[Note: Due either to heavy visitation to the site, or (I hope) due to public outcry regarding the utterly racist nature of the article I address in this Blog post, the original article has been inaccessible. I have a friend who uploaded the article in Google Docs, and I have included a link to that site in this post.]
I’m going to make this Blog post quick & to the point, because I’m tired and overwhelmed today. But I need to speak out about the recent article published in Psychology Today entitled “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?” by Satoshi Kanazawa. You can read the article here: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FNIN515ZPH9EtB8oxBxLIOMOlMP39gvvb8m1rjNEgFY/edit?hl=en&authkey=CObUrMUP&pli=1#
I feel compelled to write about this, because Psychology Today is a mainstream magazine trusted by millions of lay people to give them insight into modern (and valid) psychological research and interventions. Because the author of this piece uses graphs and numbers, many people will trust this research on its face…without asking the important questions that need to be asked.
From the outset, the author explains that “Add Health [a research organization] measures the physical attractiveness of its respondents both objectively and subjectively.”…but then never explains how one can OBJECTIVELY measure physical attractiveness in ANY culture, much less one that is ruled by the ideology of White Supremacy (as most Western cultures – and even most colonized cultures – are). Standards of attractiveness are inherently subjective; objectivity is not possible, since standards of physical attractiveness vary from culture-to-culture, and are tremendously impacted by social structures – race, class, gender, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, etc. With the notion of an “objective” way to measure physical attractiveness as his foundation, the author begins and ends his research in the fictive realm.
Consider this paragraph, interspersed between graphs that are placed to make the reader feel like, “This is SCIENCE!!”: “It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others.” Here, the author presents Black women (and men, though once we read on we discover that Black men are considered to be more physically attractive than men of other races. I’ll explain why this should be no surprise in a minute) as exhibiting delusional thinking – despite the fact that we are CLEARLY less physically attractive than women of other races, we still BELIEVE that we are, in fact, MORE attractive. Given that the author insists that he is taking an “objective” approach to measuring physical attractiveness, I’m sure he did read this as delusional. (Also because he has issues with racism…more on that in a jiff!) Unfortunately, as I outlined earlier, there is no such thing as an “objective measurement of physical attractiveness.” Moreover, it is evident that the Black women in his study have noticed an ongoing trend in our culture that he has overlooked – the fact that non-Black women are having collagen injected into their lips to make them fuller, implants surgically attached to their asses, special products to create the illusion of a “big booty,” and an addiction to tanning salons. Read: Why would Black women consider themselves to be less physically attractive than women of other races, when women of other races are striving every day to look more like Black women?!? Hmm…
Thinking that he has slipped us a doozy, the author explains that Black women are generally more overweight than their non-Black counterparts…but that’s not why we are less attractive! Psych! He also states: “Nor can the race difference in intelligence (and the positive association between intelligence and physical attractiveness) account for the race difference in attractiveness among women.” Translation: “Even the fact that Black women are less intelligent than women of other races does not account for them being considered (objectively, of course) less physically attractive than their non-Black counterparts.” Outright Eugenicist Racism…COMIN’ ATCHA!! No…it’s not that we are fatter and dumber (even though in the author’s mind we clearly are) – the REAL reason why we are considered less physically attractive?!? I can’t tell you yet…because I need to blow my man up about his EUGENICIST interpretation regarding what is considered a “mutation.”
The author explains: “…because they have existed much longer in human evolutionary history, 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.).” <— OK, People. Am I the only one who remembers 10th grade Biology?!? Dark skin, dark hair, curly hair, dark eyes…these are DOMINANT GENETIC TRAITS. Light skin, light hair, straight hair, blue/green eyes…these are RECESSIVE GENETIC TRAITS. Aren’t recessive traits considered to be the most “mutant”?!? Bio people…am I wrong about this?!? I used to have a high school teacher (shout out to Mr. Lentz) who constantly reiterated the phrase: “White people were the last ones to get to this planet, and we will be the first ones to go.” He was a white man, by the way. In fact, men all over Europe have long been traveling to Africa to find wives to marry. Could be about standards of attractiveness; could be about saving their genetic lineage. Oh, and the reason why Black men are considered more physically attractive? This author refuses to discuss social structures (too subjective?) or stereotypes/racist beliefs associated with different races/cultures, but had he done so he would have been able to point to the belief that Black men are more sexually virile than men of other races as an answer to his question. Ironically, this stereotype was created by white men in an effort to scare white women into staying away from Black men…yeah, that backfired. The assumption that women are not sexual agents always does.
While sexual virility is considered a HUGE part of the “standards of physical attractiveness” for men, passivity and the appearance of docility work the same way for women. Since Black women are viewed in this culture as being more assertive/aggressive – thereby embodying the OPPOSITE of the passive/docile standard – we are automatically viewed as less physically attractive (in a white supremacist capitalist culture). But I digress. Because just when we feel COMPLETELY overwhelmed by the Eugenicist Racism of this piece, the author reveals the REAL reason why Black women are, in fact and objectively, the least physically attractive specimens on the planet:
“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, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone), affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently. Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore more physically attractive. In contrast, women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive.”
So there it is: We Are Too Masculine. [Or, as the author admits, that’s “the only thing he can think of,” mostly because he is so limited by his own racism.] Sadly, I know many Black men who subscribe to this way of thinking; I think about this all the time when folks question the gender identity of athletes like Serena Williams. Again, since the author is socially illiterate – or is at least willfully ignoring sociohistorical concerns – he continues to spew more eugenicist-inspired racism about Africans. But he also refuses to acknowledge the deep-seated misogyny and homophobia that are endemic to any discussion of Female Masculinity, or the long history and deep-seated racism that must be addressed in any discussion of Black Femininity. Feminists have been writing about this for decades, but why read them when you have “objective science” on your side?!? Furthermore, I stated earlier that Black women are viewed as more assertive, aggressive, take no nonsense, speak your mind, etc…all MASCULINE traits. In fact, the author has illuminated for us that Black women are considered less physically attractive because so many of us REFUSE to even ATTEMPT to step into the stereotypical “Gender Box,” especially when we know that the box was never created with us in mind. There is something freeing about knowing that there are some cultural standards into which you will never be expected to participate or “fit.” The truth is that Black women are so scary because they remind folks that WOMEN – Writ Large – can be just as powerful as men. On every level. White women have long been stereotyped in this country as weak and in need of protection; Asian women have long been stereotyped as docile and meek; Latina women have long been stereotyped as existing to provide beauty and sexuality; Native women have long been stereotyped as being peaceful and spiritual. Articles like this are written so that non-Black women (and all men) view Black women as some other species altogether…because if non-Black women think of us as being inherently different from them, they may not see themselves as being capable of exhibiting the strength and assertiveness that so many Black women exhibit, only to have it recast as “hypermasculine” and “unattractive.”
Once ALL women realize that we can be on par with men – physically, intellectually, and otherwise – this world will be a VERY different place. And many folks are making it their Life’s Work to ensure that this never happens. Articles like this provide the proof – the RAGE – that I need to keep me constantly engaged with the long history of oppression that Black women have faced, in this country and globally. The best part of this article for me was the part about Black women still considering themselves to be more attractive than others, in spite of the “objective evidence” that we are not. This is a TRIUMPH to me. It says that in the face of the worst oppression and hate…Black women can still love ourselves. And on that note – and because I think we all need a little Uplift after engaging with this article – I’d like to end with the obligatory Maya Angelou Poem:
And Still I Rise
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history’s shame
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
Bringing the gifts my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
© Maya Angelou, 1978.