The first ever United State of Women summit on Monday was a highly anticipated event that featured some big names: the president and first lady, Oprah Winfrey, Kerry Washington, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and more.
President Obama set the tone of the day-long conference in a speech that saw him use the F-word. Yes, for those who have long suspected from his years in office but didn't quite dare take it for granted, Obama is a feminist.
"I know you're really here to see Michelle, or Oprah... I cannot compete with them. But I did want to stop by and make one thing very clear," Obama said to the 5,000-strong audience.
"I may be a little grayer than I was eight years ago. But this is what a feminist looks like."
Obama went on to highlight his administration's efforts at empowering women and addressing issues like women's health care, family leave policies, and boosting women's involvement in STEM fields.
It's a powerful declaration, coming from the commander-in-chief himself. Although Obama has been a vocal champion for women's rights in his years in office, the term "feminist," despite mainstream celebrities like Beyoncé and Emma Watson's enthusiastic acceptance of it, still carries negative connotations. Many people who agree with its essence — that men and women deserve to be treated equally — stop short of embracing feminism because of the mistaken belief that a feminist is a person who wants to elevate women at the expense of men.
Organized by the White House, the summit addressed key issues like economic empowerment, education, violence against women and women's health.
It could not have come at a more timely moment. The summit took place shortly after BuzzFeed published the powerful letter that a sexual assault survivor read in court to her attacker, former Stanford student Brock Allen Turner. Her letter, as well as Turner's father's defense of his son's "20 minutes of action" and the absurdly light sentence handed down to Turner sparked a fiery national debate about the prevalence of sexual assault in our society and the systemic challenges that survivors face in seeking justice.