Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Study: Joe's joe arrives 20 seconds faster than Lottie's latte

An undergrad study which showed that women wait longer for their drinks at coffee shops has been picked up by the blogs. Slate, Consumerist, and Jezebel all have articles on it.

One of the most interesting things about this study to me is looking at all the bullshit excuses people come up with to justify the difference:
  • "20 seconds isn't a big deal." Actually, it's about 20% longer.
  • "It's because heterosexual male baristas want to look at the women for longer." Oh, well, that's all right then.
  • "Women order more fancy drinks." Never mind that the study controlled for that.
  • "They don't do it on purpose." Oh, well, that's all right then.
  • "Women are more likely to complain, so the barista takes the time to get it right - this is really discrimination against men for getting an inferior product!" Um, yeah, sure. You want to conduct that study, feel free. (I'm still trying to reconcile this with the idea that the pay gap is due to women *not* complaining enough about their salaries.)
  • "Well, *I've* never noticed it." Unless you get coffee both in and out of drag on a regular basis, I doubt you would. That's why we do studies.
  • "The methodology isn't good enough. I don't know what it is, but it's not good enough." Unless there's something glaring, which I don't see, that's not really a valid criticism until you conduct a better study.
Now, I'm plenty critical of a lot of scientific studies out there (particularly the evo-psych "just so stories"). I will ask "did they control for everything?" the way a lot of the detractors did. However, I recognize that that's speculation, and not a reason to totally ignore the finding. More often, what I dispute are not findings, but conclusions (evo psych is notoriously bad on this front). But this study didn't appear to actually *make* that logical leap - it just pointed out the difference. (To be fair, some of the dismissals were about drawing conclusions rather than disputing the findings - I just don't buy those conclusions or find that they justify the disparity.)

EDIT: Zuzu at Feministe has more here, making the same point about observation versus conclusion, only more elegantly.

EDIT #2: There's further discussion at Feministing, though most of that seems to be stuck in the "the study must be wrong, we just have to figure out why" stage.

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