The Gender Paradoxes of Race-Based Affirmative Action

36 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 9 Apr 2010

Date Written: April 1, 2010


Whereas white males are traditionally seen as the most strident critics of affirmative action, white women have become central to the battles in ways that would seem to complicate and undercut the arguments on both sides. This paper analyzes three case involving affirmative action that reveal the political importance of white women in the eyes of political and legal strategists and the incentives to relegate white men from lead actors to supporting-cast or behind-the-scenes roles in debates over racial inclusion policies. By combining intersectionality theory with Deborah Stone’s framework on “causal stories and problem formation,” this paper argues that political entrepreneurs on both sides strategically construct stories about either the presence or elimination of race-based affirmative action as a policy problem. Both sides open themselves up to accusations of hypocrisy in their choices of featuring (white) women in their descriptive and causal stories about race-based affirmative action.

Keywords: affirmative action, gender, race, diversity, equality, intersectionality, politics, political science, American politics, racial politics, racial and ethnic politics, diversity, education, higher education

Suggested Citation

Lipson, Daniel N., The Gender Paradoxes of Race-Based Affirmative Action (April 1, 2010). Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper , Available at SSRN:

Daniel N. Lipson (Contact Author)

SUNY New Paltz ( email )

1 Hawk Drive
New Paltz, NY 12561
United States


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