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The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama, celebrated his 55th birthday on Thursday, the last birthday he will celebrate in the White House.
The President marked the milestone birthday by writing an op-ed essay to Glamour magazine. In the essay, Obama got nostalgic, thinking back to his childhood and being raised by a single mother. He also reflected on watching his two daughters, Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15, grow up.
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He spoke about feminism, the importance of gender equality, fighting sexism and breaking stereotypes.
“In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all — and that’s changing ourselves,” he wrote.
“So we need to break through these limitations. 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. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.”
“We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.”
He continued, “We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.”
“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.'”
“As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. 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. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.”
Read the essay in its entirety online or in Glamour‘s September 2016 issue available on newsstands Aug. 9.