Neoliberal Feminism and the Racialization of Higher Education

Document Type

Student Presentation

Presentation Date



College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Sociology

Faculty Sponsor

Dr. Arthur Scarritt


Neoliberal feminism has gained popularity in part through publications such as “Lean In” written by Facebook CEO Sheryl Sandberg and “Women Who Work” by Ivanka Trump. While neoliberal feminism does acknowledge gender inequalities it proposes that solutions are found within the individual, it offers no critique of the systems that have helped perpetuate inequality. It also does not account for inequalities among women, such as differences in class or race. Hence, it serves as another colorblind ideology that ignores and further reproduces racial inequality as it advantages white women over women of color who are facing additional barriers to success. On a university level, interviews with students at Boise State indicate that students have largely internalized colorblind ideology and neoliberal ideals in terms of pursuing gender and racial equality, in that inequalities are recognized but no systemic changes are sought and solutions are believed to be found in the individuals. Students claimed to be in favor of diversity and equality, but when pressed about affirmative action programs or classes on race, it became obvious that most were uncomfortable or disagreed with any tangible action that my lead to equality. Similarly, when asked about feminism, most students were in favor of equality but quickly rejected any forms of feminism that questioned the system as “extreme” or “radical”. Drawing on literature, in part from Bonilla-Silva on colorblind ideology and Fraser’s “Fortunes of Feminism” I seek to explain student’s responses that seem to often be contradictory in recognition of inequalities and a claim of supporting equality, yet simultaneously rejecting any inclusion efforts.

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