This is what a leader looks like




            Every time I tried to listen to Obama’s Cairo speech while nursing Lilah, she turned around to see who had just come into the room and begun expounding on the Middle East in her bedroom.  I could only watch it the last feeding of the day, when she is so absurdly tired that a mariachi band could be playing on the changing table without eliciting so much as an eye flutter.  It took a couple of days to get through the entire speech.

            So it was that Sunday evening, with the baby multitasking by both sleeping and nursing on my breast, I came to the forty-third minute, when my President stood up in front of the world and said, “I am convinced that our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons.”  For some reason, this was the moment it struck me for the first time: there is a feminist in the White House.

            Yes, I subscribe to Ms. Magazine, and yes, I stared for many a day at that sexy cover photo of Obama tearing open his shirt to reveal a t-shirt reading “This is what a feminist looks like.”  But, until that moment, feeding my only daughter as my sons settled down to sleep in the room next door, it hadn’t really sunk in that there is a real role model in the White House.

            Not a man who marries a strong woman but then treats interns as sexual playthings.  Not a man who calls himself a sports fan and then guns for Title IX. 

            A Feminist.

            A man who sees gender issues as part and parcel of his international policy.  A man who acknowledges there is work to be done right here in his own country.  A man who nominates Latinas to the Supreme Court and appoints ballsy former first ladies as Secretary of State and who created a White House council to address women’s issues and stands by my right to choose despite his strong personal opposition to abortion.

            All my kids were born during the second Bush administration.  But the first President they remember will be a man who is not afraid of the f-word.

            So go ahead, it’s your turn. I promise not to be offended if you disagree with me, but I really want to know.  What do you think of Obama’s feminism?

16 responses to “This is what a leader looks like

  1. I worked with Pres. Obama for three years at the Illinois State Senate and he pretty much is as he presents himself. He treated all staff, male or female, with respect and like staff there to do a job. He wasn’t formal all the time and he had a good sense of humor. A lot of senators treated their women staff like the fact that they were women was always front and center in their mind. There was sort of a Chicago way of treating women,a touch flirty – a touch brash, and he didn’t do that.

  2. This post gave me chills. While I’m sure President Obama isn’t perfect, I do believe he is perfect for what this country needs- to take an honest look at ourselves and realize we are not untouchable, we are not perfect, and there are SO MANY things that we need to change at home before we should even think about offering advice to anyone else. It is AWESOME that for our kids it will never be strange that we have a black President, or that there are women in positions of great power. Maybe our kids won’t feel the undercurrent of racism and discrimination that we’ve always had to deal with.

  3. I think he is a feminist and I love it.
    As a total aside–I was a women’s studies major during Bill Clinton’s administration –we would argue for hours as to whether or not he was a feminist.
    I just stumbled onto your blog-and am happy to find a blog written by an out-of-the-closet feminist.

  4. I agree that he is a feminist – his ability to comprehend and articulate the complexities of just about every civil rights issue just keeps surprising me.

  5. It was a good speech. I didn’t see it, but I read it and I liked what I read.

  6. Hmm, I can’t answer your question, but I am halfway through Dreams From My Father and I’m finding it fascinating.

    I’ve also been thinking that I’m missing the Obama presidency– he doesn’t appear on the news much over here, though he was giddily invoked by the spokesperson for the governing party, who rhapsodized over the “historic event” that will occur when Spain assumes the EU presidency next year and thus the two major world powers will be led by “progressive governments”– but I am wishing I could see more of Obama himself in action (funny how I never felt like that with the previous occupant of the White House!)

    I intend to watch the news every night this summer when we’re in the US to catch a glimpse of him, but if you have the link to the Cairo speech handy, would you mind posting it? If not I guess I can (and will) Google it, but I just thought I’d ask.

  7. he’s smart, and he’s a feminist, and he appears to be trying to play fair and decent on the world stage, and part of me is still agog that this could be the case.

    and i’m in Canada. we’ve never even had a leader i had this much respect for. it’s weird.

  8. I was a Hillary supporter, and even though I was a little sad that she didn’t get the nomination I was open to Obama. He has exceeded my expectations. His book is on my reading list.

    I think he truly is a Feminist. And I think making Hillary Sec of State was Brilliant.

  9. What I especially admire about the President’s feminism is that he’s quite understated about women’s equality, never hitting people over the head with it, but quietly going about doing things that prove he believes women and men are absolutely equal.

    It’s a wonderful thing 🙂

  10. I think he is the real deal. And I think he would believe that “our daughters can contribute as much to society as our sons” even if he had only boys.

  11. love this post and all the comments. hooray!!!

  12. Wow, Emily. This post really moved me. I got chills and tears in my eyes.

    It is truly thrilling to have a feminist president. Thanks for reminding me how amazing this is. For our daughters, and for our sons. For all of us.

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