Machismo: Alive and Well

Last Thursday I woke up to the wonderful surprise of being Freshly Pressed by WordPress, and spent the next few days reading lovely comments from people all over the world to my post “A Love of Layovers”.  It was very special to hear from so many like-minded people who not only seemed to like my writing, but also really connected to it. For those of you who have recently subscribed to this blog – thank you all for choosing to spend your time with me!

On Saturday a new comment arrived, but this time it was in response to a post I wrote in April about turning 30.  (If you have not yet read this post, The Burial of Life as a Young Girl,” you might want to do so now in order to understand the context).

I read the first sentence of this man’s comment and was a bit confused, read the second and third sentence and started to feel uncomfortable, and then by the fourth I thought it had to be someone’s idea of a joke.  But then I read on, and felt more and more nauseated.

At first I wanted to just delete it and erase this person and their perspective from my blog and my memory.  But then I changed my mind – because I think sometimes it helps to shine light in dark places.

So instead I will include his words here in full and share them with all of you. For anyone who is confused as to why there is any insecurity around turning 30, read on.  For anyone who wants to understand why many women in the workplace STILL feel there is no option for them but to play either the role of slut or bitch, read on.  For anyone who wants to know what kind of shit women in even more sexist countries deal with, read on.  For men who respect women, but have never really understood why women complain about sexism, read on.

***

New comment on your post “The Burial of Life as a Young Girl”
Author : Reality have we met? (IP: 76.100.0.143 , c-76-100-0-143.hsd1.va.comcast.net)
E-mail : mrhankie@gmail.com
URL    :
Whois  : http://whois.arin.net/rest/ip/76.100.0.143
Comment:
 
 
Mel looked great at age 22! She should’ve married then. She wouldn’t be so concerned with becoming “invisible” to people like she is now. I guess at 22 she was too concerned that she’d marry a guy who wouldn’t be wealthy enough, hence the fretting over being seen as an “adult” and needing to get into adult circles, read: get the attention of successful older men who work in offices.

 I suspect that Mr. Mel has few options, to marry her at age 30+. I predict the marriage will only last 3 or 4 years since once Mr. Mel starts getting regular sex from her it will charge up his confidence to approach younger women. Happens every time to guys who marry 30 year old chicks. Often they’re guys that just don’t understand female psychology simply cause they’ve been sex starved for so long. Giving him a regular dose will only stimulate his confidence to find a fresher set of strawberries in the sexual supermarket.

 Can’t believe she waited to marry that long. Look at what 8 years did to her. Too much partying, chasing athletes and late night romance novel reading. She better have a good job at this point, cause who would hire her? I live in a country where all the men try to get rich and start businesses because it means you can hire secretaries that you have NSA sex with and dump em when they get frigid. It is an incredible set up if you can get it. Most of the guys are able to get hot blondes. The only problem here is that businesses are so coveted, because it means easy sex, nobody gets a loan from the male bankers. Those a#%^&a*!%; only dole out loans to old flaccid men to protect their egos. I heard about the sexual harassment laws in the US and me and my buddies, including the women, think it’s a farce. It’s understood here that women trade sex for their position in life, that’s why they get cushy jobs. If you want an easy life you have to pay, and there’s only one thing society wants from young women, but this setup is not trivialized and rejected by our women like American girls always do. If you give women the cushy jobs without getting any sex then you’re simply a chump and you end up with an entitled stone cold biyatch. This is happening to America all around, and it is why you read about their men wanting to fly to other countries where their money means something.  If America allows their women to get away with acquiring jobs without trading sex then it’s a doomed country.

 Who would want to live there if you have to hire hags who spend hours contemplating their bad choices on blogs? It’s like being forced to hire an old prostitute who has no clients. 30 year old Mel is already looking tired and witch-like in appearance, unless Mr. Mel is like 50 yrs old there’s no reason to settle for a 30 year old flesh hankie. Where I’m from, Brazil, she’d be forced to become a call girl or marry Mr. 50 which would be an appropriate future for these American princesses.  Instead America lets her value as a spouse whither away as she catches up to episodes of Tru Blood. If she wanted into the club Mel should’ve blown the bouncer, it’s only fair because she’s simply not pretty enough to trade her mere presence for access. She has to start trading sex for her trophies. She’s at the age where she has declining value and must act as men wanted her to act 10 years ago. I suspect this is something this chick has avoided her entire life out of hatred of sex  and how much her looks were tied into her level of comfort. Hard to admit it, I know, but America allows women to bury their heads in the sand when they’re hot and only pop out when they’re becoming gray, wrinkled and desperate.

***

This was the first time anything actually nasty has been said on my blog and it completely took me by surprise.  I’ve had a few commenters disagree with me or not quite get what I’m trying to communicate – and though at first that inevitably leaves me with a sad, sinking little feeling, it quickly evaporates when I remind myself that hearing other points of view is part of the fun of making creative things public.

But this was different.

While some of the stuff he said was so extreme that it bordered on farcical, it was too long, developed and too deeply full of hatred to be anything but sincere.  By the time I finished reading my mouth was hanging open, my heart was skittering around nervously and I felt a deep, slimy nausea.  I felt like I had been kicked in the stomach – it was the physical manifestation of oppression.

It is always hard for me to read ugly thoughts from ugly-hearted people, but this was particularly difficult to read because it put a voice and direct, unmistakable words to how I know many men think.  This was the voice of machismo.

***

This man’s comment was actually the perfect counterpoint to my essay; without realizing it he demonstrated precisely the social phenomenon that I was describing. He attempted to denigrate every woman who has not fallen into the trap of believing that their main asset is their body, telling the ones that are under 25 or so that they are arrogant, conniving and frigid if they aren’t trading sex for power and getting married, and all women who are approaching 30 and beyond that they are desperate hags, with no value at all.

I feel I don’t need to bother arguing about how wrong he is – I think the idea that you are done being beautiful by your late 20’s is absolutely ridiculous, and the idea that women should marry young and should be trading sex for jobs is even more ridiculous.  That really is not the issue.  More important is to use this example to demonstrate how men attempt to make women feel insecure in order to give them more power over us. As soon as we’re grown up enough to have poise and a true sense of our own self-worth and a sense of who we are and what we want, that is when they try to hit us the hardest.

***

What is this man’s story?  Is he your average Brazilian?  Does he really speak for his countrymen as he claims, or is he just unusually misogynistic?  I have to wonder about a man who trolls the internet seeking out the blogs of women who seem to have a sense of self-worth and self-respect, and then spends such a great deal of time writing impassioned missives attempting to completely degrade them.

His wacky analysis of “Mel,” (who from his world view is a stand-in for basically any woman who could be ‘stupid, arrogant, and frigid’ enough to not get married in their early 20’s!) was so off the mark that it made me laugh.  And his entire analysis of “American princesses” told me so much more about him than he will ever understand about us.

I can see him rather clearly.  His IP address was in Arlington, Virginia.  Perhaps he does business in DC.  Maybe he’s spent a lot of time in the states.  He has clearly not had any luck with women.  He has been rejected right and left.   He does not understand why flashing his money around and bragging about his high-powered job is not doing the trick. His tailored clothes, slicked back hair and cheesy pick-up lines don’t work. The only explanation for this must be that American women are ignoring him in the hopes of marrying someone with an even better job and more money – because that is all women ever go for, right? He hates that the rules seem different here; he hates American women for making him feel powerless and insignificant.

It sounds like he secretly covets “cold” American women but now sees they are mystifyingly out of his league. He wants them to bend to the age-old rules of money=power=sex, and his only explanation for why they don’t is their American arrogance, and their grievous miscalculation of their sell-by date.

***

I am disgusted by this man, but at the same time I feel deeply sorry for him.  He speaks as though he knows what moves the world, but he is missing out on the best stuff of life; the more he hates women, the less likely it is he will ever feel love.  He knows nothing about relationships that are based on a foundation of real chemistry and then built up with love and respect.  He knows nothing about the growth and learning that happens in relationships. He knows nothing about how much he could learn from the right woman.

He operates under a template that is so pervasive even in the US, and is SO bad for everyone.  Men who objectify women like this are not only incapable knowing how to love a woman, but are incapable of being loved in return.  They not only insist on giving all women a superficial value based on looks, age, and willingness to put out, but they also undervalue themselves in the process.  They themselves become convinced that they are not worth anything but the sum total of their money and power, because they think that is the only thing that women want from them. It’s a tragic paradigm in which no human virtues can exist, because everything that is beautiful and lovable about us is a non-currency.  Women are denigrated into nothing but declining-value objects to men, and men believe that women only want them for their money and power, and not for who they really are.  No one is loved, no one is loving, everyone is insecure, and no one is happy.

***

An open statement to this man and all men like him:  There are many of us who do not seek money or power.  And if that were what we were interested in we would seek by ourselves, not gain it via a man.  You have nothing to offer me, or women like me, and I understand this is what scares you.  You have no power over us.  The last card you have left to play is to insult us for being adults and not being the malleable creatures you would wish.

What do I want? An intelligent, compassionate person committed to growth, who knows how to love generously and without fear.  I understand this also scares you, because bottom line, your denigration of women is part rooted in a fear that you are not actually worthy of a woman’s love.  You try to convince yourself it’s all a game of money, sex and power to make your inadequacies as a man seem less pertinent.  And that is why you will never have us.  Because you are unwilling to look at yourself and become a better man, become the man that is worthy of a good woman’s love.

***

“It is amazing how far we have come since I was growing up. The fact that women do so many different kinds of jobs now – that is one of the US’s greatest strengths.” – My father

In a way the Brazilian’s comment had very good implications.  In some ways it showed how far the US has come because ultimately his entire letter was a large complaint about how US women do not conform to the “Brazilian” idea of a woman’s place.  We have in many ways moved beyond the ‘woman-as-object’ paradigm.

But the reason I couldn’t just write this man’s comment off as absurd and crazy and forget about it, is because although I may personally believe this man is horrible and pathetic, the sad truth is that his is not just a lone crazy voice; he actually speaks for millions of men who feel the same way.  Reading it recalled me to the eternal vulnerability of being female, in a world where for many men we are just a collection of warm holes.

Although I’m from a country where, generally speaking, people cannot talk like this man in public, his ideas are certainly there under the surface, in the minds of angry men who do not know how to love.

And I have to wonder – how often do these exact sentiments get uttered jokingly by businessmen, frat boys and so many others, who are trying to be cool with their friends or peers by showing off their complete disdain for females.  And what about many of my dearest male friends, who ostensibly truly respect women?  When they are alone, out with the guys, how often do they say derogatory things about us?

The thing is that even in jest, these ideas have power and influence.  They affect us all, just as racial and homophobic slurs and jokes, even when they are made without real malice, add to the horrible difficulty of understanding and accepting one another.

When I saw this man’s thoughts, I felt very small for a moment.  I believe in myself, but sometimes it is truly frightening as a woman to stand and look directly into the face of sexism and see it not only for its ugliness and violence, but also for its pervasiveness throughout the world.  And I have to ask myself, am I big enough and strong enough to stand up to that?

I have to admit something very sad – for a fleeting moment this man actually succeeded in making me feel insecure.  For a moment some shivering, fragile part of me actually thought, “Perhaps he is right…maybe I am no longer beautiful.”  It was only a whisper, but I heard it and I marveled at it; it showed me how deeply ingrained the idea that 30 is a small death for women is in our culture.  It’s rare to hear the idea spoken so forcefully and clearly as this man voiced it – but it’s still there, a slow disease, a meme that works its way into the fabric of everything.

***

I am a feminist.  Unfortunately it is not so socially acceptable in the US to admit this anymore, because people tend to assume this encompasses an irrational hatred of men.  But for me – being a feminist is not at all about male-bashing – I love men.  It’s partially because of how wonderful I think men can be that I am a feminist – because I think feminism is about helping men be better and happier too.   I think being a feminist means you understand that while things have certainly gotten better for women, there is so much still left to be done.  It is about recognizing that sexism hurts us all, men and women alike, and undermines society in general.

My idea of what feminism should mean:

Fathers loving their daughters, believing in them and showing them they are special, beautiful, and capable of anything.

Mothers teaching their sons to respect them and respect other women, teaching them to believe in themselves and know they are worthy of love, not for what they have but for who they are.

Men being brave enough to fall in love with a woman, and want her for more than just her body and what it represents; showing her every day how beautiful she is and how much he respects her; believing in his own value as well as hers; being brave enough to be worthy of a good woman’s love.

And Women believing in their own beauty, intelligence and strength and not listening to all the other voices; remembering that age makes them wiser not lesser; showing men they are more than their money and their position by loving them for who they are instead of what they have; respecting men who respect women; being true to themselves and respecting each other.

***

I think in part I wrote a lot of this as a little request to all the amazing men I know.  I think it’s important for well-educated men who have a high respect for women to see how we get treated and talked about and why so many of us have such a complicated relationship with our own bodies and faces and place in the world.  It’s important for you to understand the prejudice we are actually often faced with.

You have the power to support women, however you also have the power to add to the weight that is holding us down.  Please make the right choice – please remember your words and actions have power.  If you love us and believe in us, it is your responsibility to fight against this attitude with us. Every voice against this kind of ignorance and ugliness helps dispel the darkness.

***********************************************************************

If you like this post, here are some other posts you might like:

On anorexia and compulsive exercise:

https://zoetropic.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/girl-in-the-gym/

A vignette about the reinforcement of beauty norms in children:

https://zoetropic.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/do-you-want-to-be-ugly/

~ by zoetropic on July 13, 2011.

15 Responses to “Machismo: Alive and Well”

  1. This is just another example of the amazing things you DO… That is how I fall in love with you more and more everyday. Coming from a country (Venezuela) where Machismo is deeply ingrained in the culture, it’s been difficult to learn and recognize how everyone is affected (men and women alike) by this horrible prejudice. If the sad guy who left that horrible comment only knew that if more women were in the front of our society, there will be less hunger, less greedyness, less WAR. It is mostly us MEN, who are bringing this world almost to its collapse. I join your effort to stop the discrimination, and fully support putting women in positions of power throughout our society, and within our families. Thanks to women like you, some Men are able to LEARN, REALIZE and UNDERSTAND that in order to be a better person you must love the people around you, without DISTINCTIONS… Thanks you for bringing this topic in your blog and revealing what many have not even CONSIDERED is a problem. TE ADORO

    Thanks to all of you women, for being our inspiration, and being: BRAVE, CURIOUS, LOVING, GORGEOUS, INDEPENDENT, MOTHERS, MISTIQUES, HARDWORKERS, SENSITIVE, AWARE, GENEROUS & A BIG ETCETERAAAA…

  2. Literalmente me “comí” los dos artículos y no sé cuál me gustó más! Tenés una forma de escribir tan fabulosa que es difícil agregar algo más que sea creativo…está todo dicho. En este artículo sobre el Machismo, yo que también soy de Sudamérica, te puedo decir que es un una triste realidad, pero no generalicemos, hay HOMBRES con mayúscula que no están de acuerdo con ninguna palabra de las que ese pobre “señor” escribió. Hay HOMBRES que AMAN a las mujeres, que las respetan, que las apoyan en todo y que son más felices cuando ellas se ven realizadas y logran sus deseos….ya sea a los 20, 30 ó 70!!! El amor y el respeto no tiene edad. Te escribí en español porque me da rabia que personas como esas todavía existan. Te admiro y te felicito por publicarlo. Te quiero mucho!

  3. Reading that “man’s” message made me feel physically ill, not because anything he wrote had any merit which I would apply to myself but just the idea that someone could come up with it was disgusting. It tells you all about this pitiful man. I can’t speak for Brazil, but my family is from Venezuela, and all the women in our family are strong. Strong and independent, and I am extremely proud of them. Look at Evita Peron, she was not a weak woman.
    I don’t think of myself as a feminist, only because I believe that feminism has changed modern society. But I don’t hold the term in any disregard, I applaud our history and effort as suffragettes and believe that our way of thinking has well been integrated into our way of living. And if I do come across the odd backward thinking I feel the onus is on me to educate, to lead by example. If I were to be transplanted into a misogynistic society I would surely become a fighter for the feminist way.
    This post echoes every sentiment I would have had for that comment. I would have been so appalled by how distasteful it had been that I think I would not have known how to respond. I like that I have made a few friends on my blog and no one has posted anything so grotesque, so it is not a challenge that I have had to face. I think having an “open journal” like these blogs have their dangers and such ugliness is one of them. I’m sorry that you even had to entertain such nonsense.

    • It’s true – as soon as one decides to make public any kind of personal or creative work, in particular personal writing, it makes one vulnerable to attack. But I guess what I have learned from this is that if you want to be writing publicly, that is part of the bargain – and it is best to take it and grow from it and become stronger from it. I feel I became stronger in writing this last post – so it was all for some good.

      And of course it is helpful to start these kinds of conversations and share these kinds of situations with one another. It can make the bonds between us all stronger, and the sharing we do more significant. Thank you so much for being out there!

      And I didn’t know you were from Venezuela! What a coincidence! I lived there for over three years and then moved to France – but with my Venezuelan boyfriend – so Venezuela still plays a constant role in my life.

      Were you born in Venezuela? How did you end up in Southern California?

      I met many strong women in Venezuela – but many if not most of the women I knew there had a sense of self-worth that was very complexly interwoven with body image and their capacity to appeal to men. Not that this isn’t true in most parts of the world – but I found Venezuela to be extreme in this way.

      • My Mother is from Vennie, but I was born in New York. My upbringing is very South American because of that, I hope that makes sense. Although my heritage is mixed with Asian. There are a lot of Chinese in South America. I don’t go into too much about my family on my blog just in case no one wants to be talked about, it’s just out of respect for their private lives. But what I will say is that my Grandmother was the most beautiful woman I have had the pleasure to know, she was brilliant and shrewd, kind and loving, overall she had the greatest fortitude. As a result each of her daughters was strong in their own way, a force to be reckoned with.

        You are right about their body image playing a significant role in Venezuelan women’s feeling of self-worth. They begin pageantry from the time they can crawl, literally. Beauty is a type of commodity, I know that now plastic surgery is very prolific there too. But that is more in the cities, in the mountains, it’s different. Beauty still takes a role, but living is more important. Doesn’t that sound odd?

        I really respect that you handled that comment the way you did. It took courage, and undoubtedly you have become a stronger writer and person for it. I’ve been thinking about it quite a bit since I’ve read it. If we think of it from a psychological perspective, it is a reflection of his poor self worth transferred onto his delusional viewpoint of women. It’s really disturbing. But at the same time it’s eye opening to understand that there are such individuals who have developed this bizarre belief and for myself this has been a very significant and relevant discussion. But this sort of “crisis” (I was trying to think of an apt word, but this was the best I could do) does bring us closer as a tribe of like thinkers. That we support each other and remind each other that while it exists, it has only the power we give it.

  4. […] any need to give someone who is acting in such a hideous manner attention. However today I read this post from the lovely Pacifica  of Zoetropic which dealt with a disparaging diatribe left by one odious individual in response to her […]

  5. I applaud you for not deleting the comment and then responding to it. As an American, I often hear jokes about women “staying in the kitchen or the bedroom” and it makes me sick because I know there are many who actually think that way. However, in my context, which is religious, much of this misogyny stems from an ultra-conservative and ignorantly literalistic reading of the Bible. This man’s comment actually surprised me because he had no religious book to fall back on–only a pure hatred of women. He denied my humanity. Perhaps I am young and naive, but his comment shook me to the core. I have never encountered such hatred, at least not in first-person. I do call myself a feminist, for the same reasons that you do, but his comment and your posts have affirmed it all the more.

    You are a beautiful writer!

  6. there are man that obiusly did not regard their mother as valuable and without a douth that this criatures need some sirius reprograminng woman are the single most important aspect in any mans life and probably the fundation rock of social estability.

  7. Bravo. Intelligently, honestly, and courageously done. All men are our mirrors of course, as every woman is a mirror for all men. You’ve looked into one of the dark mirrors and discovered just how deep your anchor is set. Now it starts to get interesting.
    –From an old feminist

    P.S. Thank you Anuniak. We fought to free our sons, too. Your words made me cry.

  8. I am happy to report that 40 is great and 50 is the best! As we put more distance between ourselves and puberty, we shed more of the insecurity and get to know and trust our true selves. By 50, you will know who you are by looking in the mirror, not by looking at your reflection in the eyes of a man. By 50, rants such as that sociopath sent you will sound merely comical because while, yes, there are millions of men who think that way, you really won’t care what they think. Fifty rocks!

  9. Wow, once you again, you hit the proverbial Mel on the head — I mean “nail.” Intelligent, well written, visceral in conveying your feelings, gutsy. Thanks. CNN has taken a stand against slavery and has a documentary they’re running every weekend to End Slavery Now (not that CNN is anywhere my favorite news media but it’s the best English choice I get in Costa Rica; I don’t know if they’re running it in the States or other parts of the world.) But I kept thinking of that program while I was reading this, thinking this man portrays one of those men who would in fact be a “john” in that trade, ergo, participatory in the sex slave trade.

    And then I think of my now-35-year-old daughter who I believe actually got trapped in her own version of this crazed man’s world: Got a job at 22 in a high-powered financial management firm. At 35, she’s fighting drugs and alcohol addiction and a multitude of financial problems (obviously no longer working there, having been cast out…) I don’t know the details of any of it but only enough surface info to know that she allowed herself to get caught up in that machismo society, used, misused, abused, the whole time thinking she was on “the road to success”; in the end, it’s like they sucked her soul dry.

    And in the end, I sometimes wonder how I failed as a mother because that had certainly never been my lifestyle. In fact, at 22, I had been sailing in the South Pacific, building thatched huts, subsistence farming, wondering “who is this Germaine Greer woman and what is she moaning about” because I was out doing what I wanted. I was no man’s minion or sex object. The only attention I could bother to give to men like Mr. Mel was a dirty look, at best, and an extended straight arm and knee-jerk reaction if the dirty look didn’t get the message across.

    And it’s not really even whether you’re 22 or 30 or 40 or 50. Yeah, with me pushing 62 now and watching my skin sag and wrinkle, my libido disappear, for sure there’s a tiny bit of me that wishes I could hang on a bit to that younger body that was more attractive, even to my own eyes looking in the mirror. But I know it’s not at all because I want the Mr. Mels in the world looking at me or “wanting me”; I know it’s because I am looking at my mortality now, something my younger side never looked at. I was invincible when I was young; I could do/and did “anything” — and luckily I always had a strong spirit guiding me safely through the narrow and rough channels — but now I can see my future adventures are getting limited with time, reflected in the aged look in the mirror. But I recognize I would not switch the wisdom I have gained through the years for a pretty body in a bikini 40 years ago for anything. There are way fewer pitfalls in the road up ahead now (well, only death, but ….) than when I was 20, with one of the biggest pitfalls to avoid was being cute and pretty and being blinded by Machismo.

    I should shut up now because you said it all way better. Women have come a long way, some men’s consciousness has come a long way, but it’s clear there are still too many Mr. Mels in the world and still too many young women in the world who will have the same bumpy, rough road to maneuver past these kind of men; hopefully all will have the strong voices, like yours, to help them stay in touch with their own deep inner strength and, with eyes wide open, they will clearly see that Machismo is the dark and belittling energy that one avoids at the cost of their very soul.

    Thanks for all you said.

  10. I am curios to know if MACHISMO have any social boundaries like the rich class the middle class and the poor class it my sound a bit stupid to ask but it is worth ask the question.

  11. just read your blog on machismo and i loved it as a bisexual guy of 37 lol and bought up by a army of strong women i felt great empathy with yr story and similar feelings of disgust and nausea at what this guy was saying.what i have learnt in life in regards to ageism and sexism homophobia etc is that this mindset has to be challenged life is for living and expressing and it has no limits only the ones we impose on it and boy do we impose a lot of limits on this lifeforce.history can be a great reminder of all the great men and women who have defied and redifined the rules and a source of inspiration sometimes at great personal cost to teach us to stay strong and true to our truth .keep living keep loving…stay rebellious contrary to what the rulebook says the true rebellion begins as one gets older not when one is young and allowed to rebel.rock on tina turner helen mirren judi dench maggie smith susan saronden martina navoratilova and the countless women and men living their lives in a open hearted and free way regardless of age gender sexuality disability etc life is to b lived and dont stop living and expressing till u r dead. life does nt discriminate people do.ponder s mate from negrill london keep up the fight

  12. Great title!

  13. Very nasty and best ignored. Its an open forum so you can’t choose who gets to post a comment, but you can choose to be thick skinned about comments from sad people.

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