President Barack Obama has penned an essay for Glamour Magazine: This Is What a Feminist Looks Like. In it he speaks eloquently about raising daughters and how watching the women he loves has changed him such that he too has come out as a feminist. 

What is striking about the President’s article is that it all sounds very reasonable and rational. Of course, there should be equality among the sexes. Who would disagree with that? He explains: “We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.” While there I’ve never heard of women who don’t dare to go online, equality is generally considered very good thing. 

For those who don’t read between the lines and really see what policy issues are affected by these ideas, it all sounds so lovely, edifying, and enlightened. But is something else really going on here? The editor of Glamour appears to have inadvertently pulled back the veil on the President’s real motivation in coming out just now as a feminist.

Speaking about the essay, Cindi Leive said on CBS This Morning, “It did strike me as this very modern moment, something that we wouldn’t have heard probably from any other president, but honestly we would not have heard before this year,” she said. “I do think the embrace of the term feminism by men as well as women has really been on the rise.” 

The timing is interesting here. Why wouldn’t we have heard about this before this year? And there is really nothing new about the term “feminist,” even when applied to men. And while President Obama has evolved on his position about same-sex marriage, he didn’t just become a husband and father this year. Is it too much to consider that, perhaps, in the age of journolist and wikileaks, there is colluding going on to a) present the idea that having a woman as the presidential nominee for a major party is yet another step in the progressive trajectory, and b) that men can be part of that next step by coming out as feminists and voting for her in November? Perhaps this isn’t just a president reflecting on his life as a father, but more “virtue signaling” to women that the men they influence should be feminists and should vote as such.

But let’s give the President the benefit of the doubt. No matter how sincere he may be, there are still issues. First of all, this isn’t just one public relations effort about women’s rights, but the culmination of the most radical aspect of secular feminism. President Obama has made no secret of his belief that the rainbow of genders goes well beyond male and female and that all are equally valid. In the essay, he applauds yet again those who are “helping all of us understand that forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody—men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise.” The President’s opinions align with those of feminist diva Gloria Steinem. Steinem has been a major driver in the feminist movement for decades and has helped craft the myth that children are impediments (or as the President infamously has said, a punishment) to women. Steinem, now in her 80s, recently penned a new book boasting of her achievement of near-gender neutrality. By emphasizing that men are feminists too, President Obama is publicizing the capstone of the feminist project, namely, complete and universal gender neutrality.

But let’s give the President even one more chance. Perhaps what he is suggesting is truly good for women? Real Simple Magazine, in its April 2016 issue, presented the progressive vision of secular feminism. As the graphic shows, President Obama’s policies, particularly related to healthcare, have furthered the progressive narrative. Yes, the arguments are all very tidy: women need contraception and abortion so they can compete with men and be happy. Men are happy. Women will be happy when they are like men – or something like that.

What is left out of the tidy narrative, however, are the real details about women and happiness. As I discuss in my book Ultimate Makeover, a quick look at a happiness index – a measure of rates of obesity, drug addiction, suicide, anti-depressant use and divorce statistics – doesn’t paint a rosy picture of happiness. Secular feminists will argue that women have yet to truly be equal to men, so this is where all of this unhappiness originates. But all of these levels are higher than those of women in previous generations. One would expect that with all of these advances this index would clearly be improving – rising with the feminist gains, not getting worse.  

Meanwhile, all those great devices meant to make women equal to men aren’t quite working as sold. As I wrote here previously, the pill and abortion have presented significant health issues. The pill is currently categorized as a class one carcinogen by the World Health Organization, right up there with smoking and asbestos, and the abortion/breast cancer link is getting harder and harder to deny, to say nothing about the psychological effects that can be confirmed by Project Rachel organizers. There is no happiness in realizing that these must-haves are literally depressing or even killing us.