10 Powerful Quotes From Obama’s Feminist Essay

'This is what a feminist looks like'

barack obama sasha malia michelle

by Katie Rosseinsky |
Published on

Barack Obama is the first sitting president of the United States to unabashedly identify as a feminist.

Coinciding with his 55th birthday, the POTUS has written an incredibly powerful essay for Glamour magazine. Opening by declaring the present day to be 'an extraordinary time to be a woman,' Obama writes that '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,'speaking 'not just as President but also a feminist.'

However, Obama is clear on the fact that 'there's still a lot of work we need to do' - and, by implication, that this work isn't going to happen during a Donald Trump presidency. Going on to outline what he sees as a truly twnty-first century feminism, the President also touches upon damaging gender stereotypes, fatherhood, and what men can do to promote equality.

We've picked out nine of the most inspiring quotes from Obama's must-read piece.

On the challenges to equality

‘While I’ll keep working on good policies—from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights—there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws. In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves.’

barack obama sasha malia michelle
Barack Obama with daughters Sasha and Malia ©Getty Images

On marriage to a working mother

'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.'

On fatherhood and feminism

‘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.’

barack obama sasha malia michelle
Barack Obama with daughters Sasha and Malia ©Getty Images

On masculinity

‘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.’

On the sexual double standard

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

On women of colour

'We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color [...] Even after achieving success in her own right, [Michelle] still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too “angry".'

On his daughters

‘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. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.’

barack obama sasha malia michelle
Barack Obama with daughters Sasha and Malia ©Getty Images

On what men can do

'It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.'

On stereotypes

‘Forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody — men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise. These stereotypes limit our ability to simply be ourselves.’

On his definition of twenty-first century feminism

‘That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.’


Read President Obama's inspiring essay in full at www.glamour.com

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