President Barack Obama is urging men to fight sexism and work to change a culture that perpetuates gender stereotypes.
"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 in a Glamour magazine essay. "We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs."
The essay, published online Thursday, reiterates remarks he made about feminism and gender equality during the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women in June, and provides a personal look at his own experiences with the negative effects of gender stereotyping.
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"I've seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family," Obama wrote. "Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would question my choices."
Titled "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like," Obama's essay reflects on past century's progress in closing the gender inequality gap, which he said "has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers."
The president called living in the White House a perk because the "45 second commute" has allowed him to watch Sasha and Malia Obama grow up into "smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women."
"That isn’t always easy, either — watching them prepare to leave the nest," he wrote. "But one thing that makes me optimistic for them is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman."
But, he noted, there's still a lot of work to do in order to improve the prospects of women and girls around the world.
"As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave," he argued. "We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy."
Obama acknowledged that the most important people in his life have been women, which has shaped his own feminism. He said it's important that Sasha and Malia's "dad is a feminist because now that’s what they expect of all men."
The president said he and the first lady have always urged their daughters to speak up if they feel unfairly judged based on gender, and to encourage others to do the same.
As America inches closer to a "historic election," Obama said, voters have the chance to make a statement about what 21st Century feminism looks like: "the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free."
A print version of the essay will be available in the September issue of Glamour.