Feminists today work to preserve women's rights and "to make legal victories lived realities rather than just words on paper," Zeilinger said.
Citing the wage gap, a culture that minimizes rape and sexual harassment, the low value placed on domestic work, gender disparities in executive positions and recent legal battles over women's contraception, millennial feminists say there are still plenty of bones to pick in the realm of inequality.
Young feminists have protested sexual assault and harassment through anti-rape coalitions and "Slut Walks," marches meant to contest victim blaming and the idea that women who are raped "had it coming" based on how they dress. They try to deconstruct misconceptions about feminism via blogs like The Fbomb, Jezebel and Feministing. They engage with each other and with older feminists at conferences and on college campuses . They also speak up when they see instances of misogyny.
"Feminism is any form of action in support of the conviction that women deserve the same respect and opportunity that men do," said Jim Dennison, a college student in North Carolina. With equal respect, Dennison said, women will hopefully get opportunities they deserve.
Some nonfeminists said the movement devalues traditionally feminine qualities, but one young woman argued that you can be feminine and feminist at the same time.
"My classmates are often surprised to hear me say I'm a feminist, because I wear heels and bows," said Andi Enns, 21, a college student in Missouri. "I hope their minds will be changed about feminism by knowing someone who breaks the stereotype."
Stripping away labels
It's no wonder some millennials don't have a clear understanding of feminism. The movement may be in flux, but the end goal of gender equality hasn't wavered, say feminist leaders.
"I see Gen Y women more emboldened by feminism, even if they don't always use that language," said Amy Richards, co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation. "They understand disparities, even if they don't understand how to fight against them."
So, how do you get millennials who believe in gender equality but don't self-identify as feminists to support the movement?
Erin Matson, Action Vice President for the National Organization for Women, understands that feminism can be a dirty word, but doesn't think the movement needs to rebrand itself to persuade women of its inclusivity.
"I'm not interested in playing language police and if someone says to me, 'I'm really pissed about what they're doing to birth control right now in Congress, but I don't know if I'd call myself a feminist,' I don't really care," Matson said. "I'm going to work with them first on making sure Congress backs off of birth control."
"Some people seem to think, 'I don't need feminism, I'm strong and independent and assert my rights and importance just by being myself,' " Zeilinger said. "I hope that someday, because of changes in the movement, in themselves, or both, these people realize that what they're doing is feminism."