Barack Obama is the commander-in-chief, a staunch supporter of LGBTQ rights — and officially a self-identified feminist.
The 55-year-old POTUS celebrated his August 4 birthday by penning an essay for Glamour that details his commitment to feminism. He noted that women, like his mother and his grandmother, were his earliest supporters.
"Now, the most important people in my life have always been women," Obama wrote. "I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling."
Having a Black wife and two Black daughters has taught Obama the importance of being a feminist husband, a feminist dad, and a feminist president.
Obama sees the impact of sexism every day.
It starts with what girls are taught about their role in society, according to Obama. He made this point by quoting one of his heroes, congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American to run for president.
"She once said, 'The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, 'It's a girl,'" Obama wrote.Now, he sees how stereotypes impact girls from a young age. Obama wrote that these biases make girls feel unworthy, especially if society deems their behavior unacceptable.
"In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation," he wrote.
The commander-in-chief knows the impact of gender roles very well. Even a strong-willed man like Obama couldn't escape the gender roles trap as a young man.
Obama thought he had to live up to specific markers of masculinity.
"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," Obama wrote. "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."
That's why the POTUS is committed to breaking the limitations gender roles impose.
"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," he wrote. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs."
For Obama, it starts with how he raises his own children.
Raising Sasha Obama and Malia Obama has taught the POTUS the most about feminism.
As a senator, Obama spent a lot of time away from his daughters because he had to travel to Springfield, Illinois and Washington, D.C. for legislative sessions. Now though, Obama's able to walk from the White House's living room to the Oval Office in 45 seconds, which leaves him plenty of time to parent his teenagers.
That's how he knows being a feminist dad is the best way to parent.
"Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race — or when they notice that happening to someone else," he explained.
"And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men," Obama added.
Sasha and Malia have shown him how difficult it is to be a girl becoming women in a sexist world.
"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," he wrote. "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."
Obama said that it's an extraordinary time to be a woman, despite the challenges of being a girl in a sexist world.
He noted that Americans shouldn't downplay the fact that the lives of women today are better than they were for his grandmother.
"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," he wrote. "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."
Yet, women still have much further to go to achieve equal rights. That's where Obama comes in. He challenged men to help women on the road to equality.
"It is absolutely men's responsibility to fight sexism too," Obama wrote. "And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships."
He's a shining example of that, as he explained in his essay.
Obama has supported decidedly feminist measures, like proposing equal pay for equal work with the Lily Ledbetter act. He's also created a national monument for women's rights and has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president.
During his July 27 Democratic National Convention speech, Obama said Clinton is the most qualified male or female to ever run for the presidency. He knows this is a historic moment that can be seized for good.
"This fall we enter a historic election. Two hundred and forty years after our nation’s founding, and almost a century after women finally won the right to vote, for the first time ever, a woman is a major political party’s presidential nominee," Obama wrote. "No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America. And it’s just one more example of how far women have come on the long journey toward equality."
He's also unafraid to call himself a feminist, as he did during the United States of Women summit.
"I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago, but this is what a feminist looks like," he said.
If there are still questions of Obama's feminist credentials, look no further than his ardent support for his wife, Michelle Obama, who he also acknowledged in his essay.
Obama noted that sexism is even more difficult for women of color, who are also battling racism.
The POTUS mentioned how the burden fell on Michelle to juggle raising their children and meeting the demands of her career. She also had to worry about how she'd be perceived as an ambitious Black woman. Obama wants to change that.
"We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color," he wrote. "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.'"
That's why he wants all Americans, regardless of their political views, to combat sexism together, which means no more applauding men for being good parents, penalizing mothers who choose to stay home, or telling women they're too bossy when they're vocal, according to Obama. Equality looks like the elimination of harassment, both online and on the streets, and equal pay for equal work.
"That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free," Obama declared.
Now, that's what a feminist looks like.