How You Set Back Gender Equality When You Say, 'I'm Not A Feminist'

A couple of years ago, I read a Huffington Post article entitled, "20 Women Who Apparently Don't Need (And Are Against) Feminism." As a self-proclaimed feminist, the title immediately caught my interest. Then, it just as quickly roused my ire.

In case you didn't read it, it consists of various women giving their reasons for not needing feminism. Those reasons start out innocuous enough. One girl says she doesn't need feminism because she's not a victim. Another says it's because she's not oppressed.

"That's great," I thought. Obviously, the feminist movement worked if these girls felt equally treated and respected by men and society. Win.

But, no. Their reasons got worse.

One girl said she doesn't need feminism to get an undeserved pay increase for working fewer hours than a man. Another girl rejected feminism because she didn't believe that all men were pigs. That's when I thought, "Wait a minute. I'm not sure we're talking about the same feminism."

Do you know the definition of feminism? It's the "belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities." That's the literal definition of feminism: equality.

Feminists don't believe all men are pigs. That's misandry, otherwise known as the hatred of men. That's a whole other movement.

Feminists also don't believe women should get paid more for doing less work than a man. We believe in equal work for equal pay.

What bothered me about these women was they didn't seem to know what feminism even was, let alone all the ways in which they used it every day. In fact, simply by voicing their opinions on the issue — by saying their voices and opinions mattered — they were, in essence, using feminism.

But instead of thanking that movement — the one that gave them the right to vote, the right to pursue an education and the right to pursue a career — they scorned it and said they didn't need it anymore. That mentality is going to make life more difficult for the rest of us, the women who still feel on the front lines in the struggle for equality.

Is it dramatic to say there's a war on women? Maybe so. But some days, it does feel like it.

Take women's reproductive rights, for example. We all remember what a battle it was in 2013 to make Plan B accessible both over the counter and to women of all ages. The Supreme Court had to decide if a Texas law that restricts women's access to abortions is unconstitutional. That verdict will have far-reaching consequences across the United States, where over 250 restrictions have been placed on abortions in the past five years.

Women's rights activists and feminists alike lament that the decisions that concern women and their health are being decided by a handful of men in Washington. That brings me to my next point: representation.

In the House of Representatives, there are currently 362 men to 76 women. In the Senate, there are 83 men to 17 women. This means we are not even adequately represented in the government under which we live.

Don't even get me started on the wage gap, where women earn about two-thirds of the amount men make for similar work, as reported by the World Economic Forum on CNN. By its projections, it will take 118 years for the economic gap between men and women to close.

The US is also the only country in the group of developed nations not to mandate paid maternity leave for new mothers, according to NPR. So, when women do decide to start families — which is a decision they make jointly with the men in their lives — it is their career that suffers with regard to missed work and income. The men are just fine.

I write all this not to discourage women, but to remind them that the fight is not over. We still have a lot of work to do.

As a woman, you have the choice to be a feminist or not. But don't say you don't need feminism while you enjoy all the freedom it affords. I say this without criticism or snark. A simple "thank you" would suffice.