Feminist in chief: Obama is "what a feminist looks like"

Obama's Glamour feminism essay
Obama's Glamour feminism essay 04:44

President Obama is never shy of expressing his love for his daughters, but he made a striking announcement in an essay for Glamour magazine, writing about the world that he wants to leave behind for Malia and Sasha.

"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," the president wrote in his essay, entitled "This Is What a Feminist Looks Like," for the magazine's September issue.

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Glamour's editor-in-chief, Cindi Leive first heard the president identify himself as a feminist at the White House Summit on the United State of Women in June.

"I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago... but this is what a feminist looks like," he said as he was met by wild applause.

That sparked a larger conversation with the president about the principles of feminism and why he feels it's important for both women and men to embrace them.

"This goes beyond the kind of boilerplate - 'I believe in strong women' - that at this point, anybody can mouth pretty effectively," Leive said.

For Leive, the timing is significant. According to a survey by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, 60 percent of women and 33 percent of men consider themselves a feminist.

"It did strike me as this very modern moment - something that we wouldn't have heard probably from any other president," Leive told "CBS This Morning" Thursday. "But honestly, we would not have not heard before because I think the embrace of the term 'feminism' by men as well as women has really been on the rise."

But negative stigma is still attached to the "feminist" label. According to the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey, while 70 percent of Americans view feminism as empowering, 43 percent still describe it as angry.

"That was a very long-held belief about feminism, that if you called yourself that, then you were anti-men, you were anti-family, you were 'feminazi,'" Leive explained. "There was this idea that if you believed in equality between the sexes, that you were somehow against men."

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But Leive explained that to her, feminism simply comes down to "equality."

In the Glamour essay, the president details some "nuanced observations" about issues facing the women in his life, for example, how his daughters are judged by their looks and behaviors.

"He's also clearly paid attention about what the young women in his office go through and that idea that it's harder for women to negotiate for herself on the job sometimes because she'll be seen as calculating, where a man doesn't necessarily run into those double standards," Leive said. "He's paying attention."

The feminist movement has marked a milestone this year, with the historic nomination of the first woman presidential nominee. The president addressed that in his essay, writing: "No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America."

But even with the controversies surrounding Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton still has a 50 percent unfavorable rating among registered voters in the latest CBS News poll - compared to Trump's 52 percent. This, Leive believes, could be attributed in part to her gender.

"If you look at studies, they show that people demand more likability of their female candidates than their males," Leive said. "Not to say it isn't important at all, but it's not as important in how people see male candidates. They can accept voting for someone they think is competent, but not necessarily likable. They're tougher on women."