Michelle Obama tackles a tough truth about who gets a second chance and who doesn't.

Speaking at the 2018 annual United State of Women conference, Michelle Obama opened up about leadership, parenting, and — perhaps most notable — failure.

The former first lady grabbed headlines during her 40-minute discussion with actress Tracee Ellis Ross for her comments about the 2016 election:

"When the most qualified person running was a woman, and look what we did instead, I mean that says something about where we are. That's what we have to explore, because if we as women are still suspicious of one another, if we still have this crazy, crazy bar for each other that we don't have for men, if we're not comfortable with the notion that a woman could be our president compared to, what, then we have to have those conversations with ourselves as women."

A number of news outlets framed her comments as sour grapes, with Fox News' sneering headline, "Michelle Obama still questioning why women voted for Trump in 2016" and The Hill singling her out by saying "we let that happen." Beyond the election comments, however, there was an important bit of commentary more people really should hear.


Michelle Obama speaks at the 2018 United State of Women Summit. Photo by Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images.

To fail is to learn and grow. Too often, Obama says, women aren't given that chance.

"I wish that girls could fail as bad as men do, and be OK," she said at one point during the discussion. "Watching men fail up — it is frustrating. It's frustrating to see a lot of men blow it and win. And we hold ourselves to these crazy, crazy standards. We hold each other to these standards."

GIFs from United State of Women/YouTube.

Obama continues by urging women and men to take chances for the sake of a better world, pushing back on this sort of utopian view of society and urging people to take a realistic look at where things really stand right now.

"I think if we want our daughters to dream bigger than we did, then we have more work to do," she said. "I think so many of us have gotten ourselves at the table, but we're still too grateful to be at the table to really shake it up. ... Just holding onto our seats at the table won't be enough to help our girls be all that they could be. I think it's going to be on us as women, but men have an important role to play in that as well."

Statistically speaking, in the professional world, men are given second chances that women simply aren't.

A 2017 Stanford University and University of Chicago study looked at gender disparities in the financial industry. What researchers found was pretty troubling: Men were three times as likely to get caught engaging in some sort of professional misconduct like negligence or fraud. And even though men's mistakes were, on average, more costly to firms and male offenders were more likely to slip up again than their female counterparts, women were more likely than men to actually lose their jobs in the event of a mistake.

Following up on the study, The Washington Post learned that men who did lose their jobs over mistakes or misconduct were more likely to find new jobs in the field compared with women who lost their jobs over a mistake.

In other words, women have less room for error compared to men. Researchers suggest that this could be the result of what they call "in-group tolerance," the tendency to provide people of the same gender, race, religion, or other community factor with preferential treatment. In-group tolerance could partially account for why so many male-dominated fields remain male-dominated even as efforts to recruit women ramp up.

Obama and Tracee Ellis Ross speak at the United State of Women. Photo by Chris Delmas/AFP/Getty Images.

Obama isn't encouraging a "woe is me" attitude toward the world but rather one that puts work into addressing the problems as they exist.

Because it's not about her or Hillary Clinton; it's not even necessarily about politics. It's about creating a world in which we can encourage our children to dream big and be whatever they want to be — and have it be a realistic aspiration. That means getting our hands dirty now, taking risks, and fighting injustice and inequality wherever it is.

Watch the discussion from the United State of Women conference below.

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Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

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Don't test on animals. That's something we can all agree on, right? No one likes to think of defenseless cats, dogs, hamsters, and birds being exposed to a bunch of things that could make them sick (and the animals aren't happy about it, either). It's no wonder so many people and organizations have fought to stop it. But did you ever think that maybe brands are testing products on us too, they're just not telling us they're doing it?

I know, I know, it sounds like a conspiracy theory, but that's exactly what e-cigarette brands like JUUL (which corners the e-cigarette market) are doing in this country right now, and young people are on the frontlines of the fallout. Most people assume that the government would have looked at devices that allow people to inhale unknown chemicals into their lungs BEFORE they hit the market. You would think that someone in the government would have determined that they are safe. But nope, that hasn't happened. And vape companies are fighting to delay the government's ability to evaluate these products.

So no one really knows the long-term health effects of e-cigarette use, not even JUUL's CEO, nor are they informing the public about the potential risks. On top of that, according to the FDA, there's been a 78% increase in e-cigarette usage among high school and middle school-aged children in just the last two years, prompting the U.S. Surgeon General to officially recognize the trend as an epidemic and urge action against it.

These facts have elicited others to take action, as well.

Truth Initiative, the nonprofit best known for dropping the real facts about smoking and vaping since 2000 through its truth campaign, is now on a mission to confront e-cigarette brands like JUUL about the lack of care they've taken to inform consumers of the potential adverse side effects of their products. And they're doing it with the help of animal protesters who are tired of seeing humans treated like test subjects.

The March Against JUUL | Tested On Humans | truth www.youtube.com

"No one knows the long-term effects of JUULing so any human who uses one is being used as a lab rat," says, appropriately, Mario the Sewer Rat.

"I will never stop fighting JUUL. Or the mailman," notes Doug the Pug, the Instagram-famous dog star.

Truth, the national counter-marketing campaign for youth smoking prevention, hopes this fuzzy, squeaky, snorty animal movement arms humans with the facts about vaping and inspires them to demand transparency from JUUL and other e-cigarette companies. You can get your own fur babies involved too by sharing photos of them wearing protest gear with the hashtag #DontTestOnHumans. Here's some adorable inspo for you:

The dangerous stuff is already out there, but with knowledge on their side, young people will hopefully make the right choices and fight companies making the wrong ones. If you need more convincing, here are the serious facts.

Over the last decade, 127 e-cigarette-related seizures were reported, which prompted the FDA to launch an official investigation in April 2019. Since then, over 215 cases of a new, severe lung illness have sprung up all over the country, with six deaths to date. While scientists aren't yet sure of the root cause, the majority of victims were young adults who regularly vaped and used e-cigarettes. As such, the CDC has launched an official investigation into the potential link.

Sixteen-year-old Luka Kinard, a former frequent e-cigarette-user, is one of the many teens who experienced severe side effects. "Vaping was my biggest addiction," he told NowThis. "It lasted for about 15 months of my high school career." In 2018, Kinard was hospitalized after having a seizure. He also had severe nausea, chest pains, and difficulty breathing.

After the harrowing experience, he quit vaping, and began speaking out about his experience to help inform others and hopefully inspire them to quit and/or take action. "It shouldn't take having a seizure as a result of nicotine addiction like I had for teens to realize that these companies are taking advantage of what we don't know," Kinard said.

Teens are 16 times more likely to use e-cigarettes than adults, and four times more likely to take up traditional smoking as a result, according to truth, and yet the e-cigarette market remains virtually unregulated and untested. In fact, companies like JUUL continue to block and prevent FDA regulations, investing more than $1 million in lawyers and lobbying efforts in the last quarter alone.

Photo by Lindsay Fox/Pixabay

Consumers have a right to know what they're putting in their bodies. If everyone (and their pets) speaks up, the e-cigarette industry will have to make a change. Young people are already taking action across the country. They're hosting rallies nationwide and on October 9 as part of a National Day of Action, young people are urging their friends and classmates to "Ditch JUUL." Will you join them?

For help with quitting e-cigarettes, visit thetruth.com/quit or text DITCHJUUL to 88709 for free, anonymous resources.

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