Date of Award

May 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Leadership - Higher Education

Committee Member

Rachel Wagner

Committee Member

Robin Phelps-Ward

Committee Member

Michelle Boettcher

Committee Member

Erin Goss


This study examines how I, as a white woman social justice educator at a southeastern public university, practiced gendered racism and was supported in these practices by administrators at my institution. White women have been socialized throughout history to use our gender subordination as a defense when confronted with our racism. I built a theoretical framework with intersectionality as a baseline to investigate of how white women are complicit in gendered racism. I then intertwined idealized objectification standards and racial gatekeeping to reveal how white women use practices such as innocence, embodying goodness, and protecting white men, to gain and maintain power and restrict access from People of Color. I used autocritography, a self-study methodology focused on the telling and retelling of stories, to examine how my idealized objectified practices protect and insulate me from addressing my active racism. Through five tellings detailing an event in my role as a social justice educator, I explained how one of my programs came under scrutiny and revision from upper administrators at the institution. Using dramaturgical and theoretical framework-based coding, I found three areas where my practices helped me maintain my reputation as a good white woman. I also discovered ways I faced consequences for not upholding this reputation. I then discuss how these findings revealed the everyday subtle ways that white supremacy maintains its presence and operation in our society as well as the way it is tied to our norms and expectations. I also outlined how racism is practiced at all times and that, if white women want to make change, we must let go of our reputations as good white women. I finish with a discussion of how this study relates to and further supports studies regarding the negative experiences of People of Color in higher education spaces. Finally, I connect these findings to implications for students, staff, and faculty both inside and outside of the classroom.



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