On Thursday, President Obama published an essay on feminism in Glamour Magazine. The essay will appear in print in the magazine’s September issue.
The essay outlines past successes in the long fight for gender equality, along with the pressures placed on men and women in the modern day.
Specifically, President Obama recounts the effect of watching his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, grow up over the past seven and a half years. Acknowledging that the present day is “an extraordinary time to be a woman,” he nonetheless addresses the challenges societal gender roles present:
As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave. One of my heroines is Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American to run for a major party’s presidential nomination. She once said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.’ ” We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.
President Obama has described himself as a feminist in the past, and he embraces the title once again in this essay. He discusses his own struggles growing up with toxic messages of masculinity and the highlights the burden faced by his wife, Michelle:
I’ve seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family. Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would question my choices. … I can look back now and see that, while I helped out, it was usually on my schedule and on my terms. The burden disproportionately and unfairly fell on Michelle.
And so, President Obama urges a call to action. The fight against double standards and outdated attitudes must be fought by everyone – “It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too.”
So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.
We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.
Compare to Donald and Eric Trump’s recent statements on sexual harassment in the workplace.
Addressing Hillary Clinton’s historic nomination as the first female major political party presidential nominee, President Obama compels the American people to push forward on the “long journey toward equality.”
He ends on a note of optimism and unity:
That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.