Barack Obama celebrated his 55th birthday by publishing a lengthy and deeply personal article in Glamour Magazine about feminism.
Obama is the first sitting president to publicly proclaim that he’s a feminist. This year, Michelle Obama hosted the first-ever United State of Women summit in June, and both Obamas have shown their strong support for Hillary Clinton, the first woman to win a major party’s nominee.
But his essay in Glamour focused less on the policy and more on the personal.
“While I’ll keep working on good policies — from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights — there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws,” he wrote. “In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all — and that’s changing ourselves.”
Obama touched on the factors that have shaped his own feminism: admiration for the careers of his mother and grandmother, respect for how Michelle balanced her own career with parenting.
But the biggest thing that’s influenced him, he said, is watching his daughters grow up.
“I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society,” he wrote. “You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.”
Fighting discrimination, he wrote, is about changing the culture — something Joe Biden has embraced as well. At the women’s summit in June, Biden encouraged men to stand up against misogyny and rape culture.
“We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticises our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear,” Obama continued. “We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.”
The article was widely praised on social media.
At the end of the essay, Obama called on readers to appreciate that the approaching election is a “historic moment,” regardless of political views. He noted the importance of young girls like his daughters having female role models in positions of power and influence.
“I want them to know that it’s never been just about the Benjamins; it’s about the Tubmans too,” he wrote. “That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.”
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