Barack Obama on feminism: 'Men must fight sexism'

by Virginia Benson Agosto 7, 2016, 0:55

"Twenty-first-century feminism", he said "is about: the idea that when everybody is equal we are all more free".

"The progress we've made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years", he adds, "has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers".

"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", he wrote.

'We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs'.

Listing strides made by women, from gaining the vote to cracking open previously off-bounds careers, Obama said "the most important change may be the toughest of all - and that's changing ourselves". And he points out the importance of role models who "climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose", citing Hillary Clinton's historic presidential nomination as a powerful moment in American history.

".one thing that makes me optimistic for them [daughters, Sasha and Malia] is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman".

Trudeau, who is raising a daughter and sons, shared Obama's view that it's as important to train men to focus on women's rights and opportunities as it is to train women to be leaders. But when he got older, he realized all that "tough guy" or "cool guy" talk was just "a manifestation of my youth and insecurity". "And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships". You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. Love transforms us and helps us arrive at the place where we listen. Towards the end of the essay, he stresses that society must continue pushing for change.

And, perhaps most importantly of all, Obama specifically calls on other men to adopt feminism as their cause. "Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race - or when they notice that happening to someone else", Obama writes. Expressing the bittersweetness of watching his two daughters "prepare to leave the nest", he's hopeful about their future given the gains in gender equality in the past century.

But Obama was still frank about the numerous obstacles women still face - including equal pay for equal work and attacks on reproductive rights - and how pervasive gender stereotypes affect everyone regardless of gender, gender identity or sexual orientation.

What's completely refreshing about Obama's Glamour essay is his eventual focus on the real problem underlying gender inequality: men.

And what male essay on feminism would be complete without a discourse on masculinity and the challenges of being a man?


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