Dominic Raab said he would “probably not” describe himself as a feminist but insisted he was committed to equality.
The former Brexit secretary was challenged over a 2011 comment that some feminists are “obnoxious bigots”.
The MP also said it should not be made easier to change your gender, adding it was important to be “very careful” about young people who express that desire.
On his “obnoxious bigots” comment, the Tory leadership contender said: “The point I was making is that sexism is wrong and it’s wrong if it’s said about a woman or about a man and I think equality is too precious a value for us to put up with double standards.
“I do think we should call hypocrisy out in political debate and political life.”
Asked on ITV News whether he would describe himself as a feminist he said: “No, probably not.
“But I would describe myself as someone who’s a champion of equality and meritocracy.”
Referring to his wife, Erika, he said they were a “two salary couple, I support her as much as she supports me”.
“I’m all for working women making the very best of their potential and that’s something that’s really important to me.”
Raab was asked whether as prime minister he would want to make it easier for someone to change their gender.
He responded: “I certainly don’t think I want to make it easier. I think you need to be very careful with people of that age.
“I want everyone to feel comfortable in their own skin. But I do worry a little bit with some of this debate - whether it is in relation to vulnerable women in prisons or children in school - that we take a careful, balanced approach because we need to be a society which is small-L liberal, if you like, which is tolerant and warm to the LGBT community.
“Whereas I also worry about the vulnerability of other people, whether it is women in prisons or children at a very tender age in school, so we need to get the balance right.”
Raab, a prominent Brexiteer, played down the prospect of Speaker John Bercow helping to block a no-deal departure from the EU.
“I don’t think that will affect the chances and I think Parliament should of course have its say right the way through this.
“But actually I think it’s very difficult for Parliament to frustrate Brexit if the Government is serious about keeping our promises to the people of this country.”
He insisted that a no-deal Brexit was not his preferred option and said he would use “every ounce of energy” to work for a better offer from the EU.
“But if they don’t move we must give this country a sense of direction, get out of this rut and take Britain forward and that’s what I’d do.”