For Glamour magazine, President Barack Obama penned a personal essay explaining the importance of feminism and its benefactors for not just women, but for everyone. “When everybody is equal, we are all more free,” he argues while urging men to actively support the notion of equality for women in all aspects of life.
Through the context of his family, Obama acknowledges the disproportionate way his wife, First Lady Michelle Obama, raised their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, and discusses the progress the country’s seen for women’s rights:
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. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.
In my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances. Gone are the days when you needed a husband to get a credit card. In fact, more women than ever, married or single, are financially independent.
He also talks about the unfair double standards and stereotypes society has on what it means to be a man or woman, and the need to challenge those notions:
We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.
We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.
We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.
Obama ends in the scope of the upcoming November election, during which a woman will be a presidential nominee for the first in history — something to be celebrated regardless of party affiliation because “when everybody is equal, we are all more free.” Read the full essay here.