Obama's Victory Speech 
Strong, Smart, Beautiful?

It was inappropriate for Obama to praise his daughters' beauty in his victory speech

Malia, Sasha and Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in September. Photo by Barack Obama via Flickr.

Malia, Sasha and Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in September. Photo by Barack Obama via Flickr.

Of all the adjectives that could be used to describe Sasha and Malia Obama, “strong”, “smart”, and “beautiful” were the ones President Obama chose in his victory speech on Tuesday night.

It is difficult to imagine a president congratulating his sons for being handsome. So why was it appropriate for Obama to praise 11-year-old Sasha and 14-year-old Malia for their beauty?

“Sasha and Malia, before our very eyes, you’re growing up to become two strong, smart, beautiful young women, just like your mom,” said the newly re-elected President. “And I am so proud of you guys.”

Obama’s comments beg the question of why a girl’s beauty should be source of pride for her father— and why beauty should be a value lauded alongside strength and intelligence.

The President may have been directing his comments at only two people, but he had the ears of the world, and on a day that should have been a triumph for women, his remarks stung.

More women were elected to Congress than ever before. Congressman Todd Akin of “legitimate rape” notoriety was soundly defeated in Missouri. The party that advocates women’s right to choose prevailed.

This campaign reminded us that the presidency is a symbolic role as much as a practical one. Voters overlooked Obama’s failure to revive the economy and reduce the deficit, ultimately pulling the lever for the candidate who has consistently come first in likability if not in job approval.

Every evidence suggests that Obama takes his role as a figurehead seriously. On Father’s Day 2008, he famously chastised fathers who fail to engage with their children. He has made a point of going on “dates” with Michelle and spending time with his daughters in spite of his busy schedule.

It is disappointing that on Tuesday, Obama— a liberal President seen as a champion for women’s rights— conformed to the ideology that sets up beauty as something young girls should aspire to. Women are voted into office with more and more regularity and Obama has appointed women to top Cabinet positions, but girls are still praised not only for their accomplishments but for their appearance.

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Politics: US Election

  • Well, perhaps, he was talking personally as opposed to objectifying them into all “women”. In any father’s loving eyes his daughter’s are more beautiful than anything in the world. This “doting” on them, making them feel special, is what empowers them later in life to know they deserve to be treated as if they are special and choose a man who will treat them as wonderfully as that first role model, their father. Every father should say that to their daughter every day!

  • This article is baloney! First of all, he said they were strong and smart FIRST. Secondly, as a father, especially of Black women, he absolutely SHOULD tell his daughters they are beautiful. That’s why girls fall for the “game” these young, hormonal boys fill their heads with–because they didn’t hear how beautiful AND strong AND smart they were from their fathers, the man who is supposed to set the standard for all other males in a girl’s life, be they friends or significant others. How dare you criticize this man for being a doting father to his daughters! Your critique says a lot about him as a man–if that’s your biggest gripe with the leader of the free world, I’ll take it…