Michelle Obama On Sexism: “Men Would Whistle At Me As I Walked Down The Street, As If My Body Were Their Property”

But don’t worry – the First Lady knows how to fight back

Michelle Obama
Michelle Obama
(Image credit: Rex Features)

But don’t worry – the First Lady knows how to fight back

She’s the First Lady of the United States and a hugely respected lawyer and author, but Michelle Obama has revealed she hasn’t been immune from experiencing sexist behaviour in the past.

Speaking out recently, she said: “Men would whistle at me as I walked down the street, as if my body were their property, as if I were an object to be commented on instead of a full human being with thoughts and feelings of my own.” She added that, “I began to realise that the hopes I had for myself were in conflict with the messages I was receiving from people around me.”

The First Lady made her impassioned speech while in Argentina with her husband President Obama and their two daughters, Malia and Sasha, to launch the Let Girls Learn initiative – a new effort by the White House to champion the rights of girls around the globe to be able to complete their education.

Talking of her own experiences at school, she noted that as a child there was clear favouritism shown towards the boys in her class, and that teachers, “would call on the boys instead of the girls, even though the girls had better grades.” She also added that teachers would ask her brother what kind of job he hoped to get, while they asked her what kind of man she wanted to marry.

However, showing her audience – many of whom were young girls – her steely determination, she said she chose to ignore the opinions of those who may have initially made her question herself. “I decided not to listen to the voices of those who doubted or dismissed me. Instead, I decided to listen to my own voice,” she said.

And this is not the first time Obama has opened about her views on sexism and gender inequality. On International Women’s Day, she spoke out about casual sexism she’d experience in the workplace and other areas, saying, “Like most women, I know what it feels like to be overlooked. And like many of you, as a woman, I take all of this personally."

So next time someone cat-calls you, or shuts down your idea in a meeting, channel your inner Michelle and don't give a flying, erm, FLOTUS what they think…

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