Barack Obama Just Showed the World 'What a Feminist Looks Like'

June 14th 2016

Taylor Bell

President Barack Obama isn't afraid to call himself a feminist.

The president made the declaration during Tuesday's White House summit on the United State of Women, while noting the need for "equal pay for equal work," "paid family sick leave" and "affordable child care."

While Obama's policies coincide with some of feminism's core values, there's a reason why his willingness to call himself a feminist is significant.

Although the principles of feminism may resonate with a majority of Americans, the term feminist continues to make people uncomfortable. According to a HuffPost/YouGov poll, though 82 percent of Americans believe in the equality of men and women socially, politically and economically, only 20 percent label themselves as feminists.

Part of this is due to the negative connotations associated with the word feminist. In a piece for Forbes, Christina Park points out that feminists are often wrongly labeled as anti-femininity, anti-tradition, man-hating activists. For this reason, even noted feminist Emma Watson was hesitant to use this word during her 2014 speech before the United Nations introducing her HeforShe campaign.


Watson eventually adopted the word into her speech and said that gender equality and justice for women were the core of feminism.

"For the record, feminism by definition is: 'The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,'" Watson said during the speech at the United Nations.

President Obama isn't the only male world leader to embrace the term.

For example, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talked about the significance of men calling themselves feminists in an interview with Vox earlier this year.


“If you’re a progressive, you really should be a feminist because it’s about equality, it’s about respect, it’s about making the best of the world that we have,” Trudeau told Vox's Liz Plank.

Trudeau continued: “How are you training your sons to be focused on women’s rights and women’s opportunities the way you’re focused on telling your daughter that she can be anything? That for me was a really important wake-up.”