Skeptimus Prime » Feminism One atheist's thoughts on politics, religion, and philsophy Wed, 22 Apr 2015 06:30:29 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Hobby Lobby decision makes my brain hurt. Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:12:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’ve just been reading over the Hobby Lobby ruling by the supreme court today and the majority ruling is just baffling to me. Let’s look at two parts of the ruling.


Nothing in RFRA suggests a congressional intent to depart from the Dictionary Act definition of “person,” which “include[s] corporations, . . . as well as individuals.” 1 U. S. C. §1. The Court has entertained RFRA and free-exercise claims brought by nonprofit corporations.

Basically the are saying that for the purpose of legal ruling corporations are treated as persons. Now, the notion that corporations are to be treated as persons is certain respects goes back to the 19th century, this initially only extended to rights regarding contract enforcement and obligation. However throughout the years various rulings by the supreme court have extended this concept of personhood being vested in a corporation to granting more rights normally reserved for persons in normal sense. The most recent and well known example of this trend was the Citizens United ruling published back in 2010.

One of the features of this ruling is essentially to continue this trend, by now arguing that corporations have the right of free exercise of religion. With this there are almost no rights given to persons which are not also given to corporations. This is a mistake, corporations are for profit enterprises, there is no reason to grant them any rights beyond those needed to engage in free market trade, I.E. laws relating to contract enforcement. The free exercise clause is there to guarantee individuals the right to practice their religious beliefs, but a corporation cannot HAVE religious beliefs and to make the religious beliefs of the corporations owners or managers coequal with the “beliefs” of the corporation seems at odds with the very purpose of corporations, I.E. limited liability. That is to say I find it odd that people who would fight to defend the notion that they are not individually responsible in an economic sense for the corporations choices, now want to claim they feel a personal moral responsibility for the corporation’s choices.  This is particularly galling since there is evidence that Hobby Lobby, in particular, has investments in companies that make some of the contraceptives they claim to oppose.

There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts “out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,” Lee, 455 U. S., at 263, n. 2 (Stevens, J., concurring in judgment), or the sincerity with which an asserted religious belief is held. Indeed, approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be “perceived as favoring one religion over another,” the very “risk the Establishment Clause was designed to preclude.”

Notice that they don’t that Hobby Lobby’s claim merits protection under the RFRA because the claim is sincere, they claim that the court cannot even be asked to determine if religious claims are sincere. This is simply wrong in my opinion, and disastrously wrong at that. Ginsburg’s dissent to the majorities ruling puts it best.

“Reading the Act expansively, as the court does, raises a host of “Me, too” questions. Can an employer in business for profit opt out of coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations, antidepressants, or medications derived from pigs, based on the employer’s sincerely held religious beliefs opposing those medical practices.

The point is that the courts MUST, as best they can, attempt to determine which claims are sincere and which are not, at the very least. To assume that all religious claims are sincere, and therefore must be respected under the law, would lead to the court being required to allow anyone to do virtually anything by simply claiming a religious exemption. Don’t want to pay taxes? My religion says I’m not allowed to pay taxes. What you don’t think my beliefs are sincere? You think I’m more interested in a way of getting out of my moral obligations to government and society? How dare you question the sincerity of my beliefs! Now, do I think Scalia and the other conservatives on the court would actually rule this way? Absolutely not, which is why this ruling is a complete joke. Even they don’t accept the logic they used to justify this ruling.

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Assassin’s Creed Unity, Ubisoft, and the controversy over their lack of female characters. Fri, 13 Jun 2014 00:51:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> 573bede7a5682575c91707e6f6a9f36e63ccadc6So, for those who don’t know Ubisoft demoed it’s new Assassin’s Creed game at E3 recently and it was reveled that, like previous Assassin’s Creed games, the main playable character was male. This sparked some criticism, which in turn sparked defenses of this criticism from both Ubisoft and from other gamers. As a feminist, and one of the rare male gamers who usually plays a female character if there is an option to do so I thought I speak about the issue a bit.

I’ve played a fair share of Ubisoft games over the years and have mostly enjoyed them, though I have several critiques of Ubisoft’s game design beyond possible gender issues, but before any of that let’s take a look at some of the defenses offered for this choice.

Ubisoft points out that they actually wanted to include an option for a female lead but it would have doubled their work load. Now, I’m not sure that It would have doubled their work load but it would have increased it significantly, not just in terms of animations, but in scripting and voice acting. Hiring a voice actor for the female lines, and recording any lines of dialogs that name the character or refer to them in gender specific pronouns, plus the time needed by the writers to hunt down those instances if done after the fact. I don’t doubt that this would have added at least a few weeks to the total time for game design, and increased their budget requirements.

On the other hand, plenty of other game companies have done this quite well in games that were often larger in scope than any Ubisoft game has been till now. The new dragon age game seems to have drastically increased the size of the explorable game world, and added the ability to ride horses while continuing their tradition of letting people play as either gender and then set about seducing your fellow party members. I realize that the two games are different and don’t expect all games to be the same, but if they could do all that in their development time it seems Ubisoft could have spared the time for a female lead option if it had been a priority.

So it wasn’t a priority, big deal right? Many of Ubisoft’s defenders point out that they have the right to make any game they want, which is true enough, but I think irrelevant. The point that people are making is not that Ubisoft must add female characters, but that it represents a larger failure on their part to make women and equal part the worlds they create, and people would like them to be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.

Another defense gamers put forward is to ask if feminists expect every game to offer a female lead option. The sort answer to this is generally no. I’m a fan of the Witcher games and don’t expect they will add a female lead any time soon, but this game is built of off existing lore and the characters that already exist in that lore. It also manages to present a host of strong female characters in the story despite being set in a culture that is generally fairly sexist. So I don’t think anyone is expecting ALL games to have female leads in them, simply that there be a bit more balance, and thoughtfulness when writing female characters.

So what do I think about all this? Well first I point out a general critique of Unbisoft’s games, despite enjoying them, every time I play one I get the distinct feeling that I’ve done it all before. Far cry, Assassin’s Creed, Watch Dogs, virtually ever Ubisoft game ever made uses the same basic game mechanics. For instance, unlocking sections of the map and/or side quests by climbing to some high place and unlocking a tower or view point of some kind. This is in EVERY game I play by them, and nearly no one else uses it at all. It’s not a bad game mechanic, I just think it is being over used. They changed it up a bit with Assassins Creed 4 by adding a new type of combat with ships, but the basic mechanic was unchanged. How does this relate? I think Ubisoft’s games have become a bit “paint by the numbers,” I hope they grow beyond it, but there it is.

All this being the case, it doesn’t surprise me that they didn’t add a female character. I’ll go one step further, this “paint by numbers” tendency is precisely why Ubisoft has found itself increasingly criticized. It’s not that they left women out this one time, or they failed to address certain problems in their characterizations of minorities in one game. They do this over and over again. Watch Dogs was rightly criticized for the way it “fridged” every female character in the game. Far Cry 3 was criticized for it’s “white person saves the natives” plot, as also seen in Dances with Wolves and Avatar (why did people like this movie?) The point is that these plots are examples of lazy writing and are far too common in all kinds of media, and Ubisoft games in particular. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting a boycott or something. I’ll probably play Unity and enjoy it, though I suspect I will enjoy The Witcher 3 and Dragon Age 3 more. I just also think that we should, at the same time, encourage Ubisoft to do a better job.

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People only want to marry virgins apparently. Fri, 08 Nov 2013 02:30:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Today on buzz feed a person posted images from the abstinence only curriculum in a Texas school district.


It explains to us how human beings are exactly like inanimate objects and gives us helpful information like:

People want to marry a virgin, just like they want a virgin toothbrush or stick of gum.

I’ll let you guys in on a little secret. I’m getting married in March, though my fiancé will be giving birth to our child in a little more than a month. You don’t have to be a math wiz to know that means we had sex before we got married. Also, does anyone want to hazard a guess at the number of fucks I gave about how many sexual partners my fiancé had before me? None, absolutely zero fucks were given about this question. That isn’t to say we don’t communicate honestly about with each other, we just don’t judge another person’s worth as a human being or as a spouse by number of people we had sex with before we met each other.  So I’ll say to sex education teachers of Canyon Independent School District, stop teaching your students to be bigots, because that is what you are teaching them to be when you teach them to judge other people’s worth by the number of sexual partners they have had.

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Psychologist who writes for fox news blames feminism for Weiner’s sexting scandal. Tue, 24 Sep 2013 06:58:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> So this article was published a couple of months ago but I just ran into it a few days ago and it was just too ridiculous to pass up commenting on.

What Weiner’s sexting scandal tells us about young women today

Dr. Keith Ablow, a psychologist who is part of the fox news medical team, writes this article. He seems to think the feminist ideal of sexual liberation is what’s really to blame for this scandal by teaching women to enjoy sex outside of marriage. Dr. Ablow seems to think this is a “man’s job.”

The sexual liberation of women has liberated them to be just like men—who, whether anyone likes it or not, often enjoy sex outside of emotionally-connected, longstanding relationships.

Unfortunately for Ablow he gets a number of facts wrong in this article. First he seems to think that feminists seem to have no issues with Weiner’s actions. To be clear we tend to have different problems with it than Ablow has, I don’t think there is anything inherently immoral with premarital sex. However, Weiner was clearly in the wrong, he was lying to his wife. Further suggesting that the women Weiner sent these photo’s too are somehow responsible for his behavior is more than a little sexist, and suggesting that men never had affairs before feminism is more than a little bizarre. Clearly such affairs have been common throughout history even in cultures without all of those “evil” feminists.

However, he clearly thinks his arguments have scientific merit and the feminists are just being political when they suggest that there is no psychological difference between men and women; so let’s look at his actual argument:

From my perch as a psychiatrist talking to thousands of people a year, I can tell you that the average young woman no longer balks at sexting, watching pornography or being the aggressor sexually in a relationship.

But I will tell you that, from what I hear in my office, the girls actually feel a whole lot worse about it, in their hearts, than the boys.  Because, you see, girls and boys, are not the same.

In this argument we actually get a picture of the scientific methodology he employed to come to this conclusion. My conclusion is that his methodology is dangerously sloppy. You will noticed he, at no point, mentions any studies that demonstrate that the average women feels psychologically traumatized by unmarried consensual sex. I can only assume that he quotes no studies because he is unaware of any.

So what is the evidence he brings to the table? His brings up his work with his patients and says that women feel worse in their hearts than men do. Now some people wanting to defend him might at this point say that this guy has a degree in his field and has practiced psychology for years, and don’t I believe in trusting scientists? Who am I to question his authority in this field, since I clearly have no degree in psychology. Well, it’s true I have no degree, but I actually trust the scientific method much more than I trust individual scientists. This is important because Ablow clearly fails to follow scientific principals in his analysis.

You see Ablow uses a flawed sample set. In this case he is making generalizations about a whole population based upon a small self selected sample set. In general if you want your figures to be representative of the whole population then a self selected set is a bad way to do it. This problem is further complicated by the way in which the group self selects itself. In this case all of his patients come to him with some kind of psychological issues, so to assume that facts about the sexual neuroses of his patients can be used to generalize about about all women is very sloppy science indeed.

Further, his statements are vague and metaphorical (they feel worse in their hearts) which makes it impossible to tell if his opinions about the sexual neurosis of even the small sample set he worked from are reliable. It is entirely possible that his biases about sexual behaviors have colored his perception of his clients feelings on the matter.

The sad thing is that if he actually went looking for it there is a lot of studies out there on gender psychology, like this one:

Men and Women May Not Be So Different After All

So a further problem for Ablow is that there are good studies that actually run contrary to Ablow’s claim.

…Statistically, men and women definitely fall into distinct groups, or taxons, based on anthropometric measurements such as height, shoulder breadth, arm circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio. And gender can be a reliable predictor for interest in very stereotypic activities, such as scrapbooking and cosmetics (women) and boxing and watching pornography (men). But for the vast majority of psychological traits, including the fear of success, mate selection criteria, and empathy, men and women are definitely from the same planet.

I suggest reading the whole study, as it demonstrates a much more careful and thoughtful methodology than Ablow does, which is why I find it ironic that he ends with this:

Some gender roles developed because of psychological facts, not in spite of them.  And when feminists urged and urge that we throw out all of them, they do a disservice to females and to the truth.

Ablow’s willingness to use his flawed data, in place of the good data which contradicts his desired conclusion, makes it painfully obvious that his reasoning is motivated by his political and religious ideals, not a desire for truth. It does not qualify as good science. Further, he subtly engages in victim blaming and sexism throughout his article, which makes it difficult to believe he is overly concerned about women’s rights.

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Nothing like listening to a sermon to remind me why I don’t go to church. Fri, 16 Aug 2013 23:44:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> A book caught my eye today through a social media link called God Behaving Badly. It’s written by a pastor trying to explain some of the more “difficult” passages in the bible from the outlook of a conservative theologian. I’m always interested in this kind of stuff because I like to see if the other side is making any new or innovative arguments, but I really hated the idea of coughing up nine bucks for the book when I was fairly certain from the description that it was not going to have anything particularly original. Plus I always hate the idea of giving money to an evangelist, it makes me feel a bit dirty.

Since I couldn’t find a free copy online so I thought I’d look on YouTube to see if the guy had done any live talks that had been recorded. While looking I ran into a video where an unrelated pastor was doing a talk about the same subject. 

What’s this? A pastor wearing jeans and sandals. A bare brick wall? A Mac Book on a table. Yeah this church has a bit of a hipster vibe. Thought to tell the truth this was the sort of church I tended to be attracted to when I was a believer. I was a college student for most of that time after all.

In any case, the preacher is speaking about sexism in the bible and trying to explain how it doesn’t really exist. Now, I will give the guy a bit of credit here, he actually seems to really work hard reinterpret the bible as non sexist. And he doesn’t skip out of dealing with the more difficult passages. As opposed to people like Pastor Steven Anderson who the Friendly Atheist has written about several times who seems to outright revel in the sexism of the bible this guy does actually work rather hard to clean up the Bible’s image.

Unfortunately he fails in this task quite spectacularly. The sermon starts out with him reading a pithy top 10 list of reasons god created Eve including things like “God was afraid Adam would get lost in Eden because he wouldn’t ask for directions,” I know he only intended this to be a funny opening, though it was absolutely not funny, but either way, starting out by making blatantly sexist jokes was probably a poor way to start this topic. He then goes through several passages. He explains the passage in Genesis 2:18-25 which refers to woman as man’s helper. He claims the word helper doesn’t imply secondary class since the term is used to refer to god as well in the Bible, but it seems like he misses the basic point that claiming women exist primarily to help men is inherently sexist.

He brings up several other verses, like the one is 1st Timothy 2 that is used by most churches as a justification to not allow women any positions of authority in the church. One of the things I’ve always found interesting about this verse is that it never specifies whether the writer believes this rule should apply in all situations or only in church, and some churches even read the statement in 2:15 about childbearing as a statement that only women who give birth can be saved. The passage is actually quite confusing even for fundamentalists, but he fails to bring up these problems at all.  Of course he acknowledges that his church does prevent women from having positions of authority over men, which should be a straight up admission that his church engages in sexism. He does not do this though, instead he makes several arguments to justify this interpretation as not actually being sexist.

The first thing he does is to essentially make a separate but equal argument. He does this by bringing up the old, “women are just different than men” canard. This argument is unfortunately pretty common even outside of the church circles, anyone remember “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus?” However, I’ve written several times (here for instance) about the shoddy pseudo-scientific nature these sorts of claims. Typically these arguments are built around questionable statistical inferences and anecdotal evidence. The pastor doesn’t surprise in this area as he brings up the differences between he and his wife as proof. Unfortunately for him it doesn’t get around the basic problem that his church is taking the position that women are not suited for certain types of jobs merely because of their gender. This is sexism, no matter how you spin it, no matter what bible passages justify the position.

Then he makes the argument that all people, including men, are called to be servants by the bible so rather than a put down of women these passages are good things. Basically he is saying that women should feel special because god has given them a special calling to be the servants of men. Now don’t all the women reading this feel special? It’s like they are saying everyone is called to service one another, but women are called a little bit more, and don’t be angry at men for this because it’s not us men who are being patriarchal, it’s God’s law. Convenient how that works right?

Interspersed in these arguments he brings up passages in the bible where women are given authority or power in some way as an argument that the bible is not sexist. I found this odd since this argument seems to actually contradict the others. Of course, I am happy to acknowledge that the bible contradicts itself on this issue, but he want’s to treat these passages as clarifications of passages like the one is 1st Timothy instead of contradictions. The thing is the passages don’t really support that kind of interpretation.

You know, when someone like Anderson, or James Dobson opens their mouth to speak on feminists issues I usually find myself getting angry at the outright unapologetic sexism in their attitudes, but with this I honestly feel pity. He seems like a decent guy who doesn’t want to be sexist, and therefore really wants the religion he believes in not to be sexist. He really does his best to preform a balancing act between this desire and his desire to maintain a fundamentalist approach to the bible. I feel for this guy precisely because I used to be this guy, but in the end we just have a fundamentalist who really wants to have his cake and eat it too, but unfortunately for him one can either believe the bible is morally inerrant or be a feminist, it is not possible to do both.

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A typical rant on Fox News about plan B. Thu, 02 May 2013 19:47:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>

Dr. Manny Alvarez goes on a rant about how the government is intruding into medicine by allowing 15 year old women to purchase plan B pills with no prescription:

He says that at 15 these women are still children, which, while true by cultural standards is, totally untrue by biological standards, which is they key and warns that 15 year olds will be unable to understand the medical warnings on the packaging. I guess he never stopped to ask if someone unable to understand medical warnings has any business being a parent, or to consider that pregnancy carries more health risks than plan B.

At one point he even suggests that next the government is going to suggest selling plan B to infants which makes me question his medical qualifications. He does know that infants can’t get pregnant right?

It always strikes me as funny that the opposing side always manages to miss the most important point in these debates. The only teenagers who are buying plan B are ones who have had sex and are worried they might get pregnant from said sex. Teenagers have been having sex since always, and the average age of first sexual experience in the U.S. is about 16 years old. Abstinence only programs have never increased that age by more than 3-6 months. Making plan B easier to get will lower both abortions and teen pregnancy rates so it should be an easy sell to social conservatives who say they want those numbers to go down.

Unfortunately for us, social conservatives take an “our way or the highway” approach to moral issues. In their mind the there is only one valid way for these numbers to go down and that is by only having sex in a manner they find acceptable, which usually means within a marriage.  Any other way of making those numbers go down is cheating the system, and they would rather have pregnant 15 year olds than let us cheat the system.

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Arizona campus preacher tells anti-rape protesters: ‘You deserve rape’ Mon, 29 Apr 2013 08:16:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Christian preacher Dean Saxton wants women to know that they deserve to be raped. 

Saxon was quoting as saying:

if you dress like a whore, act like a whore, you’re probably going to get raped. I think that girls that dress and act like it, they should realize that they do have partial responsibility, because I believe that they’re pretty much asking for it.

Feeling that Christian love yet?

A short message for Saxton: No one deserves to be raped. Even if a woman is doing naked cartwheels in front of you don’t have a right to force yourself on her. If you really look at a woman in a mini-skirt and think that her skimpy dress gives you (or anyone else) the right to sexually assault her there is something wrong with you not her.  The only time it is reasonable to have sex with someone is when they also want to have sex with you, this shouldn’t even be that complicated.

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Sexist shirts from Marvel. Fri, 12 Apr 2013 21:15:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> I’m a nerd and I’m proud of it, I also think nerd culture should be well positioned to be more aware of gender issues than the population in general, which is why this story made me sad.

Marvel is selling these two shirts, the left one for boys and the right one for girls.
What kind of subtle sexist messages are we selling to children with these shirts? Some people have said that this is no big deal because the shirts are marketed to kids, but I think this actually makes it worse. Childhood and adolescence are when most people form a lot of their ideas about the world including how they relate to the other gender. Of course some people overcome those ideas in adulthood, but many will not. It is a bad idea to start kids out by providing them with sexist gender stereotypes before they are even old enough to fully understand what a gender stereotype is. 
We already have enough of this stuff from religion. I expect better from my nerdy icons.
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Bobby Jindal’s statement about birth control not friendly to women’s rights. Sat, 15 Dec 2012 02:39:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana who is famous for his support of creationist nonsense in the Louisiana school system says something that on the surface seems reasonable.  He suggests that birth control should be made an over the counter drug.

I wanted to give this guy some credit, believe me I would like to be able to say he isn’t a complete loss, but lets look at the reasons he gives for suggesting that birth control should be sold without a prescription.
Republican objections to mandatory birth control coverage in health insurance coverage were a major part of Democratic messaging toward women in the 2012 election cycle. Republicans wanted an exemption to the mandate for religious organizations. Jindal argues over-the-counter sales to those over 18 years of age would make this debate irrelevant.

See, Jindal doesn’t care about women’s health he only cares about winning elections, whether or not this is good for women or not is irrelevant as long as it shuts down a political argument.  What should be important is a science based assessment of the risk verses the benefits of changing the law.

Every form of birth control, just like any medial treatment, have possible side effects, the risks of those side effects vary depending on other life style practices and family history of certain illnesses.  The pill, for instance, caries a small risk of blood clots.  Not a major concern for most people, but for someone with a family history of heart problems, or someone who smokes a lot it is a concern.  Traditionally doctors have been the ones to determine which form of birth control is safest for a particular woman.  There are arguments to be made for changing this, but “it will help my political party win elections” is not one of them.

It is also worth noting that this is not really going to fix his parties issues with birth control, since the mandate in the affordable health care act includes other forms of birth control than the “pill” like IUD, which is considerably more expensive, but is also more effective than the pill.  Even if the laws are changed it won’t end this debate.

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Someone doesn’t understand the concept of irony. Tue, 13 Nov 2012 06:54:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> Who is this person you ask?  Well they wrote this article.

This person is confused because the people who rightfully complained that Rush Limbaugh called a woman a slut and jokingly agreed to pay for her birth control provided she would tape the sex for his enjoyment went on to form this movement. Rock The Slut Vote.  
A quick perusal of this blog revealed a host of errors in basic math, biology, and others, but this particular article caught my eye.  
They complain about how movements like this encourage us to treat women as mere sexual things for the entertainment of men, even comparing U.S. culture to that of fundamentalist Muslim countries.  They think that modern feminism is the same as that of Islam because they both treat women as sex objects for men.  I say they are completely different because what exemplifies the type of Islam they are speaking about is a desire for men to control every aspect of women’s sexuality, while feminists want women to be in control of it.
Unlike the bloggers claim feminists are not saying that women are nothing more than vaginas, but to pretend that sexuality is not a very important part of most people’s identity is absurd.  To me it seems clear that the use of the term slut is meant ironically and at no point does the “Rock The Slut Vote” site advocate for women to have sex with any man who asks her.  There seems to be an objection to the attempt get rid of the negative connotation of the term slut based upon the notion that women who have had lots of sexual partners are bad people right?  Also apparently words can never be redefined. 
This blogger could probably do with an education about the gay rights movement.  the term “gay” was originally used as an insult, and the movement actually did over a period of several decades change it to a normal and accepted term by using it to describe themselves.  So the concept is not as crazy as this blogger seems to think.
The blogger ends their article complaining about the lack of impact Christians seem to have on mainstream culture, but somehow also manages to believe that things Lady Gaga sings about somehow represents the mainstream culture of people who are no longer teenagers.  I’m guessing the reason they fail to impact mainstream culture is that they have no clue what that even is, but they have such a beautiful straw-man of what they think it is who am I to get in the way of that?
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