What I’m about to describe comes from some young men I like a lot and generally admire. It wouldn’t cross my mind to call them sexist, and the fact that each has employed the fallacy, leads me to worry that its sexism may be quite unobvious, at least to people living a privileged life. Indeed, in each form I didn’t recognize the fallacy as quickly as I would have liked to do. In my opinion, it can be quite damaging to diversity.
(1) my not picking her (for a student position) was not sexist, since I don’t know her at all. But I do know the other (male) candidate, admire his work, etc. So I picked him.
(2) He didn’t call on you (after calling on 7 men) because you were the only woman with her hand up and (1) the grad students we asked him to call on were all men; (2) The second male person was a very good friend of his; (3) The next male person was on the search committee…
And so on.
I take each of these to claim, in effect, that the decider has relationships that give him a reason to pick a or the men, while he has no reason to pick the woman. And so he doesn’t pick her. Women so often start out as outsiders, and this argument can further that dismal status.
My claim that the first was problematic was on email, and it was not well received. A senior male philosopher wanted to know what better grounds for his selection could he have had.
There may have been much more to say in each of these cases, and I don’t want to construe either in terms of the speakers’ personalities. In fact, I would expect each to avoid recognizable sexism. What I’d love to hear is your reactions.