President Obama Applauds Every Brave Woman Speaking Out Against Online Harassment

"Women are lifting others out of the shadows and raising our collective consciousness about a problem that affects all of us."

03/17/2016 11:23 am ET
Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images
"One thing I’ve been thinking about this past week is the unique challenges women face in the virtual world," Obama told the crowd at a White House reception for Women's History Month. 

President Obama is here to support women in fight against sexist online harassment.

On Wednesday afternoon, Obama held a reception at the White House to honor Women's History Month. His remarks on the same day Michelle Obama launched a new Let Girls Learn initiative in Austin at the South by Southwest conference earlier that morning.

President Obama discussed important topics including equal pay, education for women around the world and the online harassment women face far too often on the Internet.

"One thing I’ve been thinking about this past week is the unique challenges women face in the virtual world," Obama told the crowd, made up of historic women like Cecile Richards, Nancy Pelosi and the first female NFL coach Jennifer Welter. "Last Friday, I was at South by Southwest, where the epidemic of online harassment was a topic of discussion. We know that women gamers face harassment and stalking and threats of violence from other players. When they speak out about their experiences, they’re attacked on Twitter and other social media outlets, even threatened in their homes."

The president highlighted how many women are speaking out against this online harassment every day -- and why their activism is so important:

What’s brought these issues to light is that there are a lot of women out there, especially young women, who are speaking out bravely about their experiences, even when they know they’ll be attacked for it -- from feminist bloggers who refuse to be silenced, to women sports reporters who are opening up about the extreme safety precautions they need to take when traveling for work.  Every day, women of all ages and all backgrounds and walks of life are speaking out.  And by telling their stories, by you telling your stories, women are lifting others out of the shadows and raising our collective consciousness about a problem that affects all of us.

He added that the Internet is a public space "where women have every right to exist freely and safely" without fear of harassment or violent responses of any kind.

Skip forward to the 40 minute mark to see President Obama's full speech. (Story continues below.) 

"Obviously, this is not unique to the Internet," Obama added. "Women have been up against this kind of nonsense since the beginning of time. As long as women have dared to enter the public space -- whether they’re fighting for their rights or simply walking the streets, there have been times where they’ve been harassed by those who apparently see the mere presence of women as a threat." 

Obama said that while it's important for women to continue to speak up about online harassment, it's also integral that men join in. "This is not just the role for women," he said. "It's about men speaking up and demanding better of themselves and their peers, their sons, their friends, their coworkers. Because we’re all in this together."

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