Julie Gentron and the Lady League, Vol. 1, Ep. 4: The Homosexual!

22 02 2012

Written by Brandon Arkell and Seth Gordon Little

Last time on the Lady League, the ladies were spreading their legs and lighting up London’s nighttime skyline with a blast of super-powered lady plasma, in preparation to confront the dreaded Plastic Demon.

The suite was decorated in whimsical turn-of-the-century art nouveau decor, with a view of the Eiffel Tower through great French doors which opened up on to the balcony. Oswald’s young, handsome male assistant, Frederick, was tidying papers at a desk in front of the main window.

“I’m bored of Paris”, groaned Oswald, clutching a voluminous goblet of wine and gazing outside the window. “Why do I even bother? It farms fashion trends like a soccer mom chugs corporate coffee. All of those simpering mules strolling by—they think they’re the cat’s meow, but, honestly, their City of Lights has grown dim in my eyes, and its fashion, stale.” Frederick turned his head from his work and nodded vacantly in agreement. “They’re nothing more than a bunch of dime-store papier-mâché drag queens strutting their sad plastic corpses down a worn-out catwalk. And now we’re faced with another fashion horror—this new ‘plastique’ line. It’s all over the magazine covers–Vogue, Marie Claire, even Harper’s—a glittering pile of garish, costumey garbage-bags plucked out of The Wizard of Oz or Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. What’s wrong with a simple, classic dress? Stick with the basics, I say.” Here he paused briefly, swirling the wine inside his goblet meditatively. “For the life of me, I can’t figure out what the designer’s true identity is. All we know is her initial, ‘P’, but I want to know the true P, what makes her tick, what makes her build such clownish garments, what makes people fawn like puppies at such horrid sartorial monstrosities.” Frederick nodded.

“I need new surroundings, fresh inspiration!” cried the stuffy queen, throwing the emptied wine goblet at the fire-place. “Pick that up”, he said to Frederick, who hurriedly scooped up the shards of glass on the edge of the fireplace, burning himself slightly but keeping his pain to himself. “I crave the shapes, colours, and sounds of avant garde Berlin, wild, exotic Africa, remote, mystical Asia! What I need is a new muse.”

“Racist”, mumbled Frederick under his breath, swabbing his wound and shuffling papers at the desk.

“What was that?!” cried Oswald. “You’re my assistant, wretch, not my sociology professor!” He slapped Frederick with the back of his hand, which was adorned with a large, chunky ring. “I’m paying you to help me write about fashion—and pleasure me—not lecture me on stereotypes!”

“Yes, Mr Oswald”, said Frederick obsequiously, pawing at his abused cheek.

Suddenly there was an explosion of sparkle and glitter as the double doors burst open to reveal Julie Gentron and the Lady League, shrouded in a ball of lady-light. Lupa the Land-Whale clumsily smashed in through the window and tumbled over the desk, lolling about on the ground. Frederick tumbled out of his chair, overcome with shock and amazement. Expensive antique cocktail displays with colourful negro caricatures from the nineteen-twenties, among other accoutrements, were thrown to the floor in the commotion. Oswald dived behind a divan and covered his head.

“Sweet tits of Mary!” screamed the queen.

“Lady League, pose!” cried Julie, stationing herself in the middle of the hotel suite. The ladies gathered themselves and spread their legs in a buffalo stance at Julie’s side. Lupa joined the posse, spreading his stocky legs and placing his fore-fins on his thick hips. His head brushed up against the chandelier, sending a few tear-drop crystals to the floor.

“What in the name of God’s jugs are you—you praying mantises??” cried Oswald, peeking out from behind the divan at the ghastly menagerie before him. “And what is that horrible, gigantic turnip-thing?!” he cried, pointing at Lupa. Lupa lowered his head with shame and frowned. There was a pause, which gave Oswald enough time to analyse their wardrobes. “What’s that??” he hissed, pointing at Donna’s outfit.

“It’s from last season’s Halloween rack at the Bay”, said Donna, looking down at her outfit self-consciously. “It’s kind of retro trashy kitsch, isn’t it?”

“I know what it is, you minx!” grumbled the insufferable bitch. “It’s a throwback to some tacky twentieth century superheroine T.V. series. How gauche. And besides, it’s badly tailored. Look at the seams. And the theme is poorly incorporated into the piece as a whole.” He looked at Frederick for approval. Frederick nodded hesitantly, but turned and glowered.

“Why are you so ruthless??” cried Donna, observing poor Frederick’s reaction. “I thought that the fashion world was full of rainbows, baby-dust, unicorns, and—”

“—and the genius of Simpson Oswald!” cried the queen. He assumed an evangelical tone. “If I were a unicorn,  my aim would be to search out the kind of trash you’re wearing and impale it on my horn of truth! The world of fashion has no room for the lies which you parade.” He stopped and took a few moments to breathe and regain his bearings.

“Sweetie”, said Donna, drawing on a mysterious reservoir of courage, “your world of understated, black-and-grey business wear isn’t fit for a Louisiana trailer park. I Googled you, you prissy little bitch. I’ve seen the garments you made in the fashion department at Oklahoma City Community College. They say one thing: stale, dull, and conservative!” Oswald gasped and cringed in horror.

“That’s three things”, Rosalind said.

“Oh. Yeah. Three things”, Donna said, correcting herself.

“Why, you impudent child!” cried Oswald

“You heartless queen!” returned Donna.

“Girl, I’ll claw you to pieces!”

“Bitch, I’ll crush your queeny ass with one flick of my Lee Press-On Nail!”

Donna and Oswald began to tango, but Donna’s psychokinetic powers got the best of him, trapping him in the pose of a retarded gay Egyptian hieroglyph. He grunted as he fought helplessly against her stranglehold over him. She grinned smugly. Lupa began stamping the ground, flapping his fins up and down and cooing in protest. Another window-pane broke.

“Donna! Mr Oswald!” cried Julie, pressing her breasts outward and assuming an imposing stance. It was enough to cause Lupa to cower, knowing that Julie was the alpha. Donna desisted, and Oswald fell back, regaining his senses. He turned his eyes to Julie.

“Your outfit, on the other hand, is impeccable”, he said, gazing at Julie’s body like a sexually disinterested homosexual infatuated with clothing, “a flawless, streamlined melding of apparel and physique.”

“That’s because you designed it”, said Julie, impatient but flattered.

“I designed this masterpiece??” screamed the queen in disbelief.

“How quickly they forget when they sell their genius for a profit”, said Rosalind contemptuously. “Doesn’t it suit her? She’s a cyborg, after all.”

“Wh–wh–wh–what? One of those icky cyborg things? In my Paris hotel suite? Why on earth?”

“We’re here to save your puny little twig-armed white man’s arse—that’s why!” boomed Rosalind, channelling Grace Jones. Her strong, muscular body glimmered momentarily with a metallic sheen. Julie and Donna nodded in agreement.

“Save me from what?” Oswald was agog.

“Mr Oswald, let me introduce myself”, said Julie with a confident sweep of her shoulders. “I am Julie Gentron, and together my friends and I form the Lady League, a special branch of the Secret Intelligence Service devoted to defending the earth against galactic criminals.”

“Indeed! Except for that one”, he said, glowering at Donna. “Do you always let small-town drag queens follow you around like overly primped puppy dogs?” At this, Donna threatened him with her fingernails; he resumed his station behind the divan, cringing at the psychokinetic mutant.

“Do you always prance around like some useless Project Runway contestant who dropped out of community college with nothing but a pink cotton tank top with a skull-and-crossbones Hello Kitty graphic for a portfolio?” returned Donna, leering at him triumphantly. Lupa remonstrated against Oswald and Donna’s exchange with a low, almost subsonic moan, and the song seemed to have an effect on them, as they began to relax. No-one but Lupa seemed to notice.

“Ladies, please!” cried Julie, standing between the two. Lupa’s big, limpid blue eyes smiled with relief. “This display of oestrogen will get us nowhere. Let’s get to the point of this meeting. Mr. Oswald, we believe that your life is in danger. I realise this must be hard for you to accept, but you must believe me when I tell you that a malevolent and powerful she-thing is working to turn members of the fashion élite into mindless plastic-surgery drones, and you may be her next target.”

“Ba! No one touches Simpson Oswald, least of all some Rubbermaid robot from the Tupperwear Galaxy!” laughed Oswald smugly, dismissing them with a flail of his limp wrist. “I haven’t heard such a farfetched conspiracy theory since Coast to Coast AM said that evil, shape-shifting harp seals were infiltrating the Canadian Parliament. My dears, if I don’t attend this fashion show, I’ll have nothing to say in my next column.” He stopped and scanned Julie. “Why, that’s it! You just hate me—you want to kill my career! The only foe I see is in your jealousy, you viper! If you insist upon hounding me, I shall call for security to remove you and the rest of your wicked brood from my premises.”

“Sir, that is absurd!” said Julie passionately. The other ladies, including Lupa, backed up respectfully. “We don’t wish to destroy your career—the plastic fiend does! If you refuse our help, your entire career will be co-opted by P, who wants to assimilate you! That is why we are here. To help you. To defend you against P. The combined powers of the Lady League are the only way to protect you from this sorceress. Now, if you’ll just—”

“—Very well. I see that your arrogant, heaving bosoms will not desist. Frederick!” he said, summoning his cowering assistant from behind the desk. “Telephone!” Frederick brought Oswald a telephone in the likeness of a statuette depicting a woman in the act of inserting a pear into her bottom. With apparent indifference to this image, Oswald opened up the telephone and turned the rotary dial. A French voice answered.

“Oui. This is Mssr Simpson Oswald, Suite 405. Put me through to security. Security? Oui, Oswald here. What? Speak English. Yes, I’m afraid a throng of squatting harridans have stolen into my suite and wish to kidnap me. I am rather perturbed, naturally. They are quite persistent and flail about like octupi, insulting me and disturbing my evening cold-cream regimen. Will you please send—Allo? Allo?! I demand that you furnish me with sufficient personnel to evict these—”

“—Your kind words beguile my heart, queen”, interjected a strangely soft, purring voice, as if from a synthesiser. The telephone chord silently stirred to life and wrapped itself round the fashion critic’s neck, cutting off the rest of his sentence. “With such sweet sentiment, you warm it to the core, to the hard, brilliant deposit of lust which drives the engine behind this vinyl visage of mine. For this reason I elect you as vice-queen of my holy plastic army. Enjoy wearing my new hot pink, patent leather catsuit with purple-feather epaulets, Sergeant Sodomite. Today is the last day you wear an American-style suit!”

“Wha–? Gak! Help! It’s choking me!”, gurgled Oswald, tearing at the cord round his neck. Frederick flailed in panic, trying desperately to unwrap the cord, but the Lady League acted without hesitation and took over.

“Girls, waste no time!” cried Julie. The skin under her silver body-suit began to squirm; her subcutaneous weapons were preparing for the assault. “It’s the plastic demon trying to take control of objects in her environment. She must be nearby.”

“I hate to side with old dumpy bottoms here”, cried Rosalind, leering at Donna, “but the world is at stake.”  She leaped at the possessed telephone, grasping the receiver in one hand and the cord in the other. “Quick, Donna! Help me get this thing off this tired old queen’s neck!” She had more trouble than usual unwrapping the telephone cord from around Oswald’s neck given her superhuman strength. Obviously some other force was at work.

“Hey! Truck-lady!” said Donna, placing her hands on her hips. “Go grease up something with holes and pistons. If you think I’m going to help save ‘Oklahoma Male Weekly’ over there, with her queen-bee attitude, you’ve got another thing coming. Ass pirate,” she sneered at Oswald. He returned the look.

“Donna! Rosalind!” cried Julie. “We have no time for petty jealousy. For once, stop with your taunting and concentrate your powers! Now! I must rely on you two while I focus on disarming the device.” She stood erect, closing her eyes and pressing her chest outward. Donna half-heartedly followed her captain’s lead by unfolding her arms and dropping her buttocks down on top of the phone’s carriage, burying it within her cheeks. The signal sputtered.

“I’ll admit,” said Rosalind, trying to tear the cord from the queen’s neck, “Donna’s got a point. He’s a cunt. Even if we do convince him that we’re protecting him, what good will it do us? Donna’ll probably end up killing him with her bare hands anyway.” She began to wrap her hands around Oswald’s neck, her fingers intertwined with the cord.

“Girls, I’m surprised at you!” said Julie. “Especially you, Rosalind! We aren’t here to pass judgement on this man! He’s being strangled by a telephone cord, for goodness’ sake!”

“He seems to find no qualms in passing judgement himself”, said Rosalind, increasing her stranglehold. The poor man’s eyes bulged.

“And he’s such a bitch!” said Donna, gliding her fingernails over the poor queen like hovering reconnaissance aircraft.

“God damn it!” screamed Julie, the circuits of her suit suddenly lighting up in response to her mental state. “That’s no excuse! He may be a cold-blooded, ruthless lizard, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to die!”

“Help me, please!” gurgled Oswald. “I’m sorry I was such a supercilious cunt. Maybe I’m wrong about the use of colour and texture—pastels and crushed velveteen are not fashion faux pas! A smokey eye with a dark-red lip is not overdoing it! I give up! Just save me!” Rosalind looked upward snootily, and Donna bore into Oswald’s eyes with a disapproving glower.

“Girls, stop!” said Julie. “We’ll discuss this another time! Donna, stop sitting on the receiver. Use your psychokinetic power to fight the demon!”

“Oh, right. Yeah. Duh!” said Donna, raising her buttocks from the receiver and placing her fingers to her temples. “Sorry for spacing out, Julie. I can do this. I can undo the fiend’s work.” She stood still and concentrated her powers on the cord wrapped around Oswald’s neck. Rosalind assisted by tearing at the cord, and Lupa sang a whale-song which nobody could hear. The cord snapped. Oswald fell back and scurried against the wall, gasping for air. Frederick ran forward to embrace Oswald, who turned him away with a tired groan. Confused, he ran over and embraced Donna, who returned the gesture with a soft pat on the head. Rosalind looked on at Donna approvingly for once, and Lupa stamped up and down, flapping his fins, tears welling up in his big, blue eyes.

“Good”, said Julie, nodding, “but we need more juice to defeat this thing! I’ll deploy a short-distance electromagnetic pulse to short-circuit the apparatus.” She stretched out her arms, her hands curled into fists, and shot forth a beam of gamma radiation that fried the telephone receiver. Meanwhile, Rosalind and Donna were ripping apart the remains of the telephone cord. Finally it dropped to the ground.

“Bahahahahaha!” cackled the sinister voice through the mangled, disconnected receiver. “Your powers may have succeeded in this small trial, Lazy League, but you have yet to defeat my many minions! Soon you shall witness the rise of the demon, and you shall bow at her feet! I’m not going to kill you. Oh, no. I have something far better in mind for you—the beauty of my sweet, immortal caress! Yes, that is right. You shall become like me—plastic!”

The lights flickered and dimmed, as if from a power surge, and all looked at each other in silence.

Stay tuned as the ladies hunt down the inscrutable plastic demon in the next instalment of Julie Gentron and the Lady League!

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A Young Feminist Decries the “Pink Stuff”

28 12 2011

A very serendipitous gift was bestowed on me on Christmas Day: a video of a little girl railing against gender stereotypes inside a toy store. I unwrapped a present, a book called Same Difference: How Gender Myths Are Hurting Our Relationships, Our Children, and Our Jobs (given me by my wonderfully open and progressive mother), and showed everybody the book, announcing the title for all to hear and accepting family photographs of myself, of course, with the cherished tome in hand. Noting my interest in the topic of gender theory, my elder brother showed me the video, which featured a girl named Riley critiquing the use of colour-coded gender stereotypes in marketing. This girl must have an IQ of 140, or if she doesn’t, she will when she grows up. She is precocious:

I love her! She’s like Lisa Simpson, and Lisa Simpson is like me. Watch this clip of Lisa Simpson, when she was me in, like, 1985 when I was seven years old:

Riley is a real-life version of Lisa—and me! Just like me at her age, she doesn’t buy into the marketing bullshit, and she makes no effort to hide her disgust with the crass commercialization of sex roles. It’s like she’s saying, “this stupid pink shit is fucked up, and it makes me want to vomit!” But, of course, she is a five year-old girl, so she doesn’t say that. What struck me as amazing was her reasoning abilities. She was able to create this abstract symmetry between what girls like and what boys like: “Some girls like superheroes, some girls like princesses; some boys like superheroes, some boys like princesses”. This is pretty sophisticated thinking for a five-or-six year-old.

Most amazing of all, I think, was this little girl’s ability to cut like a laser through the smoke and mirrors of the marketing industry and exclaim that “the companies who make these try to trick the girls into buying the pink stuff instead of stuff that boys want”. So now little Riley has not only identified the unfairness of pressuring girls into buying princesses and pressuring boys into buying superheroes, but she has pinpointed the commercial mechanism which exploits these gender stereotypes to achieve a profit. I’m sorry, but that is a brilliant observation for a child so small.

It’s interesting to note the way in which the father relates to his daughter in this video. The father seems to insist that boys can have pink if they want, but the daughter seems to insist that, while this is technically so, girls are still pressured into wanting the pink princess crap while the boys are pressured into wanting the blue superhero crap. And, if we think about it, that’s true. Even if our children technically can buy cross-gender toys, they are very strongly admonished against doing so. There are social consequences to it, and little Riley is struggling in the midst of this gender fracas. At the same time, I commend Riley’s father for being a true father and taking the time to nurture his child by listening to her words, acknowledging her wisdom, and taking her to the toy store himself in the first place. Not many fathers would do even that much.

This reminds me of my childhood, which was raped away by the horrid spectre of a stepfather who hated women, black people, and gay people. Until 1986, when I turned 8, I was allowed to play with “girl stuff” as much as I wanted—both my parents were mild, good-natured, common-sensical people, if a bit religious and conservative—but once my mother divorced my father and married this odious troll from the American south, everything changed. She had to try to accommodate his stupid scruples, which included the immediate eviction of any gynaecoid play-thing. Suddenly, as boys, we weren’t allowed to play with anything that resembled women (or what women were thought to be). We were allowed to watch She-Ra: Princess of Power, but we were no longer allowed to play with the action figures themselves:

I thought that She-Ra was hot! And by hot I don’t mean sexually exploitable; I mean sexually confident. This woman was a sexual agent. She was in control, and for that reason she was admirable. But for some stupid reason, my stepfather hated the idea of his stepsons watching cartoons of women dodging lasers and throwing men over their shoulders. He hated the idea of boys liking “girl things”, and, on top of that, the idea that those “girl things” involved girls who wielded power. But every faggot loves that shit. It was all just too much of a mindfuck for his dessicated brain to handle. This is the type of gender-stupidity that I think little Riley is railing against in her father’s video.

Little Riley is an inspiration. She gives us a lesson. She is a tiny girl who helps us remember how both girls and boys can be hurt by rigid gender roles. Parents should not tell their daughters that they should like only princesses and pink stuff, and they should not tell their sons that they should like only superheroes and blue stuff. Because, even at an age as young as Riley’s, the stupidity and oppressiveness of these roles are apparent. And if you want to play the biological determinist card, I entreat you to read Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference, by Cordelia Fine (who exposes the very recent, very cultural origin of the pink/blue phenomenon in her book). Reading that might make you think twice about how you treat your children. It’s all about what actually works for us as people who have to adapt to the demands of a modern world. It’s always been about that. Nothing else.





Fast Company on Female Infanticide: “Don’t Kill Girls! They’ll Cook and Clean For You!”

27 11 2011

Many cultures around the world are suffering from an undersupply of women, since many people prefer baby boys to baby girls. In response, the business magazine Fast Company has launched an advertising campaign aimed at swaying consumers to combat the world’s skewed gender ratio. This is a noble cause, but the problem is that the magazine goes about correcting this problem in the worst way possible—by promoting damaging stereotypes about women. Basically, the campaign argues, we need to make more girls because girls are intrinsically nicer than boys and they’ll cook and clean for you!

I read about Fast Company’s campaign on Aubrey Cohen’s blog at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Initially I thought, “Oh, this is great. A business magazine is helping raise awareness about female infanticide, gender-selective abortion, and all of the other practices which are reducing the world’s female populace.” Because we shouldn’t be killing or preventing life based on sex, of course. By the time I had finished reading the article, though, I was thinking to myself, “Christ on a cock. You’ve got to be kidding me. They’re basically saying that we should be increasing the global female population because girls are intrinsically nicer than boys, and boys are fuck-tards.” Below is the blog article I read:

Ads Make the Case for Girls

Parents around the world, including most U.S. dads, still prefer sons. So the folks at Fast Company magazine decided to attack the issue with advertising.

In the age of ultrasound, it’s an issue with serious repercussions. Chinese parents give birth to 120 boys for every 100 girls, while their Indian counterparts have 109 boys for every 100 girls, compared with a natural balance of 105 to 100, Fast Company noted.

That consumer preference turns into disaster when repeated across a society. Unnatural [s]election does a frightening, thorough job of documenting the consequences for countries full of men: sex trafficking in Albania, mail-order brides in Vietnam, crime in “bachelor towns” in rural China. The future portends aging populations short of nurses and teachers

Ad campaigns have been enormously successful in promoting seatbelt use and stigmatizing drunk driving, the magazine noted. “That’s why, as a thought experiment, Fast Company asked some top advertising, marketing, branding, and digital agencies to make the case for baby girls in the language of the global consumer — a challenge they took very seriously.”

The ads use the requisite flashy graphics and clever imagery to note, among other things, that women tend to make better leaders, be more compassionate and live longer, while “boys are 76 percent more likely to set something you love on fire.”

I have exactly what I wanted: one of each. And, while my son has never set anything on fire, he does start bouncing uncontrollably by the end of the day if he doesn’t get a chance to run around.

Wow. Really??

We need more girls because they’re nicer than boys? Really?

When I read the last bit, I thought to myself, “Aw, how sweet. Cohen ends with a sentimental anecdote about how his daughter can stay still longer than his son.” Unfortunately for him, this doesn’t prove that girls in general can stay still longer than boys. In actuality, increased exercise is actually positively correlated with better learning outcomes for both boys and girls. Contrary to the single-sex education fad taking the world by storm like some early 1980s hairstyle, girls need to move around too in order to learn well. They’re not submissive little princesses for you to talk at.

But the whole article is chock-full of simplistic, sentimental assumptions about sex differences, including the Fast Company quotation implying women’s teaching and nursing capabilities, which Cohen affirms with his own anecdote about his well-behaved daughter and his unruly son, a little boy plagued with the curse of a male neuroendocrinological system. (Oh, and isn’t it just so cute! He can’t help himself!)  Like the writers at Fast Company, he takes it for granted that women are better equipped to be nurses and teachers, because they are more nurturing. But what’s the proof? He provides none. It’s just a sweet, sentimental blog entry purporting to espouse a common-sensical truth. Yet Cordelia Fine adroitly overturns the hypothesis that women are intrinsically more nurturing than men in the first section of her rigorously researched tome Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference. The science cited to prove this claim, she shows, is basically junk, and we need to stop cowtowing to our sloppy, self-serving sentiments.

When we look at the above, what we see is a form of paternalism: the author(s) seek to nurture an environment which “cherishes” women while placing them in traditional roles of servitude: the cook, the diaper-washer, the little angel in the house. For people like Cohen (and I don’t presume that his intentions stretch this far, although he reminds me of many whose intentions do), the global undersupply of females is bad not because women are being killed off, but because “nicer” people are being killed off, and nicer people are women. But we shouldn’t be combatting “female undersupply” because girls are “nicer” than boys; we should be combatting it because girls are being killed off simply for being girls, whatever they may be. If we’re short of females, it isn’t that we’re killing off “nice people”; it’s that we’re killing off people we view as inferior because they have vaginas.

The whole assumption that we’re killing off the “nice, female” population, and not just the “female” population is, as noted above, rooted in the idea that females are the “nice” ones. But maybe what we should be doing is two things: fighting against female infanticide, etc., on one hand, and training men to be more nurturing on the other. At some point, men will have to pick up the slack and assume responsibility for some of the traditionally feminine jobs, like nursing and teaching. We should be fighting against female-related deaths because it is murderous and gender-discriminatory, and we should be training males to be nurturing anyway. We should, in short, be fighting against the disproportionately low female population because it threatens females for being female, not because it threatens intrinsically “better” human beings.

That said, I implore you to read this blog article, which deals intimately with female infanticide in a way I cannot: http://viswanathanar.wordpress.com/ It is written in a local dialect, but most English-speakers should get the gist. It’s actually quite poignant once you’ve put the pieces together. In these places, women are merely striving for survival, let alone the rights we enjoy in Western cultures. We should keep things in perspective and place them in priority.

What do you think?