President Obama wrote an essay on feminism and it’s glorious…for women
We begin with a photo of President Obama in 1980 appealing to us, the reader. And it only gets better from there.
He’s not saying anything that’s revolutionary or anything we haven’t heard. He’s saying exactly what should be said. He’s saying what should be the norm to everyone. And he’s saying it while he’s President. And on his 55th birthday, no less.
Throughout his presidency, President Obama has given us countless occasions to remind us of our own dads. Essentially any time he appears with his daughters, it’s a win for all fathers and daughters. Just take a look at each of his Turkey Pardoning speeches at Thanksgiving. Usually he’s flanked by his daughters, Sasha and Malia. And they are forced to stand there and laugh along, often groan along, to seven minutes of dad jokes.
In his essay, the President gives credit where credit’s due: to Michelle for bearing the bulk of the burden of raising a family and having a career. He acknowledges that Michelle’s choices to be a working mother is scrutinized in a way that he never was since he too was a working dad. He writes, “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.”
He takes us back briefly to his own childhood growing up without a father and thus it was more difficult to parse through images of masculinity he was confronted with daily. In this section I am reminded of an interview he did on Jimmy Fallon in which he was asked about the joys of raising daughters. Not only did he say that you can’t beat having daughters, he predicted he’d be in tears at Malia’s high school graduation. The fact that neither Jimmy Fallon nor President Obama remark on the tears as being abnormal speaks to a, hopefully, changing attitude towards men showing a sensitive side. It is indeed emotional for a parent to watch their child reach a milestone, especially one that will then usher that child out of their house. In the same interview, he gives props to Michelle Obama and Michelle’s mother for raising their daughters to be considerate and humble human beings.
President Obama has always been a feminist. He’s said it before but this is perhaps the most staunch display of that statement. He has displayed this in the past with regards to his daughters and also to his wife. It is clear from the way he just looks at her that he is in awe of his wife, and in awe he should be. After her DNC speech, which many (this writer included) lamented Michelle not being in politics herself, President Obama released this tweet:
This essay also comes at a timely moment. What a happy coincidence that his 55th birthday fell just a week after Hillary Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s nominee to be President of the United States. In President Obama’s DNC speech, he said, “I can say with confidence there has never been a man or a woman — not me, not Bill, nobody — more qualified than Hillary Clinton to serve as president of the United States of America.” See the clip here: http://www.vox.com/2016/7/27/12306702/democratic-convention-obama-hillary-clinton-bill-qualified
President Obama ends his speech by directing our attention to November’s election. He connects the idea that feminism has lead to Hillary’s nomination two hundred and forty years after the founding of America. He makes reference to Harriet Tubman being on the new $20 bill. And makes a prediction of what the twenty-first century will hold for feminism, “the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.”
While I was filled with pride and joy reading President Obama’s essay, I couldn’t help but be bumped by its presence on Glamour. Now it makes sense, Glamour has a sections of the magazine devoted to “51 million” (referring to the 51 million girls in the world who do not receive an education), The Girl Project, and there’s also the annual Glamour Women of the Year awards. Yes Glamour is a champion of women and a feminist magazine to be sure. But President Obama writing for a woman’s magazine saying that women are great is kind of like me telling Black people that police brutality is a thing. It’s great that I’m now woke to the fact but to be an ally is actually to back to our own demographic and tell those people so that the burden is not just on those who suffer that prejudice.
Don’t get me wrong, kudos to President Obama and kudos to Glamour magazine for teaming up. But couldn’t they have also teamed up with say GQ or Esquire as well? Men and young boys should also hear from the highest ranking man in office and from a men’s magazine that we should all be feminists. As of publishing time, Esquire has picked up the story of President Obama’s Glamour essay, GQ and Complex have not. While it’s important to celebrate this achievement, no president before Obama has ever been so staunchly feminist, we also have to remind ourselves of how much further there is to go.
But for now, let’s celebrate the man who named the office of the pardoned turkey, TOTUS. We’re gonna miss you Mr. President.