Walmart Case: Women don’t have enough in common

A quick update on the Walmart case that ednainthesea discussed here. The US supreme court has decided that one and a half million women cannot bring a class-action suit against Walmart, in which they were to argue that the corporation’s record on the promotion and pay of women belies institutional sex discrimination. The justices agreed unanimously that the suit failed to meet a particular technical requirement. More interestingly, a 5-4 majority ruled that the women do not have enough in common to bring a class action suit; according to Justice Scalia, the necessary common element is “entirely absent”.

You can read the full opinion here (direct link to .pdf). Part II of the court’s opinion (pp. 8-20) explains the reasoning behind the no-common-element decision. The appended dissenting opinion, written by Justice Ginsburg, takes issue with this part of the opinion (post, pp. 1-11).

Whatever the niceties of the legal arguments, it seems clear that the decision has greatly diminished the chances that large class-action suits could be used to address systemic discrimination.

Edition of Granta dedicated to feminism

Rather late on this one, since I only just got round to opening my copy, but the current (Spring 2011) edition of Granta has feminism (or as they have it, “The F Word”) as its theme. In addition to the articles in the print edition, there’s lots of online-only content too, which you can access free. I’ve only had time to read a couple of pieces properly, and skim a couple more, but there seems to be a wealth of interesting stuff there.

What’s wrong with/In this story?

A 95 year old woman had to remove her adult diaper during TSA pat down. 

Given that the decision to demand that a 95 year-old mortally ill woman remove her diaper before she can pass security check looks like a really bad decision, where does the fault reside?  E.g., in the fact that  there wasn’t any presumption about what is reasonable?  Or maybe the fault lay in the assumption that a lump in a depends diaper is suspicious?  Or perhaps TSA agents need a course in critical reasoning?  Or all of the above and more?

What do you think?

Preferring boys to girls

According to the results of this recent Gallup poll, if Americans could have only one child 40% would prefer that the child be a boy, compared to only 28% who would that it be a girl. This level of preference for boys over girls is, dishearteningly, the same level of preference Americans reported in 1941.

There’s been a lot of discussion about preference for male children is some Asian countries, and the potential gender imbalance that China’s “one child policy” could create as a result. There’s also been a predictable amount of scrambling around to explain the displayed preference for male children in Asian countries by some deep East-West divide, or some ingrained sexism in Chinese culture.

The results of polls like this one call those explanations into question. Differences between Asian and American culture aside, people just tend to prefer boys.

Swedish preschool : Breaking down gender stereotypes

At the “Egalia” preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys….Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

To even things out, many preschools have hired “gender pedagogues” to help staff identify language and behavior that risk reinforcing stereotypes….Lego bricks and other building blocks are intentionally placed next to the kitchen, to make sure the children draw no mental barriers between cooking and construction.

Director Lotta Rajalin notes that Egalia places a special emphasis on fostering an environment tolerant of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. From a bookcase she pulls out a story about two male giraffes who are sad to be childless — until they come across an abandoned crocodile egg.

Nearly all the children’s books deal with homosexual couples, single parents or adopted children. There are no “Snow White,” ”Cinderella” or other classic fairy tales seen as cementing stereotypes.

Rajalin, 52, says the staff also try to help the children discover new ideas when they play.

“A concrete example could be when they’re playing ‘house’ and the role of the mom already is taken and they start to squabble,” she says. “Then we suggest two moms or three moms and so on.”

From here.

Why do some women go for the “bad boys”? The empirical support goes to…

And, we could ask equally, why do some men fall in love with them?  I’m think we’ve posted about this question, but I can’t find anything on the blog.  It is hard to believe, but we do not seem to have ever used “scoundrel,” “rascal,” or “rogue.”  (We joked about “scoundrelly.”) And “cad” brought up too many hits to check. perhaps because it is a part of so many words. 

So with a bit of hand waving, I’ll say there seem to me two types of explanation or answer to the opening question.  There’s the very common one that says “there’s something about the women and men who are taken in by these guys.”  And then we need to inquire into how bad that trait or set of traits is that sets the victims up.  Further, the predominance of the literature finding failings specifically in women is the main reason why the post doesn’t address men and “bad girls”. 

And then there is the much less common  (in self-help books) explanation  that locates the cause in the rascals themselves.  And this account has increasing empirical support.   There’s something about them that makes them very attractive to most people.  These scoundrels are narcissists and narcissists tend to be very attractive in the short-term.  

…  narcissists are more popular at first sight because of the cues they produce, which people at first acquaintance can use to “thin-slice” and form an impression of that person without any further information about that person.

[Recent researchers]  investigated four cues which they hypothesized based on prior research (Berscheid & Reis, 1998) would be related to the popularity of narcissists at first sight and why people often describe narcissists as having a “charismatic air”: attractiveness, competence, interpersonal warmth, and humor.

 Further, if you run experiments and have strangers introduce themselves, the narcissists tend to come out highest on the “would like to get to know him/her” entry. 

So that’s it.  The bad boys are narcissists and narcissists tend to be very attractive on first encounter.  They really, really don’t wear well, but at the beginning it’s like you have struck it lucky.  You’ve gotten the prize. 

Of course, the question arises why anyone stays with the narcissist.  My own bet here would be that there are many different reasons.   I started to look on various search engines for some idea of the range of answers, but the academic treatment of narcissism seems to have moved on.  And the forthcoming edition of DSM will eliminate the category, if not the problem.  It is also important to remember that staying with the narcissist may be the safer alternative if he is explosive and violent.


I found out about the research by following links from an interesting article in defense of introversion in the NY Times by Susan Cain.

Conf: N. American Society for Social Philosophy

Matt Drabek writes:

Hi! I think maybe an announcement for the North American Society for Social Philosophy conference in Milwaukee in July would be a good idea. The conference title/theme is “Freedom, Religion, and Gender” and there are lots of great-looking sessions that are relevant to feminist philosophy. The program can be downloaded at the website. My own session that focuses on pornography and subordination is 9C. 7C is another session on pornography.

He’s right– it looks like a wonderful conference. Just skimming, I spotted sessions on implicit bias and philosophy, microinequities, autonomy, disability and intersectionality.