Oh Gabrielle

Gabby, that was not a good one.

I probably should just take a pass on this drama because…like ugh…but whatever. This is what’s happening in the gymnastics world right now, apparently, and it’s the worst. Typically I would just say, “Puh, these children and their dramas,” but this feels bigger than that.

This gymnastics story has also been caught up by the wider consciousness (remember when that used to be a good thing?), where of course the incredibly sexist “OOOOH CATFIGHT” angle has been the focus. Boo. So, let’s retake this story that’s happening in our world and try to deal with and dispose of it reasonably so that we don’t have to talk about it anymore.

If you have an actual life and are not voraciously following the minute-by-minute trials and tribulations of what the last two US Olympic teams are doing on that perpetual motion machine of self-sabotage known as Twitter (Twitter: This Is A Bad Website), let’s play catch up.

First, Lady Aly of House Raisman posted a message about victim shaming and the backwards reactions too many people still have to sexual assault. Everyone read it and thought, “What a strong, correct, and empowering message that no one could possibly disagree with!”

Then Gabby Douglas went, “Hold on, I have something that I’ve been told my whole life and have therefore internalized that I probably shouldn’t say out loud right now. SEND.”

Now, we should start by quickly breaking down what’s wrong with this sentiment, namely the perpetuation of the age-old idea that not being sexually assaulted is somehow women’s responsibility, that there’s such a thing as “asking for it,” and this inexplicable need to take a portion of the crime out of the hands of the only villain here, the predator. But if you’re reading this site, you are a gay man (and that includes the women) who is also too feminist to function, so we probably don’t need to go into any more detail there. Also, I’m wildly unqualified for that. We get it.

There’s another idea floating around that has translated what Gabby said into “Aly was dressed provocatively and was asking to be abused by Larry Nassar,” which would be an insane-person thing to say or think but is also not really what she said (this was more of a general, theoretical dumb comment, not a targeted dumb comment about a specific situation). But the timing of it, as well as the sentiment itself, was ril bad. At such a sensitive moment, when Aly has started to discuss being abused by Larry Nassar, any “well actually”-ing of her comments about sexual abuse is going to come off as undermining her and not supporting her when she deserves the support of all reasonable and unreasonable people alike.

That’s the other issue at play here, this idea of not supporting a teammate. Over the last five years, far too much time and energy has been devoted to the sexist “Sure, they won a gold medal, but are they FRIENDS????” line of discussion with regard to Gabby and the rest of her Olympic teammates. The answer to that question is, I don’t care. And unless you’re one of the five members of that team, you shouldn’t care either. It doesn’t matter to you one way or another if they’re friends.

But this dynamic has informed the reaction of her actual teammates who, in a series of tweets and subtweets, feel that this is a betrayal of Aly in a time of need.

Here’s the deal. Gabby is on the wrong side of this thing, and it’s important to point that out and explain it so that these ideas don’t fester and spread any more than they already have.

At the same time, throughout the last few months, a lot of us have been temporarily reminded of the lesson that we don’t know someone’s background or what’s going on/has gone on behind the scenes that informs their outlook, and to keep that in mind when judging their reactions and behavior.

That’s appropriate to keep in mind in this case as well. Not that everyone should always be given a pass when they say a dumb thing, but to be reasonable and understanding in rebuke because there’s always more we don’t know.

It’s fair to say, “That was not a good tweet,” explain why for the purposes of education and improvement, and then move on, back to the real baddie here. His name is Larry, and he needs to be in prison forever.

61 thoughts on “Oh Gabrielle”

  1. Assault is *never* the victim’s fault, but I do wish it was acceptable to admit that, sadly, there are steps a girl can take so she’s slightly less likely to be targeted. If my little cousin comes up to me worried about what happened to Jamie and Jeannette and Mckayla and Aly happening to her, I can tell her to never leave her mother’s sight until all sports have their act together 100%, or I can dish out some real-world advice that may include some of what Gabby said.

    1. I’m sorry that last bit is just to bs to live. I have known girls and women of all ages, in all states of dress, to be targeted by sexual abusers and rapists.
      Read the tweet from the former fan of Gabby’s who said that she was abused at 11, while wearing her pjs and then feel properly ashamed of your attitude.

    2. But what Larry did had nothing ever whatsoever to do with what the girls and women in question were wearing? At all? Even a tiny bit? So why, if a child in your life was concerned about the Nasser situation, would you ever feel the need to say ‘Don’t dress sexy’????
      Children should be aware of what abuse is, they should know that they’re allowed to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable even if it’s coming from someone in a responsible position, they should be aware of guidelines their gym/school/whatever might have, like that adults aren’t allowed to be alone with them. They should know that if anything happens, it’s not their fault and no-one’s going to be angry with them.
      At the end of the day, your ‘real-world advice’ doesn’t reflect real-world sexual assault. Women are most likely to be sexually assaulted by someone they already know – a partner, a family member. They’re most likely to be assaulted in their own home, not down a dark alley. There is no correlation between wearing ‘sexy’ clothes and getting raped. ‘Man sees ‘sexy’ girl, goes crazy with lust, rapes her’ just isn’t how rapes happen, and if you’re giving your niece advice that assumes that you’re not helping her. More than that you’re harming her, by making her feel like she needs to take on the burden of ‘preventing’ sexual assault.

    3. I completely agree. The following things are all true. They are also not contradictory.
      1. Assault is never a woman’s fault. It is always the assaulters fault.
      2. A woman can dress modestly, etc. and still be assaulted. The risk always exist.
      3. Women can take steps that will reduce — though never eliminate — the risk of being assaulted.

      Let’s say you leave the door unlocked when you leave home, and someone robs you. It’s not your fault that someone else committed a horrible crime. You might still have been robbed if you had locked the door. And ideally, we should strive for a world where we can all leave our doors unlocked with no consequences. But locking the door is still a smart thing to do if you don’t want someone to rob your home.

      1. Please stop. What you are saying is demonstrably not true. Women’s bodies are not homes that can be robbed. That comparison is demeaning, objectifying, and disgusting. My body is not a house. It is not something you can rob.
        How do you think the sexual assault survivors reading your post feel when they read it? Do you think they’re like “wow, great advice, anonymouse?” No, they feel guilty. About something they have no cause to feel guilty about.

        You can’t say “well, assault is never the woman’s fault BUT.” The “but” undermines the first part of the sentence. Whether you intend to or not, you are trafficking in victim blaming, and it’s an ugly look.

    4. No. Just no. You buy into exactly the same toxic Fifties ‘nice girls…’ horseshit that Douglas so vomitously espouses. Until women are free to be themselves, to show their actual personalities and dress in public *as they wish to* without fear of this sort of horrendous ‘she asked for it’ crap, there will be no way for women to live without constant fear.

    5. Saying you shouldn’t get that drunk or wear that outfit etc etc protects in theory you the individual however then the drunk girl at the bar is vulnerable and keeps alive this idea that she can be taken advantage of and is then shamed and blamed if something does happen. The onus is not on women to prevent assault

  2. Women in Middle Eastern countries are assaulted, and many of them are covered head to toe in clothing. Men don’t rape women because they look sexy. They rape them for the power.

  3. Oh my god. I am a gay man who is a feminist. You rite boi. How did you know? Hahaha. Also, shame on that rotten egg, Gabby. However, lets focus on the villain whose name is larry.

  4. I am so over all of the Gabby apologists at the top echelons of the Gymternet (Spencer, Spanny, Jessica, Lauren, etc.) She didn’t deserve to be on the Olympic team. She cared more about fame than performance. She is not friendly to fans or to her teammates. No one likes her. And now she reveals that she is stuck in the 1950s. Stop apologizing for her.

    1. literally nothing about this comment is relevant to the situation at hand and she was not apologized for but you tried

      1. Literally (nice use of an exhausted cliche!) *everything* about that comment is relevant. Douglas’ history of mediocrity/inconsistency, her frequent bad behavior before now, and the controversy of her trip to Rio are all directly pertinent to the commenter’s remarks about the continuing apologists for Douglas. You clearly do not know the meaning of ‘apologist’ nor the difference between ‘being apologized for’ and ‘being an apologist for someone,’ and your ignorance is just mind-boggling, but I guess you tried.

      2. you are incredibly lacking in basic human decency and i wish you luck in what is going to be a frustrating life

      3. You are an epic troll, lacking not only in basic education and rudimentary intelligence but also in the ability to insult with any effectiveness. Good luck with the miserable existence your stupidity guarantees.

  5. So, I agree with every single bit of your response to the Nassar situation except the bit about the teammate reaction. Aly is putting her neck way out to protect athletes and foster change at USAG. Gabby working against that – which is what she did by tweeting this – is not “not supporting a teammate”, it’s crossing a picket line.

    1. I don’t know; I have no idea how Gabby feels about the sexual assault situation, but I definitely interpreted her comment as an attempt to have her voice/opinion heard on the topic of modesty in general, since most people were expressing a different sentiment. Granted she was right that she didn’t phrase it well with that “attracting the wrong crowd” part.

  6. A million kudos to Matthew’s comment. Douglas is a miserably spoiled brat who demonstrably (it’s been done all over this site AND youtube) not only did not deserve to go to Rio but did not provide enough firepower, scoring advantage, and general positivity to be on the team rather than Skinner, Nichols, etc. She further proved this IN Rio by giving mediocre performances across the board and, once again, finishing nearly dead last in her ‘specialty event.’ Now it seems that she is not only a rotten, arrogant little prinCESSE but a benighted, ignorant, and self-indulgently stupid one. What a surprise!

    1. I’m not a Gabby fan, but this response is over the top. It’s comments like yours that make non-Gabby fans defend her. Gabby haters are sooooo over the top that we have to temper the hate. Gabby’s actions in Rio were quite inappropriate for what the occasion required. She acted like she didn’t want to be there (I also called her a “brat” during Rio). However, with perspective, I do not think she was purposely being disrespectful and malicious. Gabby is introverted and can’t read social cues well. She sticks out like a sore thumb next to her extroverted and well-socialized teammates.

      1. Dear Grace–It’s comments like yours which justify, explain, and completely prove every word of my post. Douglas enablers are SOOOOO over the top of ludicrous cosseting that those of us who see her for exactly what she is are compelled to speak strongly about her. Douglas’ latest atrocity is even beyond her usual pathological narcissism, and your pathetic pop-psychology ‘analysis’ of her is right out of ‘Self’ magazine.

      2. Would you quit making excuses for her? She is a spoiled brat who thinks everything should be handed to her just because she won in 2012. When the initial batch of gabby drama/controversy happened, I was miffed but I overlooked it. However, victim blaming Aly and not supporting her teammate is where I draw the line. Just because Gabby has a different opinion than Aly does not mean she has the right to undermine Aly’s case to change USAG for the better and victim blame the poor girl. Honestly, i’m done with Gabby. Her gymnastics is mediocre and boring and as a person she is rude, impolite and an entitled, spoiled brat. I hope she goes into a cave for eternity and never shows her face in the gymnastics world again to spare us from her pissed, entitled attitude.

  7. Can I just thank you for making this post? I’d seen a few vague comments about the whole incident but had no clue what had gone down. Now I know. So thanks.

  8. I grew up with that attitude with someone reminding me whenever I left the house wearing short sleeves or shorts that if I got raped it would be my fault because of what I was wearing and I would have to answer to the consequences.

    Good news I have never been raped, but I have been sexually harassed and because I wanted to stand up for myself with my harasser and show the pig he couldn’t scare me into quitting a job I dreamed of my entire life I showed I wasn’t scared of him. I still detest that pathetic piece of scum to this day but I will NEVER give up on one day getting my dream job.

    1. Wow, that’s awful… I can’t believe someone would actually say that kind of thing. Best of luck with your dream, I’m rooting for you!

  9. Gabby is totally oblivious to how she comes across to other people. We all knew this by her actions in Rio, but she has now confirmed it for all eternity. There is a time and place for her opinion that women do train other people how to treat us. HOWEVER, a response to Aly’s powerful message was not that time or place!!! Gabby is a professionally managed athlete, yet she continually shows total tone deafness to social cues. I’m not saying she has Asperger’s, but … she is really, really, really socially awkward and inappropriate.

    P.S. I think Gabby belonged on the team in Rio. We needed her bars set, which was far superior to anything Maggie, Mykayla, or Ragan could do. Gabby is a wonderful gymnast. Let’s not belittle her gymnastics for her social behavior.

    1. Anything to defend the indefensible, hmmm, Grace? There is NO time nor place for the imbecilic ‘opinion’ that women are to blame for men’s sexist abuse of them; I assume you are a woman from your name, but such completely uneducated, anti-feminist drivel is astounding if indeed you are female. You are wrong about her completely undeserved presence in Rio, which did nothing for the team and merely deprived Hernandez of what was likely her only opportunity for the Olympic AA, wrong about her gymnastics–which is mediocre, always has been, and always will be–and wrong in confusing legitimate and completely accurate criticism of her appalling behavior with legitimate and completely accurate criticism of her overscored, overpraised, overhyped gymnastics ‘achievements.’ Had Komova managed not to give it away on the vault, Douglas would have been just another middle-rank silver medalist.

    2. Haha really? Because Laurie’s bars were perfectly usable and Mykayla could have easily won a vault medal. Plus, Locklear outscored Gabby on bars by half a point at trials, so even she deserved it more than entitled Gabby. The post made by spencer defending her spot was wrong. The team had enough built in backups without Gabby that her events weren’t necessary and Locklear or Skinner would have been a much smarter addition to the team than the little jerk Douglas.

  10. Your last paragraph 100%. Hopefully this is a learning experience for Gabby and we can shift our attention back to perpetrators and the organizations, practices and structures that enabled systemic abuse.

    1. Your comment shows compassion for a young person who made a mistake and compounded it by using social media to broadcast it. She isn’t a child but a woman who is travelled and world experienced where the public is concerned. Too bad the same compassion wasn’t given to Mykayla Skinner. She was devastated and made social mistakes. She was brutally burned at the stake on social media. It couldn’t even be escaped during a brilliant college season. Social media can be heaven or hell. Gabby’ comments are ill advised, uninformed and callas. They show her lack of understanding and lack of depth in her ability for empathy. I have suffered assault (not sexual) but terrifying due to my inability to stop the event. My being in a parking plaza after dark was necessary as I had to get my car. I am not responsible for the assault because I was there. Comments such as Gabby’s were said to me and it was like a second assault. Compassion not judgement is the order of the day. To Gabby. Use your fame to bring attention to the real problem. Try understanding and not judging. You are admired by little girls the world over. You could be a force for change or a detriment to empowering women. Make sure your detrimental comments are not shared in the media

      1. I’m so sorry you went through that. I hope things are going better for you now <3

  11. OMG Spencer, these comments. I’m sorry.

    never read the comments never read the comments never read the comments never read the comments

    *reads comments*

  12. “But if you’re reading this site you are a gay man who is also too feminist to function…” I’m a man who is straight, and not feminist, so incorrect. (To clarify, i don’t really like to think about a specific ideology or movement like being a feminist or the black lives matter movement or anything like that, I align more with the more encompassing egalitarian ideology, if that makes sense)

    1. Oh my god
      How special you are
      How blessed we are to have heard this wisdom
      This changes everything

  13. “Children should be aware of what abuse is, they should know that they’re allowed to say no to anything that makes them uncomfortable even if it’s coming from someone in a responsible position,” This is key. Our gymnast son, after years of being spotted by various coaches, reacted strongly to a new coach’s touch. It made him feel creepy. We told him that it is his body, he gets to say who touches him and that he was to say no to that coach ever touching him/spotting him again. Of course we went on to submit a complaint. As parents we must affirm our kids’ gut reactions to people and situations and their right to say no.

  14. I think there is a lot of confusion going on here; the topics of, “wear whatever you want vs. dress in a way that shows respect to yourself and those around you” is a completely separate topic from “it’s your fault if you were abused because you wore this or did that vs. that’s crazy nobody deserves to be assaulted for any reason.

    It seemed clear to me that Gabby was responding, at least primarily, to the part where Ali said; “I encourage girls to wear what makes them feel sexy.” This is not inherently good advice nor does it pertain to the situation at hand with Nasser and his victims.

    I also find it condescending to say that Gabby only believes these things because she’s been told them multiple times. She’s in her twenties, she’s traveled with world, she engages with modern news and trends; she’s perfectly capable of deciding these things for herself. I know lots of women who value modesty whose parents/upbringing didn’t have anything to do with it.

    Final point; as someone who has been through sexual assault myself, seeing people dressed in a strongly sexual manner or exposing certain body parts can bring back memories of the abuse more than anything else. It can also make it more difficult for anyone (not just men or perverts) to see your character/personality first or as the most prominent thing about you, both because of strong, natural biological responses and the message it gives off (“hey, here’s my boobs/penis/whatever, also SEEEEXXXXXX, I’m sexy etc”). Super paraphrased, obviously reactions are much more complicated then that.

    I’m just going to say one more time (because people seem to have a hard time grasping this): NONE OF THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH WHETHER YOU DESERVE ABUSE. Nobody does. No action calls for it, nothing excuses it. It’s apples and oranges. Pretend I’m talking about some other ethical category like stealing or honesty or whether you should attack people you don’t know on twitter.

    Anyways, thanks for your blog Spencer, I love it to death and I’m so grateful for all the information I’d otherwise never get. Keep up the great work! 🙂

    1. Thank you for this.. You made a lot of valid points..

      I hope people read this comment with an open mind..

    2. You’re misquoting Aly. She did NOT say that girls should wear things that make them feel sexy. She said that women are allowed to want to feel sexy, and people should be allowed to wear what makes them feel good. That is a vastly different statement.

      1. She put it together in one sentence: “Women are allowed to feel sexy and comfortable in their own skin, in fact I encourage you all to wear what you feel good in.”

        Saying women are allowed to feel sexy and people can wear what they feel good in pretty strongly implies an encouragement of provocative dress ‘if that’s what the person feels good in.’ Someone could feel comfortable or sexy in virtually anything (or even just claim to), but that doesn’t inherently make it a good idea to wear. We all feel good when we eat cake but we don’t eat it for every meal!

    3. I will differ from your previous responder and say that I don’t find any of your points valid. I find most of them pretty offensive and judgmental.

      “It can also make it more difficult for anyone (not just men or perverts) to see your character/personality first or as the most prominent thing about you, both because of strong, natural biological responses and the message it gives off (“hey, here’s my boobs/penis/whatever, also SEEEEXXXXXX, I’m sexy etc”).”

      If someone can’t see my personality because they’re unable to control their own urges, that’s their problem, not mine. I’m sure you think you’re deftly blending thoughtfulness and progressiveness in your comment here, but the second you decide that ANYTHING about the way other people react to my choice of clothing is my responsibility rather than theirs, you have sunk right back into the oppressive, disgusting nonsense that Gabby also chose to parrot.

      Also, don’t chalk a lack of respect for one’s fellow human beings up to some kind of uncontrollable biological urge. I am perfectly capable of recognizing someone’s humanity no matter how attractive or lasciviously dressed they are, and you and everyone else should be too.

      1. Finally, an intelligent and logical precis of exactly what’s wrong with ‘progressive’ Slut-Shaming LITE.

      2. I understand the points you’re making, and I agree with them to an extent. Where I differ is, I don’t believe people are perfect. I don’t think people can control how they react to seeing someone dressed a certain way. Of course we try to see someone’s character above all else, but if someone’s attire is distracting, it becomes more difficult. I’m not saying that’s the fault of the person in said clothing, but it is a reality to consider.

        It’s not just about sex either. Yes that can be one form of the distraction, but as I stated above, I know many people including myself that are reminded of sexual abuse when they unexpectedly see certain body parts or sexual behaviour. You could make a similar argument for not wearing a shirt with racial slurs on it (even if it’s a “joke”), or not wearing a shirt with spikes on it that poke people when you walk down the street.

        On none of these points am I saying you HAVE to dress a certain way, or that anyone should be forced to. If that’s what you heard it was a misunderstanding. I don’t favor outlawing any particular form of dress. Private institutions can have dress codes, that’s a slightly different situation. But no, it’s always your choice! I just have reasons to believe that some choices are more respectful to others. Eating a really smelly raw fish meal in a small packed room is totally your right, but is it respectful to those around you? Probably not.

        I hope this clears some things up, thank you for your thoughts. 🙂

      3. I’m not sure how to (or if I am) responding directly to the anonymous comment below, but I think your statement is concerning. The implication is that ethics (in this area) have no middle ground. Your perception seems to be that by saying “dressing in certain ways can affect others negatively or be disrespectful”, without even putting specific strict categories to the attire in question, someone is essentially saying “I want to tell you what to wear and if you dress otherwise it’s your fault if you get assaulted and you’re awful for feeling sexy.” I agree with non of those last sentiments and nobody I know who believes dressing respectfully is beneficial agrees with them either.

        I’m not sure what your shaming comment was referring to either; nowhere did I convey that women or men’s (non-abusive) sexual actions being a problem. Actions and presentation are different things and neither of them is about saying something bad about the character or heart of the person in question.

        Have a great night anyways

  15. I’m the survivor of CSA. I was first groomed and later abused by my female teacher starting at age 8 when I was in 3rd grade. I’m from a small town and went to a very small religious private school so she stayed my teacher through 5th grade (and continued to abuse me) when her husband became my teacher and they began to abuse me together. The abuse didn’t stop until I finally convinced my parents to let me switch schools in 8th grade. Even with thought I was out of their reach, I was still terrified and confused and couldn’t find the words to tell my parents what happened until I graduated from college. I have gotten so tired of the comments on various news articles surrounding Aly’s revelation and the situation with Gabby asking where her parents were, why she didn’t tell, and suggesting all female staff. The culture needs to change, and Aly’s mom made a good point that kids need to be educated on better identifying predators that are known to them and not just strangers.

    Because Gabby made her statement as a direct reply to Aly’s tweet, it negates the chance that it was just an ill-timed statement of her beliefs. She is fully entitled to share how she feels, but the timing and manner that she went about it was completely inappropriate and invalidating. Sexual assault is disgusting and inexcusable but those who prey on children are especially twisted. No amount of clothing or class deters them. I am disappointed in Gabby for adding shame to assault victims who shouldn’t be held responsible for what happened to them.

    1. My husband is a survivor also, Chelsey. It was a priest in his case. Thank you for sharing your story–you are brave and many of us admire you for it. You could not be more right about no amount of clothing, class, or anything else–and that’s true not only of teenage girls but of everyone. Sexual predators do not need any ‘provocation,’ which term I put in quotes for good reason, to commit their assaults; the Nasser case makes this clear for the billionth time.

  16. good lord those anons using the opportunity to attack gabby for the same old mean reasons of before as if that’s more important than making progress about abuse

    get a grip

    1. wow, these trolls who have no knowledge of punctuation, composition, logic, or basic cognition and actually defend Douglas for her dreadful statement.
      Get an education.

      1. The same trolls who have been attacking anyone who doesn’t like her gymnastics calling them racists all these years. It might just be one very obsessed person, though. No one but Spanny and a bunch of somewhat anomymous poorly written posts seem to think slut shaming an abuse victim is ok as long as their idol does it. Ferlito, Komova, Locklear and Skinner should all die horribly due to their prejudice, but Douglas is just a poor (rich) young woman misguided by religion! She may be older than any of them when she made her social media faux pas, but she’s just naive at heart. Please excuse her.

  17. Just wanted to chime in here and say that while I vehemently disagree with what Gabby Douglas said, I feel it’s incredibly unfair for people to be hating on her for saying it. In order to be able to give that advice to other young women, she has to be internalising that culture of victim blaming, as so many women too, and that’s often a miserable, self-defeating place to be. My feeling is that at best, she’s not very well informed, and at worst, she’s dealing with some very uncomfortable feelings of her own around what society wants from her, and the different discourses around what she is and is not allowed to be. No doubt only further complicated by being in the public eye and being really badly received by mainstream media and the internet.

  18. I think Gabby was beyond tone deaf. But, I also think that she has internalized these messages and turns them against herself. This is proven out by the fact that she has now admitted that she was abused as well.

    I also think someone should take away her Twitter account. What the hell is her manager thinking? If you know your client is tone deaf, screen her tweets and make sure she’s hitting the notes she intends. (Please note, I’m not saying they should stop her expressing herself, but sometimes people need someone to read something and say “I know you didn’t mean to come across as a jerk, but you did”)

    I’m not a Gabby fan, and I was in 2012. I just think she had burnt out but didn’t know what else to do, so she came back. Her gymnastics wasn’t bad, but her heart wasn’t in it. As for it being about her “introverted” I think that would hold up better if she hadn’t been quite the media darling in many ways right after the last Olympics. I think she lost her passion, and that’s one of the things that draws people to the sport. You can’t watch Shawn Johnson without getting a sense that even at it’s most stressful, she loved what she was doing. Gabby had that in 2012. She certainly didn’t by 2016.

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