At Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, on Saturday, a very candid former first lady weighed in on whether she believes women can "have it all." Speaking off the cuff, Michelle Obama explained why "leaning in" doesn't actually work, and she caught a lot of attention for it across the internet.
“Marriage still ain’t equal, y'all,” Obama told the crowd, which had gathered for a sold-out stop on her book tour, according to Vanity Fair. "It ain’t equal. I tell women that whole ‘you can have it all’ — Mmm, nope, not at the same time, that’s a lie. It’s not always enough to lean in because that sh*t doesn’t work."
Obama caught herself immediately after the uncharacteristic use of the expletive, remarking that she had been comfortable in front of the crowd. She course corrected to using the word "stuff," according to Yahoo!.
“I thought we were at home, y’all,” she said. “I was getting real comfortable up in here. All right, I’m back now. Sometimes that stuff doesn’t work.”
While Obama is certainly not known for cursing in public, many on Twitter gave her sentiment their full support. "Michelle Obama is my president," tweeted one user, sharing a report about the event.
Generally speaking, the idea of "leaning in" says that women should do what they can to assume leadership roles within their companies and communities instead of falling into more subordinate positions. The term was first coined by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who was largely focused on gender equality in the workplace when she wrote a book about the concept, but it has grown to encompass the idea that woman can essentially "have it all" — i.e. be both an attentive family member and a successful career woman, if only they embrace the challenge.
Critics, however, have claimed that the idea of "leaning in" puts too much pressure on women. "Because unlike most men, women — particularly women with children — are still expected to work that 'second shift' at home," Rosa Brooks wrote for The Washington Post in February 2014, when many were still digesting the idea of "leaning in." "Men today do more housework and childcare than men in their fathers’ generation, but women today still do far more housework and childcare than men."
With these ideas forming the backdrop for conversations about women balancing work life with home life, many on Twitter appeared to be pleased seeing such an accomplished, high-profile woman — who appears to have had both a successful career and home life, herself — speaking candidly about the inherent challenges of managing both.
"Please run for president," one user wrote, simply.
That being said, many appeared to be specifically struck by the fact that Obama swore in public, something one user warned onlookers not to focus on. Instead, writer Touré wrote, people should pay attention to the "substance" of the former first lady's remark.
"The moment was overshadowed by Michelle O saying shit in public which is a silly thing to get excised about & points to our fetish with civility over all else," Touré tweeted. "The substance of the sentence—a rejection of the Sheryl Sandberg’s controversial ethos—is much more interesting."