7 Significant Times President Obama Knocked Sexism Down A Peg
Whether he's commenting on the state of this politically charged election or on the importance of empowering single mothers, President Obama has made his stance on women very clear — he's a feminist and he is not shy about it. In August, Glamour published an essay by Obama that dissected why men needed to take part in the debate on women's rights, but he has consistently spoken up about sexism throughout his presidency. This is revolutionary, as he leaves behind his presidential legacy as the first American president to label himself with the f-word.
Since the start of this year's election season, sexism and the way it manifests through both personal and political fronts has been made clear, specifically through the target of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Sexism within the hallowed halls of the government isn't new. But to have a sitting president consciously and repeatedly take steps to publicly condemn it? That's pretty new. Most recently, Obama spoke up about how sexism is a very real thing harming Clinton's chance at winning the presidential seat, and it's refreshing to see that his support for Clinton doesn't just come from similar political leanings, but also because she is a powerful woman. Here are seven times Obama tackled sexism:
On Sexism & Being A Woman President
On Sunday, at a DNC fundraiser in New York City, Obama spoke about how sexism was harming Clinton's chance at the White House. "there's a reason why we haven't had a woman president; that we as a society still grapple with what it means to see powerful women," he said.
On What A Feminist Looks Like
He makes no qualms about it — he looks like a feminist. At the first-ever White House Summit on The United State of Women held in June, Obama opened up about all the strong female role models in his life. "I did want to stop by and make one thing very clear — I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like," he said. "Of course, in my household there's no choice."
On The Intersection Of Poverty & Sexism
Last year, during a speech at the United Nations on eradicating poverty and the importance of sustainable development, Obama talked about how women in many parts of the world often suffer more severely. "One of the best indicators of whether a country will succeed is how it treats its women," he said. "And I have to say I do not have patience for the excuse of, 'Well, we have our own ways of doing things.'"
There's always a long-running misunderstanding that being a feminist is well, "feminine." This is obviously not true and who better to dispel that myth than Obama? In his Glamour essay published in August, he wrote:
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. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.
On The Right To Access Birth Control
At the White House Summit on The United State of Women, Obama thanked the Affordable Care Act, and said "birth control is free." He also spoke about how this freedom and this right has opened up the conversation regrading women and relationships:
In the old days, women actually needed a husband to open a credit card. Today, more women are choosing to be single — and all Americans are able to marry whoever they love.
On Equal Opportunity
The wage gap is real, and so is sexism in the workplace. This isn't limited to just workplace harassment, but also concerns how some opportunities just aren't as accessible or encouraged for girls and women simply because of their sex. In a 2014 speech on the subject of women and the economy, Obama had no time for this:
The idea that my daughters wouldn't have the same opportunities as somebody's sons — well, that's unacceptable.
On Being Good Enough
Girls today grapple with sexism in a variety of ways, but it would be harmful to not consider how it intersects with other categories, such as race or class, and the pressures that can arise from that combination. Speaking before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Annual Legislative Conference (ALC) Phoenix Awards Dinner in 2015, Obama emphasized the need to remind girls they are good enough as they are:
We all have to be louder than the voices telling our girls they're not good enough that they've got to look a certain way, that they've got to act a certain way, or set their goals at a certain level.
When we take into account all the horribly misogynistic things Donald Trump, a possible future president of the United States has said, Obama's unflinching statements on sexism seem all the more encouraging.