Every so often, when you argue with people, you run across one or another logical fallacy. Some logical fallacies, such as the ad hominem attack, are fairly easy to spot. Others may be more difficult.
One type of fallacy that you see often is the false analogy (or weak analogy). This happens when a person tries to make his/her point by comparing one case to another where there is often an important difference in the two cases.
I ran across this today in a report on Matzav.com. A few months ago, a number of female employees filed suit against B&H photo, claiming discrimination because women were barred from certain sales jobs. The story was revived yesterday when three more female employees joined the suit.
I want to stress that I have no idea if the suit has merit or not. I don't work at B&H, nor do I visit there too often.
As you might expect, when a story such as this comes up, there are those who think that it's wrong that B&H can be sued for gender discrimination. They usually make a point about how it's a private business and that they should be able to hire/fire whomever they like.
One poster on Matzav, who goes by the screen name "hesh" made the following point (emphasis mine):
This lawsuit is outragous! What total nonsense! B&H photo is a private company. What if a man would try to get a job in a shaitel store, dress shop, etc… What about a lady teaching 9th grade gemorah class? Use a bissel sechial. This is total MESIRA!
Putting aside his initial outbursts, the point he's trying to make is this: Firms should be allowed to hire/fire whom they want. If the government interferes with that (via laws against discrimination) then they could force a sheitel store to hire a male employee which, in the frum world, would completely destroy the business (as the married women will not shop there).
In other words, Hesh is making an analogy between B&H and a sheitel store (and a dress shop and a boys' yeshiva).
However, the analogy isn't a good one. In fact, it's a pretty bad one. The reason why it's a bad analogy is because there is an important difference between the cases he brings and B&H.
Hesh is probably correct in his statement that forcing a sheitel shop to hire a man would be incorrect. As I pointed out earlier, it would ruin the business as women would not shop at the store anymore. The same can be said for a dress store. Likewise, in many segments of the frum community, the parents would pull their sons out of school if a woman taught gemara.
However, the same cannot be said about B&H. B&H's business will not be harmed by the presence of female salespeople. The vast majority of the people who shop at B&H care about the price, selection, warranty and the company's great reputation as a photographic equipment store. They don't care about the gender of the person behind the counter.
And that's all the difference. The stores in the examples that Hesh provides have a legitimate business need for a specific gender employee. B&H does not have a specific business need for male-only salespeople. And that's why the analogy fails for Hesh's argument.