Michelle Obama tackles a tough truth about who gets a second chance and who doesn’t.
Speaking at the 2018 annual United State of Women conference, Michelle Obama opened up about leadership, parenting, and — perhaps most notable — failure.
The former first lady grabbed headlines during her 40-minute discussion with actress Tracee Ellis Ross for her comments about the 2016 election:
“When the most qualified person running was a woman, and look what we did instead, I mean that says something about where we are. That’s what we have to explore, because if we as women are still suspicious of one another, if we still have this crazy, crazy bar for each other that we don’t have for men, if we’re not comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president compared to, what, then we have to have those conversations with ourselves as women.”
A number of news outlets framed her comments as sour grapes, with Fox News‘ sneering headline, “Michelle Obama still questioning why women voted for Trump in 2016” and The Hill singling her out by saying “we let that happen.” Beyond the election comments, however, there was an important bit of commentary more people really should hear.
To fail is to learn and grow. Too often, Obama says, women aren’t given that chance.
“I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do, and be OK,” she said at one point during the discussion. “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. We hold each other to these standards.”
Obama isn’t encouraging a “woe is me” attitude toward the world but rather one that puts work into addressing the problems as they exist.
Because it’s not about her or Hillary Clinton; it’s not even necessarily about politics. It’s about creating a world in which we can encourage our children to dream big and be whatever they want to be — and have it be a realistic aspiration. That means getting our hands dirty now, taking risks, and fighting injustice and inequality wherever it is.
Watch the discussion from the United State of Women conference below.