Where Is Gender in Agenda Setting?

Sally J. Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Why do some issues surge to the forefront of our attention while others languish in obscurity? Feminist scholars have explored the emergence of issues such as rape, battering, no-fault divorce, pay equity, and other women's issues on the public agenda. Despite a burgeoning body of literature on feminist social movements within history, political science, and sociology over the last twenty-five years, scholars of agenda setting, public policy, and American politics more generally have largely ignored this work. Not surprisingly, this research cannot be simply added in to the dominant agenda setting theoretical paradigm; rather, the findings disrupt conventional understandings. This essay critiques two canonical works, Kingdon's Agendas, Alternatives and Public Policies (1995) and Baumgartner and Jones's Agendas and Instability in American Politics (1993), and discusses exemplary feminist research. It argues that if we want to know how norms change we need to broaden our scope beyond political elites and interest groups to include social movements and newly politicized grassroots activists. We must see change as produced by networks of insiders and outsiders rather than exclusively caused by elites in formal positions. Feminist scholarship also takes seriously the discursive and emotional aspects of politics rather than utilizing a narrow pluralist framework. Moreover, it recognizes the important yet neglected role of law as both an arena and a discourse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-207
Number of pages29
JournalWomen and Politics
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


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