Michelle Obama says she is frustrated with the lack of change since Me Too

Maya Oppenheim

Michelle Obama has said she is frustrated by the lack of change since the rise of the #MeToo movement against sexual assault and harassment.

The former first lady said in some ways the landscape has changed since the movement exploded last autumn – after a series of sexual misconduct allegations were made against men in entertainment and other industries – but in other ways it had not altered whatsoever.

The Chicago native, who left the White House almost two years ago, made an appearance on US TV show Today on International Day of The Girl – a day the United Nations introduced in 2012 to celebrate and empower girls around the globe.

“I'm surprised by how much has changed, but by how much has not changed,” Ms Obama said of the movement.

“I think that is where the fire is coming from. Enough is enough. The world is a sadly dangerous place for women and girls and we see that again and again.”

"I think young women are tired of it. They are tired of being undervalued. They are tired of being disregarded. They are tired of their voices not being invested in and heard," she continued.

"It's not just around the world. That is happening right here in this country and if we are going to change that, we have to give them the tools and the skills through education to be able to lift those voices up."

After co-host Hoda Kotb drew attention to the fact some people think the movement has excluded men and has recently sparked criticism, Ms Obama said: "That is what happens with change. Change is not a direct, smooth path. There are going to be bumps and resistance.”

She added: “There has been a status quo in terms of the way women have been treated, what their expectations have been in this society. And that is changing and there are going to be a little upheaval. There is going to be a little discomfort, but I think it's up to the women out there to say sorry. Sorry that you feel uncomfortable, but I'm now paving the way for the next generation."

"We as mothers, we have to think about the path that we want to pave for our girls and if we don't start setting the tone now, they are going to walk into a world where they are still dealing with those issues in the workplace and at homes and at schools," she continued.

Ms Obama said she hopes Ms Kotb and co-host Savannah Guthrie's daughters do not have to endure the same experiences as previous generations – saying she hoped they could reap the benefits of the current climate.

"Your girls are likely to be the beneficiary of this work, this voice, these opportunities," she said.

Ms Guthrie highlighted the fact that while the former first lady, who enjoyed consistently high popularity ratings, has continually been questioned about whether she will run for office, she has not been asked about reasons which would stop her throwing her hat into the ring.

"As a woman, you understand where your voice works best. Where you want to operate, what space you want to be in. I've never wanted to be a politician," she said. "Nothing has changed in me to make me want to run for elected office. I want to serve. I want to do work. I want to be out there, but there are so many ways to make an impact. Politics is just not my thing."

Ms Obama also addressed her unlikely friendship with former president George W Bush and the widely documented moment when he slipped her a cough drop at John McCain’s funeral in September.

Cameras captured the moment as Senator Joe Lieberman delivered his eulogy for McCain, who died after a battle with brain cancer, at Washington National Cathedral. Ms Obama mouthed the words “thank you" as she flashed a smile.

“I didn't realise at the time that anyone noticed what we were doing," she recalled of the exchange. "President Bush and I, we are forever seatmates because of protocol. That is how we sit at all the official functions, so he is my partner in crime at every major thing where all the formers gather, so we're together all the time."

"I love him to death. He's a wonderful man and he's a funny man. And it was a simple gesture," she said. "He was getting a cough drop from Laura and I looked over and I said, 'Hand me a cough drop.'"

She said the cough drops were old. "They were in the little White House box, the Altoids. And I was like, 'How long have you had these?’ And he said, 'A long time. We've got a lot of these.'"

Ms Guthrie noted the interaction between the pair was an example of a bipartisan moment.

"That is why it matters so much, because that is what people are hungry for," Ms Obama said.

"Party doesn't separate us. Colour, gender. Those kinds of things don't separate us. It's the messages that we send and if we're the adults and the leaders in the room and we're not showing that level of decency, we cannot expect our children to do the same."

In her wide-ranging interview, Ms Obama also discussed how she and former President Barack Obama have managed life “out in the real world” 21 months after leaving the White House.

She said: “One of the keys to a successful marriage is separate bathrooms. When he enters my bathroom sometimes I’m like, ‘Why are you in here?’ And he’s like, ‘I live here, can I enjoy my bathroom too?'”

The former first couple, both Chicago natives who met in the late 1980s at a local law firm called Sidley & Austin, have been married for 26 years.

On Thursday, Ms Obama launched education initiative the Global Girls Alliance, and in November she begins a 10-city tour to promote her upcoming memoir Becoming which comes out on 13 November.

The initiative draws attention to the fact more than 98 million adolescent girls are not in school but an educated girl is able not only to lift up her family but her wider community and therefore her country.