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Girls & Women

Former First Lady Michelle Obama Wishes Women Could Fail Like Men

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Former first lady Michelle Obama may be a feminist icon, but she’s not perfect — and that’s perfectly fine with her.

"I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do and be OK," Obama said at the United State of Women Summit in Los Angeles, California, on Saturday. "Because let me tell you, watching men fail up — it is frustrating. It's frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards."

Obama, who was the keynote at Saturday’s event, was interviewed by actress Tracee Ellis Ross about her thoughts on activism and feminism, and credited her parents for giving her the space and encouragement she needed to express herself from a young age.

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“Kids know when they are being invested in, when people believe in them, when people care about them,” she said. “I knew at a very young age that I was smart and that I made sense — I knew that — and I know there are a lot of kids out there that are waking up every day going ‘it’s not me… that’s crazy’ and that’s what you want to tell kids: to trust that instinct.”

But Obama says it will take more than just the support of our parents to change the world and for girls to dream limitlessly. For women and girls around the world to feel empowered to realize their full potential, both men and women need to make changes, the former first lady said.

“I'm concerned about us, as women, and what we think about ourselves and about each other," she said. “If we as women are still suspicious of one another, if we still have this crazy, crazy bar for each other that we don't have for men — if we're not comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president — compared to what? Then we have to have those conversations with ourselves, as women,” she added.

Read more: A Record Number of US Women Are Running for Governor This Year

While Obama acknowledges that women have come a long way since she was a child, we’re not quite there yet.

“If we want our daughters to dream bigger than we did, then we have more work to do,” she said.

Though many more women have a seat at the table than ever before, it’s time to take risks and speak up so the next generation of girls don’t have to fight so hard to get to the table, and, instead, can focus on how to make change at the table.

But the onus isn’t just on women to speak up. 

“Men have an important role to play [too]. You can’t whisper these magical thoughts in your daughter’s ear about who she can be and what she can do and then leave and go into a workplace that you either run or manage,” she said. “Because the workplace you work in — the times you turn your head, you look the other way, the times you’re sitting at a table where there are no people of color, no women...that is the workplace that’s going to be waiting for your little girl,” she explained.

Read more: Africa’s First Female President Won a $5 Million Prize and She’ll Use It To Empower Women

Still, the mother of two is optimistic.

“I find hope in all of these beautiful young people,” she told the audience. “Because that’s what this is all for. You know? We all have young people in our lives and they all come onto this planet, onto this Earth with all this possibility.”

Global Citizen campaigns in support of gender equality and women’s rights. You can take action here to call on lawmakers to #LeveltheLaw and help empower girls and women around the world.