Or would it be sexist racism? Either way, this dudehas got some serious problems with non-white non-men and he likes to use Evolutionary Psychology to make his irrational hatred seem more ‘reasonable’. ( You know it’s some pretty smelly Evo-Psyc bull shit when Psychology Today pulls the article due to the outcry from readers, and you have to rely on cached versions to see the huge turd pile). A good rule of thumb for distinguishing between Bad Science and Possibly Good Science, is to see if all of the ‘evidence’ and ‘studies’ talked about unwaveringly support biased ideas about people. Amazingly, Kanazawa’s belief that black people are stupid, unattractive, and just generally less than are all totally, scientifically, beyond a doubt proven by his evolutionary psychology! It’s not racism, it’s science!
So in the interest of fighting back the unending wave of Bad Science and Evo-Psych bull shit, let’s break this ‘evidence’ of black women’s unattractiveness down:
He starts off by claiming that these measures of attractiveness are certifiably objective. But what makes them objective? Is it because there are numbers involved? Or because they were judged multiple times over a long time period? Nope. Nothing about the attractiveness ratings were objective because all of these ratings were done by human beings. There are things in this world that we can measure objectively, but attractiveness is not one of them. Attraction, whether its physical beauty, sexual attraction, physical attraction, emotional attraction, etc. cannot be objectively measure because it is a subjective experience and changes based on the person. What I find attractive will be different from what someone else would find attractive, and that because we have lived different lives and have different experiences. I find many black men and women to be very attractive, but find some white women and men to be very unattractive to me. It’s a personal preference thing, not an objective standard. Therefore, this ‘objective’ measure of attractiveness is really just a measure of how attractive these Add Health judges thought their subjects were. If, by chance, these judges harbored racist tendencies (whether they be overt, subtle, or internalized) or if they just didn’t find the particular features of the black women subjects appealing, then it throws off the entire study. It’s no longer a universal ‘black women are unattractive’ but a ‘judges A and C don’t really like black women’. Which isnt a very useful finding, for science or for pushing Kanazawa’s agenda, so it gets trumped up as objectivity when it is so obviously not.
Also, let’s have a quick diversion about sample size and such. The fact that Kanazawa did not tout how large the sample size of this experiment was, really eludes to the probability that it was a very, very small sample (which a lot of studies like this are). How many people do you really think were apart of a 7 year study about physical looks off of an internet site? Now, how many of those people do you think were black men or women? Let’s be generous and say they got 100 people to do this study, statistically speaking (using the 2000 census) 12 of those people would be black, 6 would be black women. That’s not a whole lot of range there. Even if there was an objective way to measure attractiveness, one objectively unattractive black woman would disproportionately throw off the findings. You’d also have to take into account how many judges they had doing these ‘objective’ measurements. If it’s only a handful of judges, then one biased judge (or just one that’s kinda incompetent at judging) would throw off the findings too. It’s just a generally poor study to make big, universal proclamations about an entire race’s attractiveness.
So, the study is bunk, but what about all these ‘reasons” he came up with to explain the results? Yep, you guessed, it they’re all total hogwash! So, he’s got three ideas as to why black women would be so unattractive: they’re fat, they’re primitive mutants, and they have way too much manly man testosterone to be pretty (which is the one he settles for). All of these reasons are both very sexist and very racist, with out a lick of science or logic to back them up. Let’s take them one at a time:
The larger BMI reason is failtastic for its science, its sexism, and its racism. The science part is that the BMI is an outdated and largely useless measurement. Higher BMIs do not necessarily correlate with being unhealthy or overweight and nor do lower BMIs necessarily correlate with health and fitness. Also the BMI tends to be an even shoddier measurement when used on people that aren’t white men (part of the legacy of using white guys as the default for scientific study… there are some physiological difference between the sexes and different races, such as fat distribution, height, vascularity, etc.). Secondly, we have no way of knowing if any of the test subjects in the study were actually overweight and that this led to them being rated as less attractive. Kanazawa just pulls this justification out of thin air because of the sexist idea that women need to be within a certain weight range to be considered attractive at all. He ties this in with the popular conception that black women are bigger on average but twists it in such a way to divorce it from the positive connotations that black culture gives to big women (the big is beautiful, curvy ideals) and shunts it off into the negative sphere that white culture puts on fat (fat people are lazy, ugly, unlovable, etc). So, even in the face of there being absolutely no evidence to back up his assertion, he still insists on proposing the idea because he wants to assert his belief that women should fit into a certain weight range to be attractive and that the ideals of black culture are wrong or irrelevant, both of which are by definition sexist and racist.
But he doesn’t settle on this ‘reason’ because he’s thought up another, even ‘better’ one: they’re full of mutations because of how primitive they are! Yea… that right there is naked racism (and of course bad science, but that’s just par for the course with Kanazawa). Every living human being is full of mutations in their genome. That’s what we call evolution! Evolution happens because random mutations happen that might give a particular specimen a better chance at survival. We are homo sapiens because we mutated away from whatever the previous iteration of us was (sorry, human evolution is not my speciality). All the people alive today will have more or less the same amount of genetic mutations in them because we have all been evolving at the same rate. Black people will not have different levels because they were the first… that makes no sense, if anything white people would have more because we had to mutate away from being black. His suggestion that they have more mutations in their genomes because we possibly (probably) evolved out of Africa is just a really fancy way of saying that they’re primitive and less evolved than white people, which is a very old bit of racist propaganda. Which, again, makes no sense scientifically and he should be ashamed for saying that as a scientist (well, he should be ashamed of a lot of things, namely his racism and sexism). As a last sticking point, not that what’s been said already isn’t enough to make this whole point irredeemable anyways, genetic mutations are not necessarily bad or show up as unattractiveness because of some idea that genetic fitness translates straight into beauty. Want to know some people with some serious genetic mutations that still manage to be deemed attractive? People with blue eyes and blonde hair. Yup, those are genetic mutations, look at how unattractive they make people! Such bad science *sigh*.
But! He came up with an even better reason! Again! Which, of course, didn’t stop him from listing the previous two discarded reasons, because why pass up the chance to air your purportedly scientific racism? Anyhow, this new reason is that black men and women have more testosterone (the man-hormone/androgen) in them and this is okay for black men, but it makes black women look masculine. Let’s start off with the science: there is no scientific consensus on whether or not people of African-descent have higher testosterone levels than other ethnicities. Also, not many people realize this, but women have testosterone in them naturally, just at lower levels than men, as it is a much needed hormone for everyday function. So, while it *may* be possible that black women as a whole have higher levels of testosterone, that a) does not account for individual women as would have been judge in this ‘study’ or b) for levels of unattractiveness. Testosterone is partially responsible for a lot of the things our culture has decided is attractive on women: thick eye lashes, thick shiny hair, refined facial features, etc. Just because a woman has testosterone in her system, or even slightly elevated levels like black women are purported to have, does not make them look like men because even at elevated levels they would still not be near the levels of what men have flowing through their systems. Now, with the science out of the way, let’s examine the hugely sexist message here: that women have to meet a very particular definition of physical femininity to be considered attractive. Is your jaw a little too square? Your nose a little too large? Your shoulders a little too broad? Your skin a little too dark? Well, then you’re obviously an ugly she-man that will never be loved or found attractive. See, this is the problem with setting up femininity and masculinity as diametrically opposed opposite in a binary system. It becomes a zero-sum war where if you’re just a tad too feminine you’ve lost out on your masculinity for men, and if you’re just a tad too masculine you lose out on your femininity as a woman. And thus masculinity and femininity become narrowly defined as opposing forces and if you don’t fit that narrow definition you are a failure at being a man or woman.
So three explanations later, and Kanazawa still doesn’t have a scientific leg to stand on. If it’s not fat, or mutations, or testosterone, then what could this disparity possibly be a result of? Really, it’s an easy answer if you don’t look to Evo-Psyc magic to explain things. What causes the disparity we saw in the study is the intersection of racism and sexism at our culture’s Beauty Ideal. As we all (should) know, the Beauty Ideal fluctuates in time and space and culture. The Ideal Beauty of the US in 2011 is different than both the ideals of the US in 1950 and of Brazil in 2011, and any other number of place/time combinations. Right now, because of the sexism and racism inherent in our culture, whiteness, skinniness, and submissive femininity are idealized above all else. Black women are subject to intersecting points of discrimination, they have to deal with racialized sexism. They are held to the same impossible standards of femininity and attractiveness as all women, but because of the racism at play, that target is even smaller for them to hit. Not only do they have to deal with the idealization of whiteness in our society, but also the racial stereotype that black people are much more masculine (in behavior and looks) than white people. It’s the assumptions and stereotypes, that black women are bigger, more masculine, and that dark skin can’t be attractive, that lead to the disparity we saw in the study. These aren’t hard truths about black women that are proven by science and thus rationally lead to them being ‘objectively’ less attractive. No, these are subjective stereotypes based on racist and sexist ideals that lead to a biased studying show it’s bias.
So what was Kanazawa’s article really about then? It certainly wasn’t an exposition on how to do a good scientific study or make sound conclusions from said study. It was nothing more than an excuse for Kanazawa to air his malicious views of women, and black women in particular. Every one of his reasonings did nothing more than support and propagate his sexist and racist views of the world. Just like every other article he writes on Psychology Today’s blog, he uses bad science as a cover to prove that his bias is a justified world view. It is his firm belief that women should only be valued for their beauty and their procreational abilities and that we should be kept from doing anything beyond that. He believes that feminism which advocates for equality between men and women is an evil that needs to be forcefully eradicated from the world. Which is probably because he doesn’t believe that women can be equal to men because of our inherently lesser natures that leaves us lacking in ambition beyond motherhood and as little more than objects whose undying devotion can be bought and sold by men with their higher reasoning skills, intelligence, and general awesomeness at life. He also believes that black people are inherently less than white people in just about every way. And now, he has added black women to the list of people he can scientifically hate because they’re just not as good as white women, who are in turn definitely not as good as white men.
In case you couldn’t tell, it disgusts and angers me that someone would put out such hateful, sexist, and racist propaganda under the guise of science. Kanazawa is a pathetic excuse for a scientist, letting his bias get in the way of real scientific advancement. Like I’ve said before, people like Kanazawa only put forth these sort of ideas because they want to ‘prove’ that women’s (and other minorities) inferiority is natural and thusly so is their subjugation. To have this be a part of the scientific cannon does not just hold back women and minorities, it holds back humanity. Every time another biased study comes out, it drags us back a little closer to the dark ages.