Opinion | Op-eds

About all women

The Barnard-Columbia V-Day Committee announced earlier this week that this year’s production of “The Vagina Monologues” will feature a cast of only self-identified women of color in an effort to turn the discussion away from “narrow and specific liberal feminist narrative.”

My initial reaction to this announcement was, “Can I still audition?” I’m Mexican-American. I also have white skin. I’ve been confronting my identity my entire life. But I’m no longer a mix of identities, because now I have to pick just one to participate in a celebration of feminism, femininity, and the freedom of expression. 

I saw the Monologues my first two years at Columbia and regrettably missed it my third because I was abroad. Both times that I went, I felt validated by the experiences and feelings expressed in the Monologues. I laughed, I nodded, and I cried. I felt a camaraderie between myself and other women on campus that I hadn’t felt since attending an all-girls high school.

The mission of “The Vagina Monologues,” according to its website, is to “confront the stigma surrounding discussions of sexual assault, trans* and queer identities, racialized womanhood, abuse, and the word ‘vagina.’” The first subject listed is sexual assault. Every woman everywhere in the world has at some point felt endangered because she is a woman. To exclude a group of women because of how they choose to identify themselves—white or nonwhite, historically the oppressed or the oppressor—is in violation of the mission of the Monologues. Women of every race, ethnicity, and creed can be survivors of rape and assault. These women are survivors and the Monologues should be for them first, to give them a voice when they have been silenced.

The purpose of “The Vagina Monologues” is to bring to light the most important part of womanhood: The last thing anyone is willing to talk about is the first thing the production considers, and this is women’s sexuality. For how long has a woman’s outward beauty been the measurement of her worth? How hard do women still have to fight for equal pay and equal rights and the right to choose what happens to their bodies? When will women be able to stop talking about “having it all” and just “have,” the way men do?

I disagree that there’s only one “specific liberal feminist narrative.” I acknowledge that there is white privilege, and I agree that there is an economic gap correlated to race. But I disagree that we, as women, are working toward different things. All women want equality. Some women are more equal than others, in the eye of the law and in the eye of the economic system, and this is unequivocally wrong. Historically, the women’s movement and the civil rights movement were organized separately. Women of the 1970s like Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan focused on what they believed may have been universal feminist themes but addressed the needs of middle-class, educated, white females. Even so, there are ways to incorporate other feminists who represent other groups, like Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou, not to mention Merle Woo and Ana Castillo. We should be reading “The Feminist Mystique” side by side with “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” to compare, contrast, and celebrate these women’s experiences. This third wave of feminism should try to dismantle the patriarchy and racial hegemony simultaneously—not separately. 

Excluding women who don’t identify as women of color from this conversation is ludicrous. “The Vagina Monologues” absolutely should have women of color and women of all sexualities represented in the show and in the conversation. But it should also feature monologues about rape and assault—which are universal. The decision to make the Monologues about race and exclusive identities fractures the greater resolve of the Monologues to be about women. Including all races and groups in the performances would do a far better job at addressing how sexism is compounded by racism.

Shouldn’t “The Vagina Monologues” serve as an overlap of the objectives of women? Colored, trans, queer, tall, short—we’re all women, and excluding one group because of its coincidental inability to identify as one specific type of woman does a disservice to the entire mission of the Monologues. I’m not sure if I’m eligible to audition anymore, but I certainly don’t want to.

The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in history and political science. She is a senior staff blogger and opinion blogger for Spectrum and a former finance director for Spectator.

To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com.

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LOL posted on

http://s418.photobucket.com/user/narniafan26/media/WhiteOpinions.gif.html

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Anonymous posted on

Daniella, the weird, twisted fact is that your reaction is precisely WHY a colored iteration of the Vagina Monologues would be so worth watching. Where so many colored women have been taught to internalize their exclusion, YOU get a Spec Article. Where so many colored women have been taught to self-hate (I'm looking at you, Indian fair-skin cream), YOU get to talk about how being a White Mexican in the Northeast is something you have to CONFRONT. This degree of sensitivity to things not going the way you want them to is probably why the event's organizers would suspect that a colored version of the Vagina Monologues would bring to light experiences, feelings, and yes, resentments that would go unaddressed in a liberal, multicolored (some would say white-guilt-friendly) version of the Vagina Monologues.

I'm not particularly offended that the Vagina Monologues have a specific racial focus this year. I've seen too many films and plays that have multicolored ensemble casts, but wind up focusing on white protagonists. An all-colored iteration of the Vagina Monologues would be an interesting thing to watch.

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Snaps for this person posted on

100% correct on all points. Especially when taking into account the intersectional scholarship that says that not all forms of sexual assault are equal or universal. It's a historically white-feminist idea that sexual assault is a patriarchal project. It took feminists of color to force the community to recognize that sexual assault it also a colonial and racial project, especially when such assault is perpetrated against colored bodies. Colored bodies are hyper-sexualized under the patriarchy so the collective trauma that they've been through is of a different sort then what white feminism would have us believe it is. Last point, the reason why people are so salty about this is because it is the nature of privilege itself that causes the dominant group to think it abnormal and wrong when they're asked to temporarily cede a space that they've dominated for a long time, even when that same domination has been at the expense of other groups. V-Day's decision to feature an all WoC cast is way of "shoving our noses in the shit" in order to at least challenge that privilege in what is necessarily a painful way and dispel any pretensions of willful ignorance about the issue.

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Anonymous posted on

Racial focus is different from racial restriction. Don't try to hide a racially discriminatory policy under the veil of something that would've been perfectly reasonable.

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Anonymous posted on

She didn't "get" a Spec Article. She wrote it.

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Anonymous posted on

I think what Anonymous meant is that she got a platform to voice her opinion on with a facility that is uncharacteristic of non-white females - the point is that internalized racism keeps other women from complaining when they're excluded from any particular production or group, and in that sense, Anonymous makes a good point.

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Anonymous posted on

But she is a Mexican-American; she may be white/light by skin colour, but by racial classification, she is typically not considered "White" (that is, Caucasian White) and would be classified instead as "Hispanic". Hispanics - of all races and colours (because many Hispanics are themselves "mestizos", or of a mixed race heritage) - are historically a group that HAVE, like other people of colour, been oppressed and discriminated against. Yet she is speaking up.

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Anonymous posted on

Sure mestizos in Mexico were oppressed a long time ago. They were oppressed by white Hispanic conquistadors. White Mexicans have never been oppressed by anybody.

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Anonymous posted on

Wow, who are you to say that? Have you been a Latino individual in the United States?

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Anonymous posted on

Being from Mexico, I can tell you with certainty that White Mexicans (especially the ones that wind up in Ivy League institutions) tend to be very well-off, non-oppressed types - oftentimes the descendants of purebred Spaniards that either owned land in the Mexican South, held gov't positions in Mexico City, or were masters of industry in 20th century Northern Mexico.

No clue where this chick is from, but if she's Mexican-American, White, and at an Ivy... well my guess is that her roots are in Mexico City, Guadalajara, or Monterrey. The idea that Mexican Whiteness is something that needs to be 'confronted' seems kind of silly, but in all fairness I can't really speak to what she's lived through.

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Anon posted on

Have you ever been a white individual in the United States? Have you ever been a man in the United States? Have you ever been an Asian in the United States? Have you ever been a Jew in the United States? Who are you to say that these groups aren't just as oppressed as the "people of color"? How is your response even an argument?

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Anonymous posted on

Love this. "White Mexicans have never been oppressed by anybody." The people defending V-Day's decision are a complete embarrassment to their own cause. Between this and the person in the other article who was insisting that not many white women have been sexually assaulted, the very best thing V-Day's defenders could do is stop talking.

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"White" Person of Color posted on

I'd just like to throw out there that your racial "classification" or what I assume you mean as "the legal box you check" doesn't have to correspond to racial identity. For instance, under US Immigration laws I am 100% white and yet I have dark skin, dark hair, and identify as a person of color (well first I struggle with that, then I identify). So it's really up to Daniela's experience to determine whether she's a POC not what she is legally.

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yeah but posted on

there's no protagonists in a MONOLOGUE SERIES so this is completely not valid

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Anonymous posted on

Way to ignore the rest of the post.

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Anonymous posted on

But the point is still valid. If there is no "protagonist" of a monologue, then how can the attention be diverted to a white protagonist at the exclusion of others?

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yeah but posted on

there's no protagonists in a MONOLOGUE SERIES so this is completely not valid

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Anonymous posted on

ways to get a Spec article: "To respond to this column, or to submit an op-ed, contact opinion@columbiaspectator.com."

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CC posted on

i think this is great. and i think that this is the best way to go about handling this issue - whether or not it's racial discrimination there is no reason women who don't identify as women of color should not be represented if they have a story. the author is clearly grappling with her own identity and what this rule means for her.

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MP posted on

SO MANY DOUBLE NEGATIVES.

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um posted on

The only feminists of color she can think of are Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, and Maya Angelou? Good lord, we have an amazing women and gender studies department at CU/Barnard. Use it.

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cc 14 posted on

The only feminists of color she can list are some popular novelists and the only thing she can think of when it comes to intersectionality are economic effects on women of color? Good lord, we have an amazing women and gender studies department here at Barnard/CU. Use it.

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What do you expect? posted on

So she's supposed to instead name the feminists of color that readers are less likely to have heard of? Why? Just to make a point that she knows a lot about women of color?

That's not the point of this article, so she shouldn't have to spend time on this.

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Anonymous posted on

This op-ed isn't a rebuttal to the readers, it's a rebuttal to the producers behind the Vagina Monologues, and the fact that Daniela's idea of PoC feminism boils down to a couple of token black writers she read in high school probably confirms their idea that she hasn't grasped the concepts that bolster this year's production in the first place.

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Anonymous posted on

I don't think this is a reflection of Daniela as much as it's proof of the problem-- that the voices of women of color are excluded and marginalized. We should all be able to name as many female authors of color as white female authors, but we can't. That's not Daniela's fault, it's society's.

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cc 14 posted on

"excluding one group because of its coincidental inability to identify as one specific type of woman does a disservice to the entire mission of the Monologues."

Ah, but you're missing the point. It's not "coincidental"; read the Vagina Monologues' statement on this. They're choosing to focus on women of color because it's women of color in America who have long been marginalized, diminished, and ignored within female-solidarity experiences. There is a LONG history of exclusion of women of color within the feminist movements, even to this day, where self-proclaimed white feminists reject grappling with issues of intersectionality or say/do questionable things in regards to people of color (cough, Lena Dunham). I feel like it's important to understand this before attacking the group for choosing to focus on women of color this year.

Personally, as a woman of color, I do feel badly that some women won't be able to participate this year, and wonder if the Vagina Monologues could have gone about this a bit differently—maybe they could have had a first act that showcased all different kinds of a women and second act directly shining the spotlight on narratives of women of color alone.

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Anonymous posted on

Where do WHITE victims of sexual assault get to express their voice? Sexual assault victims of ALL races and colours are suppressed in expressing their feelings and opinions, as a "rape culture" along with the stigma of being a victim of sexual assault and the "blame the victim" mentality has strongly discouraged them from doing so, REGARDLESS of what their skin colour or racial/ethnic identity is.

Excluding potential members of the cast (white women) solely on the basis that they are not part of another historically oppressed group (people of colour) completely neglects the suffering their own people have went through as members of their own class of oppressed people (women ... and especially, for those who are victims of such crimes, the victims of sexual assault).

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Anonymous posted on

Someone clearly didn't read the well-reasoned rebuttals to this op-ed nor read the supporters of this op-ed before they decided to post a ranty-ass comment

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Oh, the irony. posted on

Daniela, welcome to the other side of these gender politics discussions. If you favor a position that benefits whites (even if you are not white!), somebody more radical than you can say that your opinion is invalid, even if what you really want is egalitarian and balanced. (Vagina monologues should be about all women. Sexual violence is a women's issue.) You are now excluded from this discussion because from the perspective of those involved (people of color), you now have taken a position of "privilege", and they a position of victimhood. Within such a framework it is as difficult to challenge this Vagina Monologues decision without embodying "racism" as it is for a man to challenge any aspect of feminism without embodying "patriarchy".

Think about how much more careful you have to be about your treatment of colored women than they have to be in their treatment of white women. This is the same leverage that radical feminists use all the time in their discussions of men, and it's infuriating.

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intersectional feminist posted on

And unlike you, I hope Daniela has the good sense to actually hear counter-arguments and genuinely listen to those who have been historically left out of the feminist narrative.

"This is the same leverage that radical feminists use all the time in their discussions of men, and it's infuriating."

Why, because it's true? Because you know that as a man, there's no way you can possibly mansplain women's subjectivity, anymore than Daniela, who carries a certain amount of white privilege, can try and speak for all women of color? Give me a flipping break.

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intersectional feminist posted on

Also, as a speccie, I'm disappointed to see so many people like your comments. Two-thirds of these readers are probably friends of Daniela's or Speccies and it's disheartening to see that I work with people with such shallow conceptions of equality.

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intersectional feminist posted on

"Think about how much more careful you have to be about your treatment of colored women than they have to be in their treatment of white women."

No, hon, you haven't started thinking "more carefully" about them than they do of you, you've just "started thinking" about them in the first place, period. I laugh at the sheer bitterness of this statement. So, due to the reason-proof histrionics of radical feminists, you're forced to reconsider the ways you actually treat people like actual human beings. Well done, feminists. Secondly, what has invariably escaped your understanding is that you're not being asked to think "more" about your treatment of them than they are, because as people within a subordinate social position, their entire lives center around THINKING OF WHITE PEOPLE/WOMEN. Just like men don't necessarily have to acknowledge women's experiences in order to rise up in the world or succeed, white people don't have to think of PoC's experiences. As a woman of color, I've spent my entire life relating to men's experiences, to white women's experiences. Their experiences infiltrate every aspect of books and magazines I read, movies I watch, etc. etc. To this day I relate more easily to white people narratives than to people of different ethnicities. So yes, get the hell over it and appreciate the modicum of humanity you have gained by actually learning about someone else whose life is drastically different from yours.

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Anonymous posted on

"Think about how much more careful you have to be about your treatment of colored women than they have to be in their treatment of white women."

No, hon, you haven't started thinking "more carefully" about them than they do of you, you've just "started thinking" about them in the first place, period. I laugh at the sheer bitterness of this statement. So, due to the reason-proof histrionics of radical feminists, you're forced to reconsider the ways you actually treat people like actual human beings. Well done, feminists. Secondly, what has invariably escaped your understanding is that you're not being asked to think "more" about your treatment of them than they are, because as people within a subordinate social position, their entire lives center around THINKING OF WHITE PEOPLE/WOMEN. Just like men don't necessarily have to acknowledge women's experiences in order to rise up in the world or succeed, white people don't have to think of PoC's experiences. As a woman of color, I've spent my entire life relating to men's experiences, to white women's experiences. Their experiences infiltrate every aspect of books and magazines I read, movies I watch, etc. etc. To this day I relate more easily to white people narratives than to people of different ethnicities. So yes, get the hell over it and appreciate the modicum of humanity you have gained by actually learning about someone else whose life is drastically different from yours.

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Can I apply? posted on

I identify as a gender-neutral platypus

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Trans-gender river otter posted on

Due to the long history of koala subjugation by the duck-billed platypus in Eastern Australia, platypus need not apply to V-Day's 2013 performance.

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Anonymous posted on

can you please stop saying colored; it's not 1965 anymore

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Anonymous posted on

the point of this year's production is to examine the very borders of race you bring up (i.e., being a white Latina). the statement put out by V-Day uses "self-identified women of color" for this very reason

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Sarina posted on

Thank you, Daniela. I've been grappling with how to question VagMo's decision without invoking racist or unsympathetic logic. I am really impressed that you've presented a critique that is as level-headed as it is strong.

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the vms 2k13 posted on

"I’m not sure if I’m eligible to audition anymore, but I certainly don’t want to."

i suppose our vaginas will have to have their monologue without you, then, daniela :( :( :(

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Anonymous posted on

What about self-colored women of identity? Can they apply?

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Anonymous posted on

"Colored, trans, queer, tall, short—we’re all women"

This sounds a lot like "I'm colorblind"
The effect of "we're all women" is that you have some common experience but what I feel like you don't grasp is that being oppressed as a woman of color is very different from being oppressed as a white woman. Yes, you both have lower wages, but there are completely different sets of societal norms.

Here's a resource about understanding statements like "I'm colorblind" that I think is relevant: "Statements like these assume that people of color are just like you, white; that they have the same dreams, standards, problems, and peeves that you do. “Colorblindness” negates the cultural
values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person could ignore a person’s color, society does not. By saying we are not different, that you don’t see the color, you are also saying you don’t see your
whiteness. This denies the people of colors’ experience of racism
and your experience of privilege."

You're assuming that the WOC story and the White Woman story could be in the same show. It's unclear from your piece, but you don't seem to identify as a woman of color (correct me if I'm wrong, not trying to undermine you). Just food for thought.

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Anonymous posted on

"Colored, trans, queer, tall, short—we’re all women"

This sounds a lot like "I'm colorblind"
The effect of "we're all women" is that you have some common experience but what I feel like you don't grasp is that being oppressed as a woman of color is very different from being oppressed as a white woman. Yes, you both have lower wages, but there are completely different sets of societal norms.

Here's a resource about understanding statements like "I'm colorblind" that I think is relevant: "Statements like these assume that people of color are just like you, white; that they have the same dreams, standards, problems, and peeves that you do. “Colorblindness” negates the cultural
values, norms, expectations and life experiences of people of color. Even if an individual white person could ignore a person’s color, society does not. By saying we are not different, that you don’t see the color, you are also saying you don’t see your
whiteness. This denies the people of colors’ experience of racism
and your experience of privilege."

You're assuming that the WOC story and the White Woman story could be in the same show. It's unclear from your piece, but you don't seem to identify as a woman of color (correct me if I'm wrong, not trying to undermine you). Just food for thought.

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Anonymous posted on

Add to the knapsack of white privilege: being given a frequently-read, well-recieved platform to voice your complaints about not being portrayed in arts.

I'd like Spec to start posting more articles about how white-washed everything in society is please.

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SPEC posted on

how is spec white? how is submitted an op-ed to a campus newspaper white privilege? FREEDOM OF THE PRESS

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Anonymous posted on

see above reply that was well articulated
"I think what Anonymous meant is that she got a platform to voice her opinion on with a facility that is uncharacteristic of non-white females - the point is that internalized racism keeps other women from complaining when they're excluded from any particular production or group, and in that sense, Anonymous makes a good point."

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Anonymous posted on

Hey! So you could submit an article about 'how white-washed everything in society is' yourself -- there's a submit button, anyone can do it -- and then YOU TOO can put that complaint in your knapsack!

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Anonymous posted on

I understand where you're coming from here. I do. I get that the show isn't going to represent the experiences of all women, and that sucks because as a White woman I may not get to see something as relatable. But really, I wanna take this one for the team. WOC are shafted every second of every day and I think White people kind of have an obligation to get the fuck over being excluded from one show when Black people are excluded from... everything (Turn on your TV. Why is Kerry Washington such an anomaly?)

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CC14 posted on

My question for you - why does this matter to you? Why do you feel that the messages that you see in the Vagina Monologues - messages that you feel are universal - have been somehow irrevocably altered when they are delivered by women of color? As one of these "self-identified" women of color, I'm used to hearing arguments from mainstream feminists that don't look like me and haven't lived my experience - from Deborah Spar to Sheryl Sandberg to Gloria Steinem to (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony - such AP/IB History mainstays; fought for suffrage only for white women). I'm willing to weigh and treat their views critically - why don't you step over the same line and try the same? It seems to me that this production is attempting to do that - to hear from the other side and give these marginalized voices a seat at the table (You mention Alice Walker - but can any of us really name a single work she's written besides that entered the mainstream by virtue of Spielberg?) and hear them speak on their own terms. Why don't you give it a shot, go see it, and reflect o your own experiences - before you take up space in the paper yelling about how excluded you feel?

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Anonymous posted on

that was articulate and i like you http://reactiongifs.com/?p=15880

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