2016 has been incredible for the progress of women’s rights from the visibility of the conversations around gender equality to the first female nomination for a major political party.
So for Obama’s 55th birthday, he thought it only made sense to let the world know how far women have come over the years — and of course, how far we still have to go. Through a touching essay for Glamour, the 44th President talks growing up with a single mother, raising his two daughters in the White House, and seeing the very different ways he and his wife have been treated in the political spotlight.
So how have these milestones affected the President?
“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,” Obama says.
He points out the changes he has seen firsthand throughout his lifetime, from a time when women were confined to insignificant clerical jobs to a time when more than half the workforce is dominated by women.
But his dedication to gender equality hits a lot closer to home than just his role as Commander-in-Chief. He notes the most important people in his life being women. He was inspired to devote his life to public service when he saw his single mom spend her life empowering women in developing countries, and saw the importance of encouraging female leadership when he saw his grandmother fail to crash through the glass ceiling during her career in a bank.
And as a husband, he’s realized the unfair demands placed on working mothers. Although he has made sure his demanding schedule makes room for his two daughters, he also recognizes the burdens disproportionately falling on Michelle.
“So 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,” he says. “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 feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.”
Although this pressure is most definitely still here, he also makes sure not to negate all of the progress we have made. “That would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice,” he says.
But he doesn’t give the credit for all of our progress to his generation. He understands the true power of the millennial — go us! And social media’s role in this progress goes hand-in-hand. There is no question in the power of Twitter hashtags, campaigns led by influential Instagrammers, and viral videos that expose the realities of gender inequality.
The younger generation isn’t scared of screaming from the rooftops as long it it means that their voices are heard. He specifically points out the It’s On Us Campaign to end campus sexual assault, organized by young men, and the young women who became the first females to become Army Rangers in the nation.
It’s no question that 2016 is the year of setting goals, reaching milestones, and making history.