This Ringtone of Michelle Obama Telling Men to “Be Better” Is Going Viral

My pal made me a thing as a joke. Huffington Post called him a genius.

By Tuck Woodstock June 24, 2016

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The time has come to switch your phone from vibrate to ring, thanks to the First Lady, the podcast Call Your Girlfriend, a filmmaker in Hoboken, and a text I sent one time. But wait, I can explain. Sort of. 

At the White House’s United State of Women on June 14, Oprah Winfrey asked Michelle Obama what men could do to help women. Be better,” the First Lady replied. “Be better at everything.” 

I was vaguely aware of the interview, but didn’t actually listen to it until it was excerpted in an episode of Call Your Girlfriend, which bills itself as “a podcast for long-distance besties everywhere.” I promptly texted my own long-distance bestie, a New York-area filmmaker named Zak Griffler: “I finally listened to Michelle Obama tell men to be better at everything and I legit want it as my ringtone.”

Five hours and nine minutes later, Griffler texted me back a 24-second audio file. This is what I secretly hoped would happen, because Griffler has a history of taking silly creative requests extremely seriously, and also because he’s the greatest friend of all time and I am #blessed to know him. (I am biased.) 

Feeling that Griffler’s creation was too amazing to keep to myself, I cold-tweeted the ringtone to Call Your Girlfriend’s Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sou. Friedman tweeted back within four minutes: “oh my godddd THIS ON REPEAT.” Three hours later, Griffler was getting interview requests from New York magazine's The Cut. Huffington Post called him a “genius man.” TIME picked it up. Thousands of folks downloaded the ringtone. We wondered aloud if "I made me a feminist ringtone and a podcast made it go viral" is the most 2016 thing ever said. It was very weird. 

Here’s the thing: Griffler made this ringtone because it’s silly and fun, yes, but also because how great would it be if men were better? What if men heard Obama say, “When you are sitting at a seat of power at a table of any kind and you look around and you just see you and a bunch of men… and you allow that to happen, and you’re OK with that, be better!” and actually acted on it? What if we didn’t need feminist ringtones because toxic masculinity and rape culture and all the other issues addressed at the United State of Women summit were actually fixed somehow?

“I wish people would just listen to the entire [interview],” Griffler laments. “It's a phenomenal speech, and concessions had to be made to fit her message into a ringtone. But I also think that given the potential reach of ringtone activism, getting it into a concise message as a conversation starter might have a great deal of value in itself.” 

Ringtones are easy. Feminism is hard. But regardless of how hard you're ready to fight for basic equality, you’re welcome to download this fiery ringtone for yourself. Just remember to turn your phone off vibrate.

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