I’m Tired of Gender Inequality and Sexism in the Photography Industry. Are You?

I’m Tired of Gender Inequality and Sexism in the Photography Industry. Are You?

I think that it’s often difficult for people to understand or see the real struggles that female and nonbinary creatives face in the photography industry. If you’ve been keeping up with current news, Canon has faced some criticism recently. They aren't the first and won't be the last to make a huge diversity misstep.

On July 14th, Canon announced that they would be relaunching their Crusader of Light program in the Philippines. Once all of their brand ambassadors for the program were announced, many readers were shocked. Not a single member of the 11 Crusader of Light team is female, non-binary, or LGBTQ+. This is not the first time that this has happened with a big name brand, and if you look across most of their ambassador lists, you will find that they are mostly male.

According to an article on The Phoblographer, here are the stats:

Number of Female Canon Ambassadors

•    Canon Philippines: 0/11 female ambassadors

•    Canon Hong Kong: 1/14 female ambassadors

•    Canon India: 1/10 female ambassadors

•    Canon Mexico: 1/6 female ambassadors

•    Canon Malaysia: 2/10 female ambassadors

•    Canon EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa): 34/113 female ambassadors

•    Canon Canada: 9/29 female ambassadors

•    Canon USA: 12/38 female ambassadors

This is a real problem, and it is not just Canon; it is industry-wide and deep-rooted. In 2017, Nikon did the same thing when announcing the D850. They launched a campaign and made this statement: “Meet 32 creative individuals from Asia, Middle East, and Africa, and join them as they embark on an experience with the latest FX-format D850 in their respective genres of wedding, nature, commercial, and sports. With their expertise in photography and videography, the D850’s technology, and Nikon’s craftsmanship, this is one DSLR ready to set a new world of limitless creative imaging possibilities.”

Not a single photographer out of the entire 32 member ambassador team was female.

Olympus UK did the same thing in 2016 when they announced their Visionaries and ambassadors. Out of 13 photographers selected, only one was female.

DIY Photography made a whole article on this topic in 2016, listing all of the stats for the big brands' ambassador programs, and apparently, not much has changed.

As a female photographer, I can tell you as a matter of fact that the issue is not a lack of female photographers who are qualified and capable. Instead, it is pushback and a real choice made by organizations and companies in who they hire and promote.

In my life, I have had multiple occasions where I was not given opportunities that I felt were based on my gender or age. Here are a few examples.

There is a local photography club that I have been a member of on and off for many years. A client of mine told me that he once asked their president why, as a local photographer who has an arts degree, traveled and worked on large campaigns, and won international awards, I was never asked to speak for them. I was told that the response was “why? She has nothing to offer. What would she even have to teach?” My website then and still to this day lists my accomplishments, magazine features, articles, gallery features, and more, including my favorite, when I won the National Geographic Travel Chase Adventure Competition. The prize for that was a luxury vacation with National Geographic to any of their destinations. I chose to go to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks with them. I still treasure my National Geographic badge and the gear that they gave me.

Well, in October 2020 the club reached out to me to speak for them, but said that speakers are not financially compensated. This was odd to me, as I know many photographers who have spoken for them and been paid. I reached out to a male photographer friend who had spoken for them and asked him if he was compensated for his lecture. He told me that they did pay him without issue. I went back to the club with this information and another board member contacted me to discuss it. I was told that they wanted me to do a Zoom presentation but “unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to pay you.” I politely declined. She apologized for any miscommunication and confusion. I just checked their website, and on the page listing the entire 2020-2021 speaker lineup, only two of them are females.

In October 2017, a large camera brand, who we will call Brand A, approached me to become an ambassador and instructor for them. I was so excited to have this opportunity to work with a well-known brand and felt like I was finally having a huge career breakthrough. In emails and then phone calls, we discussed the details of joining the program and made plans for me to start with a podcast and several photo workshops. They invited me to meet with Brand A team members at a large photography convention.

I met with the rep at the convention and was introduced to several other company reps where we discussed my upcoming work with them. It was then that I was invited to go to their convention afterparty, which was held at their main stage once doors, closed to the general public. This party was open to any member of the Brand A professional service program. This is one of those programs where anyone who owns their gear and is a professional can pay a yearly fee to join and get specialized gear service, loaner gear, discounts, and support. They had big banners advertising the member’s afterparty and prizes that would be given away at it, including a recently announced camera kit.

It ended up being a pretty big event and very crowded. I was super nervous. I didn’t personally know many of the people there. In the corner, by the stage, I saw a familiar face. It was a well-known photographer that I had met a few years prior. As a member of the Brand A service program, I had borrowed a camera from the local sales rep. After my project was completed, I let the rep know, and he asked me to return it at a video shoot that they were having. It was there that I met this photographer, had a brief friendly chit chat, and then left. So now, years later, at the party, I approached him, relieved to see someone that I kind of knew in a sea of complete strangers.

I was surprised to be met with immediate disdain. When I approached, I said hello and got looked at funnily right away. I thought that he didn’t recognize me. Fair enough, we had only spoken for a few minutes one time before. I reminded him of my name and that I had met him a summer or two ago at the video shoot. He said that I was wrong on the year, that it was three years ago, which is more than several, which means two. Okay.

He asked me why I was there and how I deserved to be there. I referenced being invited by the manager of their instruction program because they were hiring me. He didn’t believe me. He wanted to know my credentials. It felt like an interview where I had to prove myself. I always feel like a jerk if I say things that I have won or done. I am not sure how to bring up accomplishments without coming across as boasting, so I usually just don’t. However, there are times like in this article or at that moment it is relevant, such as when I am directly asked. So, I listed some recent competitions that I had won. I also referenced winning another photo competition by another company that he also works with so maybe it would click for him. I also reminded him that the party was open to any member of the pro service program. I did not understand why this mattered to him or why I was being interrogated.

I was straight up told, loudly: “you don’t belong here.” I was so embarrassed. People were staring. He told me that he was going to text the other company to try to get proof that I wasn’t “lying about winning” and pulled out his phone to do so. I literally went to another country with this brand as the prize. I still have all the emails and photos. I was so shocked that in minutes, this man was trying to tear into me just for being invited to a brand afterparty. I didn’t understand his angle. Why be so nasty to me? He said that the company didn’t text back right away to confirm my story. I said okay and that I wasn’t lying and didn’t understand what his problem was. I walked away into the crowd, feeling so small.

I should have stood up for myself more, but I just avoided him for the rest of the party. I didn’t know this person well, and he is a long-time ambassador of Brand A. I saw no reason for him to react this way to me saying hi to him at an event. I went from being so nervous and excited meeting with the brand and being invited to the party to being completely crushed.

Not long after the convention, I got an email that the brand “was a little behind” and they wanted to reschedule our plans. I was informed that they were having a different division schedule me to speak in California instead. I was told to wait to hear from the Ocean County division. I never received contact from that division and reached out to follow up with no response. I still have all of the emails. They just ghosted me.

In December 2020, I decided to be bold. After years of hearing nothing from Brand A, I reached out to the manager that I had been working with. I asked him directly for any insight into why things didn’t work out. I wasn’t sure that I would get a response or what it would be, but it was something that haunted me. In March 2021, he emailed me back. He was very frank and open that it boiled down to the company getting wrapped up in the mirrorless announcements, “so we kept booking people we already had in the system.” He apologized to me and explained that over the years since that happened to me, the brand had downsized its educational division until it was completely dissolved.

So, why does this matter? If you reference the statistics that I listed for the big brands, you will see that existing talent for their programs is very heavily male-dominated. So, if the choice is to keep and recycle the same people over and over, it is obvious who that leaves out.

There are also many instances when in polite company, someone asks what I do, I reply photographer. They assume instantly that I photograph weddings, and I explain no, I'm a nature photographer. They ask to see my work. They look at it and are skeptical — flat out do not believe me. I get the same comments from random strangers online: "you took all of these photos? These are really yours?” They are shocked, but I have grace towards them and gently explain that it is all my work. More often than not, I am asked to prove it, so I send them a video or a photo of me in the field. Usually, they don’t respond or block me after receiving a video showing me photographing. People don’t like when you prove them wrong.

Why do non-male genders always have to prove ourselves? Why do people not believe that females can be photographers? I have learned from this to say: “I am a nature photographer. All of the work on my site and in my portfolio has been taken by me in my travels over the years. In reality, it isn’t as luxurious as it sounds. When you see a photo of an animal in the snow, I am out there freezing, but I love what I do.”

One time, I was at a gallery opening where some of my pieces were displayed among other local artists. A woman recognized me and approached me. I knew of her as a local college art teacher. She said to me: “Don’t you think it is interesting how if you are attractive but bad, you can just get into any gallery?” I said: “What? Do you mean me?” She laughed in my face. I said: “Well whoever you mean, this was a blindly judged jury to get in here.” I let her know that this was my first time in that gallery, that multiple artists were represented on the walls, and that I had never met them in person before being selected. She just laughed again and left.

Apparently, even when you work hard and earn things, even some of your own gender just assumes it has to do with anything but your own skill. It is not the first time that a stranger has made a nasty comment when they see that I earned something — “oh it’s because she is female.” My Instagram has 273 posts, 5 of them show me, usually in the far distance. I am not advertising my body or self-image to get ahead. I am actually self-conscious and usually hate photos of myself. It is something that I am working on and has nothing to do with gender, yet people find it hard to believe that a non-male can be “good” at photography, so they just make a sexist comment.

I am speaking on my own experiences, but I have heard similar stories from other female or nonbinary photographer friends. I won't speak for them, as their stories are not mine to tell, but I will address the facts and reality of a deep-rooted issue in our industry.

When I enter photo contests or gallery competitions, most of the time, there is an impartial jury. They are shown the artwork and know nothing of who created it. They select and award their favorite based on the judging criteria and merit, and that is that. Wouldn't it be great if the ambassador programs, directors of photography, outlets, news agencies, etc. had blind hiring based solely on your portfolio?

Overall, it is difficult for women to be taken seriously and hired. What strikes me as odd is that according to CareerExplorer.com, in the United States “65% of photographers are female and 35% are male.” There is a huge disconnect here.

It is not just big brands holding onto old boys' club values making misogynistic choices time and time again, it is magazines and news outlets who hire for covers and photo stories. An entire website, Women Photograph, exists to hold accountable the companies who hire photographers and where they are choosing to give their money. There are spreadsheets of data month by month and year by year of facts showing the dismal numbers. Women Photograph looked into EOY tallies: “At the end of every year, news outlets compile galleries of their favorite images from that year.” In 2019, only 21.31% of the photographs were taken by women. Why does this keep happening every single year?

In 2018 Photoshelter looked at gender equality and compared magazine covers that year to see the percent taken by women:

•    National Geographic: 0/12 (0%)

•    Sports Illustrated: 0/12 (0%)

•    TIME: 2/12 (16%)

•    Cosmopolitan: 1/12 (8%)

•    Vogue: 5/12 (41%)

•    Condé Nast Traveler: 3.5/12 (29%)

•    Entertainment Weekly: 0/12 (0%)

•    AARP: 0/12 (0%)

The first comment to that thread reads “Don’t care.” 

Look, I get it. A lot of people just do not care. This does not affect them directly, or the system as it stands works in their favor. Well, this is not for you then, this is for everyone else who does care and wants to see real change.

The industry as a whole is not giving non-male creators a fair chance.

I am just one person. I am not a well-known photographer or big name. I can only speak on my personal experiences and the statistics and ask for change. I challenge the big brands to catch up on representation, pay rates, and opportunities for nonbinary, females, POC, varied age groups, and all people. I am no one to ask, but I do so anyway. Those who refuse are making a choice for all to see. Rather than after the fact apologies when you get caught making clearly misogynistic choices, choose the COVID times to revamp your programs and hiring practices. It is 2021, and this is a time of change.

If you are reading this and care, please raise your own voice so that the outlets, brands, and companies know that you want this change. As a female creator, the 65% want to be heard. If you are a member of an underrepresented group, let them know you exist.

If you are a non-male professional photographer, have a resume of work, and want to be hired by any of the big companies, brands, or outlets, post your portfolio in the comments below. Let’s show them that there are candidates ready and waiting. There are so many talented, awesome people who deserve a chance. Don't let them have any more excuses.

kate g's picture

Kate is an award winning travel and nature photographer, educator and writer. She was classically trained on black and white photography in the dark room while she earned her BFA in Fine Art and Design. When she is not working on assignment, Kate teaches photography workshops to share her love and knowledge of wild life and wild places.

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There is also a good ol' boy network in a lot of businesses.
Things are changing though, a long time ago my friend's dad wrote an unpublished book about his life in the advertising biz. It was to be called "If My Boss Calls, Get His Name" but he updated it to "If My Boss Calls Get Her Name"

I wonder if you looked at the overall numbers if it would equal out. Say there are 100 photographers 75% are men, and 25% are women. Would that equate to women making up 25% of the overall "top" photographers in the given situations?Just curious. Could be way off. I don't want to be a part of this argument.

No, it doesn't equal out in terms of sheer number of men and women, but I do think that some of the distribution can be attributed to the distribution of men and women across different genres of photography and how those genres of photography are viewed.

If you're talking about recognition or awards, a lot of people will tend to praise genres like conflict photography that will have more male participation than female. While there are some practical reasons for the differences in gender participation among different types of photography (for instance, in a lot of parts of the world, getting access is more difficult as a female than a male so male photojournalists may have an easier time succeeding in getting unique shots) this has the knock-on effect of male photographers getting those accolades and then having those accolades open doors to better work or higher status. Then when you consider how important networking is in an industry like this and the fact that guys are generally more likely to hang out and grab beers with other guys, it's not really a stretch to see how things like recommendations and favors from people in influential positions start to go more to other men.

The truth is that there are a massive number of female photographers, but for this reason or that, you're a lot less likely to hear about them as notable figures.

lmao I knew when I saw the title this comment section was going to be a spicy chicken sandwich.

Thats an insult to spicy chicken sandwiches.

You're right! lol my bad. Spicy chicken sandwiches are delicious at the very least!

"the way that you sitting on a giant island on the edge of the earth"
You mean a CONTINENT? You know that you're on one too, right? Also, did someone not learn in school that the Earth is round?

"you never had at least one serious war with foregn country"
I feel like we fought against at least several global powers starting with this whole thing in British back in the 1700's and also these two really big wars in Europe...

"calling everybody else stupid"
There's absolutely no shortage of people outside of the USA calling American stupid so I feel like that's kind of even.

"Someday war and chaos would come to your lands as it always comes to any land so we will see what song you would sing then."
April 12, 1861 – April 9, 1865: Been there, done that. 0/10 Would not recommend repeating.

Congratulations. Your people have been victimized a lot by war and violence over the course of history. I'm happy that you think that fact is somehow relevant to anything at all being brought up here. Did you personally fight in those hundreds of wars, or are you just using the deaths of literally millions of your ancestors and fellow countrymen for your own clout while you live comfortably wherever you are?

As for me, I'm not white nor do I live in a suburb. Like Russia, the USA is a big country and different towns and cities can be very different from each other so assuming that we're all a bunch of people sitting in some white suburb is a pretty ignorant point of view, which is about in line with the value of the rest of your personal contribution to this thread.

Also, I don't even know where any of this is coming from. Who's telling you how to live here? Maybe you should take your views to Reddit or something rather than a photography website because your complaints literally make zero sense in the context of the article or even the post that you were replying to.

--- "We russians are survived hunderds of wars. Our country was burned to ground many times."

In other words, you were invaded and got your asses kicked on your own land? Not just once, but, multiple times?

What does the number of times your country has lost wars have to do with anything? Lol.

Ok, nikita.

While I disagree with Nikita on much of his posts, I do agree that countries like Russia and China have a daily chuckle at Western Civilization and the contortions we submit ourselves to in the name of Political Correctness and all it has spawned. As difficult as the Queen's English is to grasp, it is becoming increasingly difficult to navigate with certain pronouns becoming verbotten in so many circles.

Yo dude I never called any one stupid. You're just making stuff up. Maybe step down off that high horse for a bit? You might see the world is not what you assume it is. lol and thanks I find my self quite amusing as well.

Thank you for having the courage to write this, Kate. As is obvious by the comments, that courage was definitely necessary. The stats from the industry, across genres, are really discouraging and frustrating. In the advertising world, less than 15% of images are taken by women. It is hard for me to understand how these stats can be ignored or seen as something acceptable.

womenswork.photography is a great project that also has a list of resources on their website. They are doing some cool things!

The stats can be ignored because they are never listed along side the statistics for the number of women photographers in the industry. If for arguments sake women make up 10% of all commercial photographers and 15% of images are taken by women then women are over represented.

The statistics can be ignored, but your fictitious assumptions cannot? If you had actually read the article, you would realise how hilarious your answer is.

"according to CareerExplorer.com, in the United States “65% of photographers are female and 35% are male.”

Literally all you had to do was read the article... Now you can certainly question the validity of the source, but that's not what you're doing, is it?

"PP"? I think the Russian Bot is lost. PetaPixel's not here, man.


"Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information. It is also the product of these activities."

My article is about a factual instance that occurred very recently where a camera company selected only males to be their ambassadors. This made headlines around the world, you can Google search it to see that.

Search Results: About 8,570,000 results (0.39 seconds)

This is not the first time and is a widespread issue, so I went through researching and presented data and sources where many companies, magazines, newspapers, etc in many countries also did the same: favored men for sought after photography positions. By presenting the facts along with my own experiences I am highlighting the issue in the photography industry. I am tired of reading the same headlines every few months or years where another company chooses only men time and time again.

If women can be men and men can be women because they feel it inside, (the transgender movement) this argument becomes invalid. End of story, problem solved. Now, can we just go back to taking pictures and trying to improve our work?

Just a click bait article or identity politics?.... not a fan of "quotas" which this article mostly is about. I really don't care who the ambassadors are for any Camera company and I'm completely disinterested in what their gender might be. If you're going to focus on fashion magazines why aren't you in an uproar in how the vast majority of models are female and not male? Why are males being suppressed? Stupid article! Actually, I wouldn't call this an article, it's more of a poor poor me vent.... life isn't fair, get over it. Either your work is good enough and people will want to hire you or it isn't. If you're not getting hired maybe it's your work or maybe it's how you approach it.

Don't you realise that such an answer confirms exactly the content of the article?

What a stupid moron you are! I am European. Did you ever visit a higher school or did you sleep in history classes? Why don't you join national Russian boards and spare us your naiv comments here. Vote for Putin and f*ck off!

And so it comes out, THE REST OF THE WORLD™ in your mind really just means Eastern Europe. Got it...

Yes, men are the only people who are capable of carrying a weapon...


Ok, I don't know if you know this, but they type of photography where you are like in Jumanji and carrying a bunch of heavy gear and having to protect yourself from wild dogs and enemy soldiers is actually a tiny percentage of the overall industry. I'm sorry that you have such a rough view on the world. It seems your village has not been treated kindly by neighboring hordes. I hope one day, you'll gain a more positive outlook on the world.

Bro, I literally work here 😂

I am sorry that where you live is so horrible that there are people trying to rob you when you are on photography jobs. You do know that living in a place where there are robbers is a bad thing, right? And living in a place that has many wars is a bad thing too, right?

I just want to make sure that you don't somehow get the twisted idea that wars and crime are things to be proud of.

Peace and freedom and prosperity are good. Wars and crime are bad. This should be obvious to all, but after reading some of your previous comments I think that maybe you have gotten things turned around in your thinking.

I never even gave this thought, but the majority of the photographers I've seen in public or working are male. Among my peers many women enjoy taking photos, but they don't buy cameras or become photographers.

Is Minnesota still that backward?

When I lived in Detroit the vast majority of commercial/advert/editorial photographers were white guys.
When I moved to LA and worked in an equipment rental place I was surprised at the diversity, the clientele and the assistants were maybe 25-30% women and or POC.
Most likely due to SoCal being way more diverse in population and the work created. Detroit was about 75% automotive related and the car studios were a pretty insulsar group who all knew each other and had worked together at some time.
Out of 150 ish photographers/assistants there were maybe 6 or 8 women
This was in the late 90s so things have probably changed due to 90% of the car studios going out of business.

Fortunately, Mike, I think the world is changing. That sort of inequality is being addressed worldwide. Unfortunately though, as this article points out, and as is illustrated by the attitudes shown in several of the comments, sexism and the resulting inequality is a real thing that still needs addressing.

Your argument seems to be women are physically weaker, therefore they are incapable of undertaking a task/profession that is primarily skills based, and has little or nothing to do with physical strength.

Now, you cite the example of a small subset, in the form of conflict photographers; this is a fallacy of composition, and in no way establishes your proposition. One would in any case expect conflict photography to be dominated by men.

Then we have some odd reference to the current Huntingtonian civilisational divide; it is entirely unclear what you are trying to assert with that one.

In any case, at no point have you rebutted the thesis of the author, specifically that the industry does not provide equality of opportunity, nor have you advanced a cogent argument.

Kate, I'd say: q.e.d. There is a younger woman who speaks out and all those men let down their pants and show their small d*cks.
You are brave. Be sure, that there are many men, who are not like these trolls here. These are weak and coward men, fearing women. The louder they shout, the lesser they have to say.

This is fucking stupid...choice...this all comes to choice...as they say about social media companies.

"They are a private company and can have or get rid of anyone at any time for any thing off their platform" so It would seem to me "Photography companies are private companies and they can have whom ever they wish to represent them...if they don't want women, men, withe, black, straight gay, etc,. it is their company and they can do what ever they want...they are private companies..."

If you want full EQUALITY in EVERYTHING, there are going to be a-lot of people getting fucked because everyone has to be the same. But first thing we should try the experiment is University...50% Men and 50% women...50% White 50% POC, 50% able bodied 50% disabled...and so on...

So who is going to give up their seat at work for the Half Middle Eastern/Asian Trans, Bi-sexual, Quadriplegic, Bipolar person in a wheelchair?

No se trata de que haya las mismas cantidades de cada orientación sexual, género, raza, condición física, se trata de que eso no sea relevante que estén los adecuados y que no importe todo eso.
Pero desgraciadamente no todos tienen ni las mismas oportunidades ni las mismas condiciones.
Muchas veces el que haya solo un estereotipo refleja esas carencias y más cuando la cantidad total es abultada.

No hace falta insultarse, ni faltarse al respeto, esa actitud degrada un artículo que alguien a puesto con sumo interés.
Puede gustar o no gustar, se puede opinar o no, pero llegar a esa actitud es vergonzoso.

Muy buen artículo para mi gusto y por lo que veo con mucho éxito y polémica, espero que ayude a entender.

Gracias por publicarlo


Mi smartphone traduce todo directamente, hoy en día hay muchos medios para traducir un idioma y tan fácil como un corta y pega.
Creo que poder comunicarse es lo importante.
Disculpa por no hablar en inglés, no vi ninguna información de que esto era exclusivamente para anglófonos.
Aprendí inglés de joven pero la falta de costumbre de uso me hace muy difícil usarlo, sin embargo es muy sencillo hoy en día traducirlo.
No me imaginaba que iba a ser discriminado por eso
Quizá otra gente si se moleste en traducir y mis comentarios no sean en vano.
Tú entiendes lo que digo?

My smartphone translates everything directly, nowadays there are many means to translate a language and it is as easy as a cut and paste. I think being able to communicate is the important thing. Sorry for not speaking English, I didn't see any information that this was exclusively for English speakers. I learned English when I was young but the lack of custom makes it very difficult for me to use it, however it is very easy today to translate it. I did not imagine that I would be discriminated against for that Maybe other people if they bother to translate and my comments are not in vain. You understand what I say?




No voy a entrar en discusiones con alguien como usted, no tiene ningún sentido
Es mi último comentario.
Simplemente daré de baja mi cuenta.
Creo que no hay ninguna así en español.


Please stay! Just use a translator and paste the English text. It indeed works very well nowadays.


Here's a thought...If women want to be camera company ambassadors or be in more publications or commercial photographers...they can always start their own...

Camera companies...
Advertising Agencies...
Fashion Houses....

If women believe they are just as talent, have the same work ethic. and deserve a chance at the same job...do what men have to do....earn it...prove you are the best at what you do!

Just look at Nikon Canada..their Ambassadors suck...truly suck...and they got there by...wait for it..being the right gender or colour...I have never heard of any of them but...here they are...they have done nothing of significance in the photo world...

Having the government mandate or publicly shame companies into hiring you because of gender / sexual preference / race ..etc just shows minipulliative and dishonest person..

So before you start running around telling people that they have to accept you because of _______.....do the work and clean your room before you start demanding anything from the world.

Men Become (are made)...Women Are (given)

I just made the effort to check out the Nikon Canada ambassadors; their work is excellent in each case, and I would suggest it is worth taking the time.

There are so many bitter people on here.

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