Feminism isn't some sort of exclusive club; all you need to do to be part of it is to believe in gender equality. But there are some things that don't necessarily make you a feminist — and indeed, claiming to be one when you don't in fact advocate for the rights of oppressed genders undermines the movement. In some circles, it's become trendy to call yourself a feminist, but actions speak louder than words. You also have to promote equality with your behavior — that is, you can't just talk the talk; you also have to walk the walk.
This isn't to say that if you slip up and say or do something sexist, you're not a feminist. Even the fiercest feminists among us have these moments; it's what we do with them once they happen that matters — for example, how you respond when someone calls out a microagression you may have made, even if it was an unintentional one.
It's also not to say that qualities like whether or not you like makeup and what kind of TV you watch has any bearing on your feminism. You're not a "bad feminist" for consuming media that's problematic (AKA everything) or taking part in cultural customs with problematic origins (again, pretty much everything). The only thing that makes you anti-feminist is routinely doing things that undermine people's rights and not making an effort to change that.
Here are some things that don't make you a feminist, even if you say you're one.
1Advocating For Women Only
Feminism isn't just about women because women aren't the only oppressed gender. Trans and non-binary people face at least as much discrimination, and men of marginalized identities also need our help.
2Advocating For Privileged People Only
Feminism that's not intersectional isn't really feminism because it ends up contributing to oppression. Advocating for white people only ends up hurting people of color, advocating for straight people only ends up hurting LGBTQ people, and so on. Feminism must work toward equality across the board.
3Using Feminism As A Fashion Statement
It's fine to literally wear your feminist heart on your sleeve, but supporting feminism through your purchasing means buying products that were made ethically, not just ones that say "feminist" on them. Wearing clothes or accessories with "feminism" or "nasty woman" on them doesn't make you a feminist if you're not also advocating social justice.
4Using Feminism To Boost Your Image
Be skeptical of any straight cis man who claims to be a feminist on his online dating profile. These people may get the attention of certain women by saying they're feminists, but are they practicing what they preach? Because that matters. It really, really matters.
5Identifying As A "Nice Guy"
If you think you're a good feminist ally because you're (gasp!) friends with women and don't demand the sex you secretly believe they owe you, you're actually a misogynist. If you're really a "nice guy," you probably are a feminist, because believing in equality is the right thing to do. The bar is really not that high, y'all.
6Being A Powerful Woman
Let me be clear: There's nothing wrong with looking sexy; it doesn't hurt women, and you should dang well look however you please. But, sexiness also doesn't elevate anyone's status, despite what today's marketplace feminism (as author Andi Zeisler calls it) would have us believe. When advertisements advocate buying hair products to validate women's worth and celebrities call taking a nude selfie "feminist," we can lose sight of the fact that you can dress conservatively and wear no makeup and still be a feminist. Feminism has nothing to do with how you look, and conversely, looking a certain way does not make you a feminist.
None of these behaviors alone make you anti-feminist, but they don't in of themselves make you a feminist either. Simply put, you're a feminist if you believe in the equality of all people, whether or not anything on this list applies to you.