going today? Answers can be found in the “State of America’s Fathers,” a new report that advocates increasing both the visibility and value of dads caring for children. Using never-before analyzed data and rolling out an ambitious set of policy recommendations, the report...

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Why is the Orlando Murderer’s Gender Not Central to the Story?

Until or unless we make the murderer’s gender a central part of not just this story, but of the larger effort to prevent mass shootings (that have traditionally solely focused on gun control and mental health), we won’t succeed in preventing such horrors in the future. We have talked about nearly all those other factors: access to guns, his mental health, his homophobic views. What about the manhood part? Continue Reading Why is the Orlando Murderer’s Gender Not Central to the Story?

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Dear Donald

The editor of Voice Male magazine says he has come into possession of a letter God recently sent to real estate mogul and presidential candidate, Donald Trump. Rob Okun reports he received an email from the Lord requesting him to immediately and broadly distribute the letter. Donald, my son, I have been troubled for some time knowing you don’t feel a need to ask Me for forgiveness when you’ve done something wrong. And now, with your strong remarks to one of my staff, Pope Francis, I felt even more urgency to write. “I love God and I love my...

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A Campaign to Raise Healthy Sons

After the Oregon Shootings By Rob Okun What if we treated every man who wants to buy a gun like every woman who wants to get an abortion? We’d require a mandatory 48 hour waiting period, parental permission, a note from his doctor proving he understands what he’s about to do, and a video he has to watch about the effects of gun violence. Then we’d close down all but one gun shop in every state and make him travel hundreds of miles, take time off work, and stay overnight in a strange town in order to get a...

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God Responds to Kim Davis

Voice Male magazine, a publication chronicling the profeminist men’s movement, reports that it has come into possession of a memo from God to Kim Davis, the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who has refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples since the Supreme Court ruling affirming gay marriage more than two months ago. She was jailed for her refusal, claiming she was acting on God’s authority. What follows is God’s memo to Ms. Davis, made available by the magazine’s editor, Rob Okun.   To:  Kim Davis From: God Re: My Authority I’m writing to clarify my position on your citing Me as the...

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A Brothers’ Journey

 By Rob Okun He’s gone. He’s gone. I kept repeating those unreal words on the half-hour drive home that rainy Thursday night. Since I’d been at a meeting, my wife was alone when she answered the door for the police officer who’d come looking for me. He had bad news: my older brother Stuart had suffered a heart attack and was dead. It was March 26, just a few days after we’d returned from New Orleans where we’d gone to meet our recently born second grandson. Less than 24 hours later I was in the Tampa airport meeting my 27-year-old son Jonah who had flown down from New York to support me on what I came to call “a brothers’ journey.” I was walking the familiar but strangely new path of the mourner. The sun was shining brightly Saturday morning when Jonah and I arrived in Stuart’s neighborhood. It hardly seemed like a place of death, this lush landscaped community on Florida’s west coast. Even though he’d died at home, when we stepped inside his cottage apartment, I could have easily convinced myself that Stuart was simply away for the weekend. “Sure,” he might have said, “you and Jonah can stay at my place.” We took it all in—the flat screen television; the books on the coffee table; dishes in the sink.Atop a pile of mail, a copy of...

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Men Saying No to Violence Against Women

Major league baseball beginning domestic violence prevention workshops at Spring training. The White House launching the It’s on Us initiative to prevent sexual assault. Emma Watson and the United Nations spearheading the new HeforShe movement. Men promoting gender equality and decrying violence against women is “suddenly” the next new cause. Except it’s not. The issue is, though, finally getting some sustained media attention. That’s good news. Consider: the international movement of men supporting women’s equality and the transformation of conventional expressions of manhood held a global symposium last November in India. It was attended by 1200 people from 94...

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Entre Hombres (y Mujeres)

On the Road to Equality By Rob Okun The inaugural conference of the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities is one sign. The global MenEngage symposium in India was another. The movement of men promoting women’s rights and men’s transformation is not just growing, it’s linking up in greater numbers than ever before. That two major international gatherings—one in New Delhi, the other in New York—took place within four months of one another is a welcome development. Some 2000 delegates—from every continent on the globe—convened in India in November and the U.S. in March for symposia with...

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New Dehli Global MenEngage Symposium

Standing in a sunny courtyard of the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi, I am surrounded by a sea of delegates streaming into day one of the global symposium, Men and Boys for Gender Justice. Organized by MenEngage, an international network of nearly 700 NGOs operating on every continent, it is day one of a symposium that has attracted more than 1000 people from 93 countries. I am one, a member of the North American MenEngage Network (NAMEN). I feast on the rainbow of color as a parade of delegates dashikis and saris, Nehru shirts and sports jackets passes...

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Men and Boys for Gender Justice

From New York to New Delhi By Rob Okun Entitled menchildren in the National Football League spark renewed attention to the epidemic of domestic violence and child abuse. Brave young women speaking truth to power demand action to halt sexual assaults on college campuses. Pioneering profeminist men from around the world gather in India to engage men and boys to promote gender equality. In the ongoing effort to transform manhood, the pace has been accelerating. From the White House to the 50-yard line, from Kolkata to Cape Town, the call for men to change, to be allies with women...

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Nonviolent Men: The New Silent Majority

“Women want a men’s movement. We are literally dying for it.” —Gloria Steinem It’s way past time to put on the pads, guys. We’ve got to put our shoulders to the wheel of change if we’re going to stop domestic and sexual violence. Are you ready to suit up for the big game? Except, of course, it ain’t no game; the lives of our daughters and sisters, wives and mothers are on the line. No need to recount the abominable behavior of any particular football player here, (especially since their numbers are growing daily.) And, it’s not necessary to replay all the fumbles by the National Football League commissioner or team owners who are only consistent about one thing: putting profits ahead of the safety of your wife and my daughters. Revelations of men abusing women aren’t news—sadly, they’re everyday occurrences. Why does it take abusive celebrities or pro athletes beating their wives or fiancés to grab our attention? Since the vast majority of men don’t act violently toward those they love, why have we men become a new, deafeningly silent majority? Many of us are not even bystanders; we’re AWOL. Many of us don’t know men who speak out against the minority of men who abuse. That’s got to change. The good news is that for nearly two generations a growing number of men of all races and...

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In the War to Protect Masculinity, Hamas and Israel Make Strange Bedfellows

“A man’s got to do, what a man’s got to do. And a country’s got to do what a country’s got to do.” —Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, July 21, 2014 interview on NBC News Amid weeks of horror and unconscionable suffering in the Gaza Strip there is a truth hiding in plain sight: Wild West manhood is being played out in the Middle East. Shoot first; ask questions never. Tough talkin’ man up bluster, both from Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—poster boys for a strain of masculinity so toxic it’s infected thousands of young men on both sides. The pair, and other male Israeli and Hamas leaders, have full-blown cases of mascupathy, a condition not yet found in any psychiatric manual. Psychotherapists Charlie Donaldson and Randy Flood describe such men as having few feelings (feelings are unmanly, feminine); loners (don’t get close to many people); exaggerate autonomy (asking for help invites mockery); and, always have to be in control (being vulnerable exposes you to fear and shame.) Sound familiar? Toxic masculinity has many faces. Internationally, examples abound—from Russia and Ukraine to Egypt and Iraq, and, of course, the spiraling violence in Gaza, careening out of control as stubborn men with limited imaginations refuse to acknowledge the failure of their morally bankrupt policies. It’s not hard to connect the dots: for a month Meshaal...

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Wanted: Men to Change Masculinity Narrative

At Father’s Day this year, it was hard not to think about the fathers whose children were murdered in mass killings. My thoughts turned to the fathers—and mothers—of those slain in Isla Vista, California in the aftermath of Elliot Rodger’s misogynist-fueled rampage. Just as the Sandy Hook fathers felt the ache in their hearts, so do these men. Citizens around the country grieved, were furious, or shook their heads at the inevitability of it all. Another mass killing: six murdered and 13 wounded. And, the killer took his own life, leaving another grieving set of parents. Commentaries noting Rodger’s association with the men’s rights movement followed, as did sound bite analysis of his 137-page manifesto of hatred of women (and heterosexual men in intimate relationships). Amid all the sound and fury, two key points remain largely obscured: Despite the explicitly gendered motivation for his killing spree, the national conversation since the May 23rd mass murders is overwhelmingly still focused on gun control and mental health rather than masculinity. Men have again largely remained silent in the conversation. Yes, not all men harass women. And, yes, all women have, at some point, been harassed by a man.  If that simultaneous truth can gain traction among men—from the pulpit to the factory floor; the softball field to the corner bar, then there’s a chance, a chance, we can change the prevailing narrative about masculinity. It’s...

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Rob Okun

Is our country so psychically numb that news of another “school shooting” barely registers? The day before the first anniversary of the gut-wrenching Newtown massacre, an 18-year-old male shot another student and then killed himself as a sheriff’s deputy closed in on him, foiling his plans to use a backpack full of weapons and ammunition on students and staff at a Colorado high school. The young woman died four days later. And, early in the new year more shootings occured in Albuquerque, New Mexico, West Lafayette, Indiana, and Philadelphia. I had already been on edge as the anniversary of the December 14, 2012, Connecticut tragedy approached. I found myself teetering back and forth between sadness and anger. Sadness that 20 six and seven-year-olds were murdered—along with a half-dozen Sandy Hook Elementary School educators—and anger that public officials and most of the media still largely ignore the missing link in this tragedy: the gender of the shooter. As if to underscore that truth, along came Karl Pierson, the assailant at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado. If ever there was a time to reframe the narrative from “school shootings” and guns to troubled men and young men it is now. Don’t get me wrong. It’s urgent we implement gun control legislation and increase mental health services. Indeed, it’s no accident that last year in the wake of Newtown and the...

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Profeminist Men and “The Great Turning”

I’ve long believed that those of us committed to social change—whether achieving gender justice, restoring a threatened democracy, or healing an endangered planet—have greatest success when we accentuate the positive. The bad news seems to take care of itself. At the same time, every day there are committed people around the world advancing a counternarrative—promoting what David Korten years ago dubbed “the great turning.” I’m not suggesting we ignore bad news—Steubenville and Sandy Hook, for example, make that impossible. Still, the media (Voice Male included) have a responsibility to strike a balance and for the most part good news...

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Raising Healthy Boys—and Helping At Risk Men—After Newtown

Is the U.S. population so psychically numb that news of another “school shooting” barely registers? The day before the first anniversary of the gut-wrenching Newtown massacre, an 18 year-old male shot another student and then killed himself as a sheriff’s deputy closed in on him, foiling his plans to use a backpack full of weapons and ammunition on students and staff at a Colorado high school. Continue Reading Raising Healthy Boys—and Helping At Risk Men—After Newtown

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THE PRICE OF A TICKET: Who’s Driving the Bus

By E. Ethelbert Miller, Voice Male contributing editor By the time you read this, the incident I describe would have happened some time ago. By the time you read this another similar incident could occur. It was a Sunday and I was on a bus going up 16th Street in Washington,D.C.  It wasn’t a crowded bus. There were a few Ethiopian women dressed in beautiful white garments and returning from church. Two men got on and went to the back of the bus. I was reading A Poet’s Craft, a new book by Annie Finch, and was engrossed with where poems come from and how things turn into poems. Behind me I heard the voice of a black man; the angry black man rage that often reminds me of how middle class I’ve become. If you want to know why my head is often in a book pull out your cell phone and take a picture of what I’m going to write next. The black man was yelling at a gay white and latino couple. I soon discovered he was upset with their open acts of affection. He wanted them to move to the front of the bus. Yes, this incident did take place prior to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. The black man was demanding his right to sit in the back of the bus – alone. Things started to...

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The Unspeakable and Men’s Lives

One of the awful facts of our age is the evidence that [the world] is stricken indeed, stricken to the very core of its being by the presence of the Unspeakable…[that] too few are willing to see. —Thomas Merton When we speak, we are afraid. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. —Audre Lorde   “What if?…” All of us have uttered those two words at one time or another as we contemplated what might have been. Often our focus is personal. “What if mom or dad had lived long enough to meet the new grandchild?,” for example. Sometimes the focus is global. In the case of Project Unspeakable—a political meditation on truth, morality and secrecy as much as a compelling new play—the “what if” has profound implications for our times. “What if JFK, RFK, MLK, and Malcolm X had not been assassinated?” the play asks. “What would the world look like if they had lived?” That all four were gunned down within a five-year period—1963–1968—remains a life-altering backdrop to the lives of many who came of age in the sixties. The script, completed in advance of the November 22nd fiftieth anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, has asked intriguing questions, beginning geopolitically. President Kennedy had begun to turn away from violence as a head of state’s primary governing principle, pivoting toward...

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Reports of Feminism’s Demise Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

“I don’t know why people are so reluctant to say they’re feminists. Maybe some women just don’t care. But how could it be any more obvious that we still live in a patriarchal world when feminism is a bad word?” —Ellen Page, actor   “If the word ‘feminist’ has negative connotations, running away from the word won’t fix that. Whatever new word you come up with will eventually take on the same negative connotations. Because the problem isn’t with feminists; it’s with those who demonize feminism.” —Rebecca Cohen, cartoonist   With such an onslaught of pressing issues facing those...

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Abundance within Despair: The Ways We Are Responding to the Zimmerman Verdict – By Chris Rabb

A member of Voice Male’s national advisory board, Chris Rabb is a national thought leader at the intersection of entrepreneur-ship, politics, media, and social identity. He teaches social entrepreneurship at Temple University and is the author of Invisible Capital: How Unseen Forces Shape Entrepreneurial Opportunity (2010).   In this public moment our nation is experiencing in the wake of the Zimmerman acquittal, I have seen a range of responses that reflect the many constructive ways communities can deal with trauma, most notably, nonviolent protests. And there are many ways to protest.    In addition to public rallies where people are sharing their pain, anger, fear and hope collectively, we are also having dialogues and creating opportunities, vehicles and methods to address this travesty through various lenses based on how we see ourselves in the world. As a Black father who grew up in Chicago and is raising two young Black boys in Philadelphia, I cannot help to see this moment as another blow to the cloak of childhood innocence my sons may never experience by virtue of the bodies into which they were born.    I asked my 9 year old son who had just attended a rally in Love Park with his mother and 7 year old brother how he’s thinking about processing this moment as an artist. His response was an epiphany: “You’ve just given me an idea for something to draw!” My...

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Rob Okun

Moving Beyond Men’s Killing Fields There’s something happening here What it is ain’t exactly clear There’s a man with a gun over there Telling me I got to beware I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound Everybody look what’s going down “For What It’s Worth,” by Stephen Stills In the wake of Adam Lanza’s murderous rampage, men in particular must not stay silent. There’s an epidemic in “man culture” we can ill afford to neglect, ceding center stage to the narrow gun control debate. It’s encouraging there’s momentum in Congress to enact new gun laws. Let’s not miss the opportunity, though, to enlarge the national conversation about better regulating guns—including ammunition—to emphasize both how we raise boys and how we address the mental health crisis facing many men. And we must pull back the curtain of denial about mainstream culture’s “patriarchal masculine obsession with control,” as sociologist-novelist Allan Johnson puts it, control “that defines ‘real’ manhood in this culture, with violence being merely its most extreme instrument. It is that control that links all men with the violence that only some men do.” As Johnson, author of?the acclaimed?Gender Knot:?Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy, notes, “When U.S. drones kill children, the act springs from the same patriarchal roots as the mass murder in Newtown.” An inconvenient truth we cannot ignore. How many more lonely, alienated, disconnected, (usually) white...

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Male Student Athletes: New Profeminist Allies?

VDay.org invited Voice Male editor Rob Okun to write the newest V-Men column where this editor’s blog first appeared. In a world where too many men stay silent in the face of discrimination against women—from sexual harassment to domestic and sexual violence—the public statement of a chorus of young Massachusetts male athletes not long before Father’s Day offers a sliver of new hope. Twenty-two graduating senior athletes from prestigious Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. signed a letter to the editor of the school newspaper on May 30 that explicitly endorsed feminism. Saying it was “time to speak out” about...

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Fall 2016

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