Feminism is so widely misconstrued and hated, but why? From the moment I knew what feminism was, I started calling myself a feminist.

I learned that feminism had been fighting for me since I was born and long before that.

Feminism fights for EVERYONE'S rights. Equal pay, equal opportunity, right to your body, and so much more. Feminism advocates for men who have been raped, even if the majority of the male community says "Dude, how could YOU be raped?" Feminism fights for girl's safety and right to exist. Without feminism, women wouldn't be allowed to vote. Without feminism, women wouldn't be allowed to have safe abortions. I am sick and tired of the hatred feminists get. Feminists do not hate men. They hate the patriarchy and system that put them second and last in every situation possible for thousands of years. Feminism wants me to have the same chance of getting a job that I am qualified for as a man would. Feminism wants me to live worry-free wearing the clothes I want to wear. Feminism wants to keep me safe and tear down all walls put in my way simply because I am a woman.

Since so many people don't understand the impact of feminism, I decided to ask women and men at James Madison University, The University of Virginia, and The College of William and Mary what they think feminism is and what feminism means to them.

This is what they had to say:

"I think that feminism is just about bringing equality for women, that women shouldn't be treated like an object, that they shouldn't have fewer rights than a man should." -KL, JMU Class of 2022

"To me, feminism is simply the act of supporting the equality of all women and men despite the social constructs that have been put in place over the years. Everyone should be able to express who they are without fear of judgment or exclusion. Feminism has become such a dirty word and has been manipulated in ways that portray someone who calls themselves a feminist as a self-righteous man hater and as someone who puts women over everyone else in society when that simply is not the case. In order for there to be equality for everyone, the true idea of feminism needs to first be understood." -JP, W&M; Class of 2022

"It's about being equal, it's a really positive thing. People have the wrong interpretation of what it actually is." -CB, UVA Class of 2022

"I believe that feminism is about… men have always had rights, telling women what to do with their body. Feminism is not saying that men are not important. For me, feminism is saying that we have importance besides being sex objects and cooks. We have our own lives and careers. I feel like people think feminists hate when guys hold the door open for them, but that's not right. Uber feminists (not real feminists) are what is portrayed. It's the same thing with Black Lives Matter and the Me Too movement. Any movement that threatens the heterosexual, white patriarchy is demonized." -AA, UVA Class of 2022

"I would think that feminism has a generally negative stigma, which I really don't understand. If I were to say one of my parents were a doctor, many people would think it's my dad. But it's my mom. I think she embodies feminism. She breaks social construct in what is perceived as a man's role. Whenever I think of a doctor now, I immediately think it's a woman. Feminism is being unafraid to break the social construct and change perspectives." -MH, UVA Class of 2022