Diversity Is Strength

Diversity as a great good is a typically neoliberal idea. The principle behind it is that more goods on display are better than fewer goods.

This is precisely why institutional enforcement of diversity is is so strictly numerical. Forty-five kinds of pasta in a store is better than one. It’s simple numbers.

It’s also why nobody ever tries to make an argument for why “diversity is our strength.” Every consumer understands without needing an argument why it’s good to have many brands of pasta available for purchase.

I know somebody who treats her circle of acquaintances on this basis. “All that’s missing is somebody Asian!” she once shared, looking at the guests at her birthday party. “Hey, can you introduce me to that Chinese woman teaching at your department?”

The party was very uncomfortable because the guests didn’t know each other and barely knew the hostess. But we would make a great display at a store selling diversity.


9 thoughts on “Diversity Is Strength”

  1. Smile. Clarissa, it’s obvious you have never managed a retail store. It certainly is better of have more than one item on the shelf. For some psychological reason, no one wants to buy that last lonely box on the shelf. But many BRANDS of pasta? Depends what you mean by many.

    Consumers will likely be attracted by a selection from among three or four well-know brands. Or even six or eight. But 15 or 20? Overchoice can actually be a problem for the consumer. She might walk on by if she’s in a hurry. And for the merchant, it takes up a ton or valuable shelf space. They price retail space by the square foot.

    It’s definitely a good sales strategy to have an impressive amount of merchandise on display. “Pile it high and watch it fly.” At the basic level, it simply catches the eye. A few brands, displayed well, is better than many brands in the same amount of space. But you should know that a huge display of only ONE brand can generate a ton of sales, if it’s the number-one top seller in the category. The drop-off in popularity from the top-selling brand to the second or third is usually dramatic. An eye-catching display of just one brand, even if it takes half the space of an alternative display of 20 brands, might be advantageous to both merchant and consumer. The consumer is attracted to the popular brand simply because it is popular. And if the price is reasonable, it’s a quick and easy no-brainer to buy. She may buy three instead of one, because the impressive number of items on display somehow makes people buy more. Don’t ask me why, but it does.

    So yes, a great amount of items on display is good, but not necessarily a great DIVERSITY of brands. And if the shopper quickly buys three boxes of pasta, she may have time left over to go browse the ice cream section. Where she will be attracted to a large display of her favorite ice cream. So that’s where DIVERSITY comes in. You could have a store selling only pasta and tomato sauce, and potatoes and hamburger. But your shopper needs or wants other products as well. Vegetables, cake, ice cream, beer. And they will pick up a candy bar and a magazine on impulse at checkout.

    What this implies for racial or ethnic diversity, I do not know. You already observed that the large party of human beings was “uncomfortable.” I don’t want to follow this path of reasoning any further, thank you very much.


  2. Due to the mad labyrinth of the internet think I’ve just become a TERF due to someone who died 150 years ago.
    Dr James Barry.
    Disguised as a man to become a doctor and then a military surgeon. Apparantly it’s disrespectful to use ‘she’.
    I think it’s disrespectful to pioneering female doctors to see them as trans men.

    Anyone alive today gets their asked for name and pronouns. But you’re not taking Victorian trailblazers from me in ahistorical appropriation.


    1. Really?? That’s ridiculous. Of course, Barry was a woman. It’s unbelievable how people try to retell history according to some inane modern purposes.

      What about women writers who used male pseudonyms, like George Elliott? Are they trans, too? This is crazy.

      I feel your pain.


      1. Oh yes, they’ve changed Barry’s Wikipedia page. There’s a new novel coming out using ‘she’ about Barry and there’s a fierce campaign against it as transphobic. Here’s one worrying critique; “If one lived in a time when, for example, a category like “doctor” entailed the defining predicate “male,” could we not reasonably refer to an AFAB person’s desire to be a doctor as, in part, a trans desire?”

        I’ve plunged down the rabbit hole. Over the past few days I’ve gone from; this Twitter mudslinging is a bit harsh, to; wait a minute, am I a TERF now?
        I’ve seen trans women tell lesbians; you haven’t met the right penis yet. Zero awareness of the bigotry lesbians have faced. I’d say that both trans women and lesbians get to decide on their own body.

        Why do people lead with insults like “men in dresses!” when there’s actually a valid critique under all the mud?


        1. I know exactly how you feel. I was always completely pro trans rights. I still am. But this has gone in such a crazy direction, that I think I now am a bona fide TERF. It’s so weird.


        2. “wait a minute, am I a TERF now?”
          It’s hard to not be in the current environment. Everybody has a bridge they will not cross, and for me the first such bridge was the cotton ceiling (roughly…. lesbians who don’t want to engage with penises are ‘transphobic’) there’ve been a lot since but that was my first internal ‘no!’


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