“Yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”
It’s a move that no one saw coming, but one that will certainly be a crucial moment for this year’s historic United States presidential election. The President of the United States, Barack Obama has penned a poignant 1500-word feminist essay for Glamour magazine’s September issue, which has also been released online on his 55th birthday.
This is big deal, girls. Huge.
He begins by explaining how the most important people in his life have always been females – his single mother and grandmother who raised him, and his incredible wife and two daughters who he lives with – and goes on to acknowledge that the greatest perk of being president is the 45 second commute to see his family. That is “the time it takes to walk from my living room to the Oval Office.”
“As a result,” he continues “I’ve been able to spend a lot more time watching my daughters grow up into smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women.”
While that benefit will soon come to a head seeing as his daughters are preparing to ‘leave the nest’, he stands firm that it is an “extraordinary time to be a woman” and is therefore incredibly optimistic about their future freedom.
“The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.”
The last thing he wants to do is downplay how far the world has come for women as “that would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice.” Clearly he has nothing but praise and gratitude, but at the same time he admits the world has a long way to go before the prospects for women and girls are equal to men.
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.
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.
We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.
“That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free,” he signs off.
Glamour’s editor Cindi Leive spoke on CBS This Morning: “It did strike me as this very modern moment, something that we wouldn’t have heard probably from any other president, but honestly we would not have heard before this year,” she said. “I do think the embrace of the term feminism by men as well as women has really been on the rise.”
Obama first identified as a feminist when he declared in June at the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women: “This is what a feminist looks like.”