To celebrate his 55th birthday, President Obama deciding to tell the world why he’s a feminist — and why feminism is equally important for men and women.
“It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism, too,” Obama wrote in an essay on Glamour.com. And he said it’s important that his daughters have a feminist dad, “because now that’s what they expect of all men.”
In the essay, the president declared himself to be a feminist and said the world his daughters are growing up in (and us, too) is a world of opportunity. He reflects on the women in his life — his daughters, wife, mother, and grandmother, as well as public figures — and how they have shaped him into the man, and feminist, he is today.
He talks about the challenges women face due to gender stereotypes in society. He also talks about intersectional issues, such as Michelle worrying about being seen as aggressive as a black woman; how as parents, they’ve taught their daughters to speak up against double-standards; how America is about “Tubmans too” — not just Benjamins.
Most importantly, Obama talks about how gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation, men included.
“But 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. 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.
And those same stereotypes affected my own consciousness as a young man. Growing up without a dad, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.”
Barack: Oh hey I'm turning 55, why don't I write an essay on the development of my feminism? SOUNDS GREAT https://t.co/80ZIbIuI1P— Anne Helen Petersen (@annehelen) August 4, 2016
His essay is an encouragement for men and women to break through these limitations set by society. We need to change the attitude around sexual harassment toward women and men feeling threatened by successful women; we need to change the attitude that congratulates men for changing diapers and calling women bosses bitchy; we need to change the particularly negative culture surrounding people, especially women, of color.
The word “feminism” is surrounded by stigmas and stereotypes that are anti-male, but this is not the true definition of feminism. Obama wrote that feminism gives us the tools to understand how bias and gender stereotypes affect women, but it also uses these tools to identify how these biases affect everyone. Feminism won’t work unless people of all genders are working for it.
“That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free,” he wrote.
We are so lucky this man is our president https://t.co/RCmhw2rBDX— Dana Schwartz (@DanaSchwartzzz) August 4, 2016
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