‘It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too’
via Flickr user (cc) The White House
The conflict between progress and regression has been a major theme of the 2016 presidential race. While Donald Trump wants to turn the clock back to a mythical time when America was once “great” and women were treated as second-class citizens, the Hillary Clinton campaign asks Americans to stand on the right side of history by electing the first female president. As we approach this historical turning point, President Barack Obama wrote a powerful essay in Glamour about his personal feminist evolution.
Although institutional change is imperative for society to embrace feminism, Obama believes that personal evolution is just as important. “And 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,” Obama wrote. “In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves.” Obama also opens up about how his previous beliefs about gender were rooted in insecurity. “As I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me,” Obama wrote. “They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.”
Obama’s relationship with his two daughters was a powerful turning point in his understanding of gender. “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,” he wrote. “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.”
With this essay, Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to ever declare himself a feminist. While his stance is empowering to women across the world, his journey is an invitation for men to embrace change and join the fight for gender equality. “It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too,“ Obama wrote. “And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.”