Rachel Charlene Lewis
August 04, 2016 1:01 pm
MANDEL NGAN/Getty Images

In what is basically the best way to wrap up a presidential term, President Obama (whose birthday it is today, happy birthday President Obama!) wrote a stunningly beautiful letter about coming into feminism, raising his daughters, and his hopes for the future of our country when it comes to gendered issues. Throughout his eight years as our president, Obama has been dedicated to ensuring that we come closer to equality, from seeking to close the pay gap to fighting for equal rights for trans people.

We were truly so moved by his letter in Glamour, and are happy to share some of our favorite pieces of presidential wisdom.

So what does President Obama want us to know about feminism?

“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.”

It felt so important to hear a major figure like the president tell us that, despite how much work we feel like we still have to do, we’ve already made so much progress. There is, as hard as it sometimes is to believe, hope.

“I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.”

Yes, yes, yes. We were so moved by Obama’s recognition that, despite our best intentions, we all have some form of privilege that needs to be reckoned with before we can step forward and actually be the good humans we seek to be. That means believing marginalized people when they tell us about their experiences, and recognizing the gaps in our understanding.

“We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way —whether she was being too assertive or too ‘angry.’”

We just can’t get over how important it is that Obama acknowledged the combination of racism and sexism faced by women and girls of color. As he pointed out, not all women experience sexism in the same way, and by getting down the specifics and getting intersectional, we have a chance at actually making our country better for everyone involved.

“I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.”

It’s truly major to see the president of our country stepping forward to claim the label. He’s helping debunk myths about feminists, challenge us to research the term for ourselves, and maybe, just maybe, come to identify with the valuable lessons of feminism in our own ways. It’s, in a word, incredible.

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