Michelle Obama is an advocate for gender equality, even when it pertains to failure. On Saturday (May 5) the former First Lady spoke with Tracee Ellis Ross at the 2018 United States of Women Summit in Los Angeles and gave her thoughts on failure, and how the luxuries that are given to men are not offered to women.
“I wish girls could fail as bad as men do and be okay, because let me tell you watching men fail up, it is frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win,” Obama said to a cheering audience. “We hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards, and we hold each other to these standards.”
MICHELLE OBAMA: I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do, and be okay, because let me tell you, watching men fail up—it is frustrating. It’s frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards.
— Ethan Grey (@_EthanGrey) May 6, 2018
For nearly 45 minutes, Ross and Obama covered a bevy of topics including how her mother, Marian Shields Robinson, encouraged her to respectfully speak up for herself even as a child, and how her father Fraser C. Robinson III didn’t treat her any different from her brother.
And while Obama said she may have been raised to believe she and her brother were equals, this past presidential election has made her worry about the current state of women in the country.
“Sorry, in light of this last election. I’m concerned about us as women and how we think about ourselves and about each other and what’s really going on,” Obama said. “I think more about what’s going on in our heads where we let that happen. I do wonder what are our young girls dreaming about if we’re still there, when the most qualified person running [for president] was a woman and look what we did instead.”
Obama made sure to specify the election of Trump–whom she did not outright mention–has forced her to examine how women think about women.
“That says something about where we are. Forget everybody else, that’s what we have to explore. If we as women are still suspicious of another; if we still have this crazy bar for each other that we don’t have for men, if we’re still doing that today, if we’re not comfortable with the notion that a woman can be our president compared to what? We have to have that conversation with ourselves as women. This isn’t an external conversation, that’s on us.”
Obama then said she thinks society encourages girls to depend on a man instead of themselves. “I still think our girls are taught to be perfect and I still think they dream of weddings and the security of the Prince Charming coming to save them. I think we’re working on it and I’m proud of what I hear from young girls”
When Ross asked what can be done to change how young girls are seeing themselves and their futures, Obama said mothers have to do their part.
“I think if we want our daughters to dream bigger than we did, than we have more work to do.”