Men make great feminist philanthropists, too.
On May 9th, during the final stop of the tour for Melinda Gates’ new book, The Moment of Lift, audience members in Seattle got a surprise video visit from former President Barack Obama.
In an introductory speech that shocked Melinda herself, her husband Bill Gates revealed that he had been unsure how best to introduce Melinda for the most important event of her tour, so he began “secretly scheming” with the former President to decide on the best method — and posted their “brainstorming” session on Twitter.
The video shows President Obama taking the call from Bill Gates (“Who? Oh, Bill! Right, right. Melinda’s husband!”) and giving his advice based on opportunities Obama has had to introduce his wife Michelle during her own tours. We’re treated to a montage of Obama’s potential options — an ice sculpture, a Mariachi band, a dance crew, a pizza delivery — before his final decision to present Michelle with a bouquet of flowers and a kiss on the cheek.
“Now that was right for Michelle,” says Obama. “You’ve got to do what’s right for Melinda.”
Bill’s decision? Wrapping up his introduction with a heartfelt message. “My gift to Melinda is simply to tell her that the moment we met was my ‘Moment of Lift.'”
We cannot achieve the gender equality we’re after unless men contribute to feminist philanthropy. Gates’ nod to Melinda’s book is more than just a reminder of why the seats were filled in the Seattle theater — it’s an adaptation of the book’s theme, and a mark of his support for Melinda’s campaign. Similarly, Obama’s contribution to the humorous introduction video is more than just a fun opportunity to call in a household name — it’s an endorsement of Melinda’s book, and by extent, the beliefs she expresses within it.
In other words, both of these moments are opportunities for famous men to use their platforms to amplify a feminist cause.
Obama has already expressed his appreciation for The Moment of Lift. In one of his regular Facebook reading lists posted on May 6th, the former President asks his readers to consider adding Melinda’s book to their own lists. “When you lift up women,” he writes, “you lift up everybody—families, communities, entire countries… I’ve called Melinda an impatient optimist and that’s what she delivers here — the urgency to tackle these problems and the unwavering belief that solving them is indeed possible.”
He expresses a similar sentiment in the video he made with Bill. “Please tell Melinda I’m committed to the Lift,” Obama says at the end of the phone call. “We’re gonna do everything we can to keep pushing until every single girl has the rights and opportunities and the freedom to go as far as her dreams are going to take her.”
Warren Buffett has also given The Moment of Lift a glowing endorsement, calling the book “absolutely sensational.”
“I read it one sitting, it captivated me so much,” said Buffett. “It’s a story, but [you also] learn much about the world that you should know — and I would say most people don’t know.”
Buffett, Gates, and Obama are powerful figures in the United States who contribute substantially to feminist philanthropy through their charitable giving. Besides supporting the causes financially, affluent men in the public eye can also use their respective platforms to draw attention to feminist causes they support. The way in which Buffett, Gates, and Obama are supporting The Moment of Lift provide powerful examples of how men can raise the visibility of feminist messages.
The Obama Foundation actively contributes to feminist philanthropy through campaigns like its Girls Opportunity Alliance, an initiative started by Michelle Obama (and her husband, Barack) that works to improve the futures of adolescent girls around the world.
“The Girls Opportunity Alliance aims to lift up the work being done around the world to empower adolescent girls through education,” reads the program’s mission statement. The Obama Foundation pursues this goal by supporting grassroots leaders, raising financial support through their collaborative fund with GoFundMe, and providing resources that help young people around the world raise awareness about the need for girls’ education.
The Obama Foundation’s early foundational focus on women and girls shows that feminist philanthropy doesn’t always have to be led by women. Men who become great feminist philanthropists can contribute as much, or sometimes much more, to gender equality.
It may seem like a small gesture, but Bill Gates and Barack Obama teaming up to support Melinda is an important model for how men can express their support for feminist causes.
“Ages ago I came across a quote that I just loved,” said Melinda Gates, in an interview for Town and Country Magazine. “‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.‘ It was a quote by Margaret Mead. And that is ultimately what changes society, a group coming together and saying, ‘We want something different.'”
The group that changes the status of women and girls will not be comprised entirely of women and those who identify as women. No matter your gender, orientation, or status in life, you can contribute to feminist philanthropy, and start building the future you want to see.
The Moment of Lift is available now on Amazon and at major booksellers.
To learn more about the amplification of feminist philanthropy, read about the Obama Foundation’s commitment to global education for girls, the role mainstream media plays in boosting philanthropic campaigns, and an international commitment to gender equality as it approaches generational change.