Perhaps you have heard about this article by Satoshi Kanazawa. Titled, Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?, it was originally published in Psychology Today and has since been removed. According to this article it is scientifically proven that I am one of the ugliest women on the planet.
One of the ugliest women on Earth
Isn’t that lovely?
Many before me have already commented on exactly why this article is not to be trusted. The “science” is faulty. Says Nanjala Nyabola on the guardian.co.uk:
He fails to provide information on the sample size for his research, or the social or economic factors (including race) that would have impacted on his findings so that readers can deduce for themselves as to what extent these findings can be generalised across time and space. As some tweeters have noted, it’s a classic trick in which pseudoscientists blind you with multicoloured graphs and three decimal place figures to convince lay readers that their research was thorough and is conclusive. I mean, who can argue with three decimal places?
I couldn’t put it any better. However I do wonder what the point of this article was in the first place? What was gained? What was meant to be the benefit to our understanding of the human race? Kanazawa concludes his article with:
The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races[...]women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.
I try to use the term “racist” sparingly, because if it’s used too often and when it’s really not merited, you have on your hands a “boy who cried wolf” scenario, and then when something comes along that truly does hold all the malice and/or ignorance that racism implies, few are likely to believe it. I gave some good thought to whether Satoshi Kanazawa’s article was actually racist or simply insensitive and unnecessary, and I believe it comes down to a matter of Kanazawa’s personal belief. If the article is an extrapolation of his personal belief that black women are the least attractive of all the races then, the way I see it, the article is in fact racist because we are no longer dealing with something objective. We are likely dealing with someone, possibly without even realizing they are doing it, twisting stats to fit their reality, and trying to pass that personal reality (a.k.a opinion) off as fact.
I believe that is what Kanazawa is doing and therefore I believe that the article is in fact racist. However I believe it is a racism born of ignorance rather than malice. The clues are in the body of the article.
As the following graph shows, black women are statistically no different from the “average” Add Health respondent, and far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women.
Black women are[...]far less attractive than other races. Would it be so difficult to be accurate and write “black women are considered by the respondents of this study to be far less attractive than other races”? This is supposed to be science right? Objective? No, he states this like it’s some kind of biological fact. Which is exactly what he believes.
Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races. And the mutation loads significantly decrease physical attractiveness (because physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health). But since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive, while black men are, if anything, more attractive.
First of all, “physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health”. Oh! Of course! Well everyone knows that. Let’s squash all this nonsense about any kind of socialization affecting what we consider attractive. 1+1=2 and physical attractiveness is a measure of genetic and developmental health, period. Glad we have Satoshi Kanazawa here to tell us what’s up. And for the few who won’t be able to tell, I’m being sarcastic.
Second, “since both black women and black men have higher mutation loads, it cannot explain why only black women are less physically attractive”. You said it yourself Kanazawa: Your science can’t explain this one. At best all you can do is make a weak guess about testosterone. Maybe your mutation load theory can’t explain anything because it’s not true? Hmmm.
I think Kanazawa believes he is some kind righteous herald of scientific truth when all that his article proves is that there is a perception among his respondents that black women are the least attractive of all the races. He is trying to take this information and extrapolate it to mean that black women are objectively, inherently less attractive than the women of other races. I think this is misleading, irresponsible and yes, racist.
And to what end? If Kanazawa was coming at this from some kind of social perspective I’d be right on board with him, really I would, because if the entire world’s perception of beauty is so skewed against one race and toward another that’s something worth knowing. Then the article would have some kind of purpose, because it points to something deeper: A lack of equality. In this day and age, especially in the west, we love to talk about equality. We love to say we are for equality but few of us know where to find it or how to achieve it. Well one way is to take a good hard look at ourselves, to be aware of what we’re all really thinking. If we think one race is ugly we consider it inferior. If we think one race is beautiful it’s superior. I don’t think it’s a stretch for me to say we associate beauty with good and ugly with bad. Of course even this, a study in attractiveness, would only be one piece of the puzzle.
So how does this article concern me personally? Aside from the fact that I am a black woman, after living in Japan for four months, watching Japanese TV, talking to Japanese people and being bombarded by Japanese advertising, I think this country is a prime example Kanazawa’s findings if they are considered socially. The female models in this country (when not Japanese, of course) are frequently women of European descent, often with blond hair and light eyes. I can recall seeing all of two ad campaigns featuring black women in my four months here. Some Japanese celebrities undergo surgery to make their eyes bigger, rounder, less Asian and more European looking. If there’s a market for white women wanting to go so far as to get surgery to make their eyes look more Asian, it’s minuscule.
It may sound like I’m ranting, but I’m just calling it as I see it. It may sound like I’m trying to say that whites are unfairly idolized. Not so. Right now I’m not trying to get into a discussion of fair or unfair, just equal. I’m simply giving an example of how living in Japan coupled with Kanazawa’s article has shown me that the world is still not equal, how the races are not still not perceived as equal. And it has not slipped my notice that Kanazawa is Japanese, and that his perception could be molded by this very environment. However, I’m not sure if he was born and raised in Japan or another country, like America, but frankly it doesn’t make much difference. This racial bell curve exists all over the world. All you have to do to see it is turn on your TV or look up at a billboard.
**update** Kanazawa has been fired from Psychology Today. It’s good to know that he had to face the consequences for writing this irresponsible article, but I can’t help but feel it was only due to public pressure that he’s gone. That said, it’s encouraging that the pressure even existed. An article like this would have been taken as fact maybe as recently as 50 years ago, so I think that even though it’s disheartening that the article was published in the first place, on the bright side people are waking up, and seeing this kind of propaganda for what it really is.
This post is a part of the January 2011 Special edition J.Festa over at Japingu.