Feminist-in-chief

President Obama writes essay on feminism for women’s magazine

President Obama walks with his wife Michelle Obama (R) and two daughters Malia Obama (L) and Sasha Obama (2R) through Lafayette Park to St. John's Church in Washington, DC. (Photo by Shawn Thew-Pool/Getty Images)

The September issue of Glamour magazine will carry an essay, already published on the magazine’s website, written by President Obama on the issue of feminism. Obama, who has made it clear in the past that he’s a feminist, both explicitly and implicitly with his policy implementations, took the opportunity to talk about how being a dad has helped him recognize the need for gender equality as he’s watched his daughters grow up in the White House. Obama said prior to moving into the White House, his long commutes made it difficult for him to be the type of father and husband he aimed to be. That changed, he said, when almost eight years ago he began working in a home office. Obama candidly admitted that in retrospect he’s able to see how the demands of his previous professional schedule unfairly impacted Michelle Obama’s life and ability to raise a family.

“The reality was that when our girls were young, I was often away from home serving in the state legislature, while also juggling my teaching responsibilities as a law professor,” Obama writes in the essay. “I can look back now and see that, while I helped out, it was usually on my schedule and on my terms. The burden disproportionately and unfairly fell on Michelle.”

The president also touched on, in depth, gender stereotypes and their insidious effects. “As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave,” Obama writes. “We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Obama goes on to mention that the most important women in his life have always been strong women — from his single mother to his grandmother to his wife and daughters. He also singles out one congresswoman that he considers “one of my heroines.”

The piece has been quite well-received. Brenda Weber, a professor of gender studies at Indiana University told The New York Times she was “delighted” by the essay. “Those are all pretty radical statements in terms of a politician at that level of influence,” Weber added. And the editor of Glamour, Cindi Leive, said Obama’s words went beyond “beyond the kind of boilerplate ‘I believe in strong women’ that at this point anybody can mouth pretty effectively.”

Read the full essay at Glamour.

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