“I’m not a feminist but…”

“I’m not a feminist but I believe in equality,” is a statement said far too often. Many people express their firm beliefs in equality yet make sure to mention that they are not a feminist. It is almost as if they are afraid of the connotation of this word, that by saying they are a feminist their argument loses its validity. But what is wrong with being a feminist? 

A feminist is a person who believes in equality of the sexes, that women should have the same rights to participation in the political process, access to education, professional opportunities, and civil liberties as men.  Feminists also point out the lack of rights apportioned to women. In other words, a feminist is someone who wants equal treatment regardless of gender. Put it even more simply, a feminist believes in equality. So if we look back at the statement “I’m not a feminist but I believe in equality”, the statement itself seems contradictory. If we replace ‘feminist’ with ‘equal rights supporter’, we get this tautology: “I’m not an equal rights supporter, but I believe in equality”.

Perhaps it’s the implication of “femininity” in the word feminism or just the incorrect definition that many have heard. Regardless, these are just excuses. There is no reason to be ignorant about the meaning of feminism and what the movement is about. A feminist is not exclusive to one group of people, a specific demographic, or population. Everyone has the ability to be a feminist, not just women.

Feminism does not ignore the idea that in some cases, men are discriminated against or that women do not always experience this discimination. Of course it doesn’t, because discrimination towards a certain group or by a certain population is not absolute, especially in this changing society. The idea of reducing and, eventually, eliminating the inequities between men and women is a focus of feminism because there have been and still continue to be inequalities among genders. It may not be present in every scenario or instance, but there has been a trend of this discrimination over time. Similar to other movements that draw attention to a specific injustice that occurs, the protests against that action are not saying that there are no other injustices, they are saying that this one is particularly important to point out because it is so severely biased or unconstitutional or unrepresentative of the beliefs of a society. Once again, feminism is not ignorant of the other kinds of discrimination that occur, it simply draws attention to a population that has historically been discriminated against in the past and continues to be in the present. 

“I’m indifferent toward feminism” is the same thing as “I’m indifferent toward equal rights among genders.” If you are indifferent toward it, you are inherently against it. If you do not support it, you automatically become against it. Some think that by saying they are indifferent they are picking a middle ground or that they are excused from not being a feminist. This is wrong. By not being a feminist, you are against equal rights among genders. And if you believe that women should not make $0.82 for every $1.00 a man makes, then you are a feminist.