Sunday, May 22, 2011

Satoshi Kanazawa and black women

Satoshi Kanazawa, evolutionary psychologist and a lecturer in the management department of the London School of Economics, ran into some controversy this week over a blog posting, entitled "Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?"

It's part of his Scientific Fundamentalist blog at the Psychology Today website, in which Kanazawa's subheading claims to take "A look at the hard truths about human nature". Psychology Today soon removed the offending article, and the London School of Economics is considering Kanazawa's future at the institution.

Fortunately, someone managed a screen-capture of his blog post, which you can see via BigWOWO's blog, here.

Here's an excerpt:

"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… Nor can the race difference in intelligence [...] account for the race difference in physical attractiveness among women."

So is he a nasty racist, or truth-telling scientist who fell foul of political correctness gone mad?

Or a bit of both, perhaps?

It's telling that the title is not "Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?"...

but:
"Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?"


In other words, Kanazawa seems to accept unquestioningly that black women are less physically attractive, and thus straight away focuses on why this must be so, rather than whether such a highly controversial statement could be true, or how such a conclusion could be reached.

It's also interesting that such an article comes from a member of another group - Asian men - that is frequently perceived as undesirable and less attractive. The same study cited by Kanazawa that indicates that black women are seen as less attractive also paints a less-than-rosy picture of Asian male attractiveness. Would Kanazawa be so quick to accept the conclusion that Asian men are "objectively" less attractive than others? I wonder.

In any case, Kanazawa's approach is problematic.

Firstly, "black women are objectively less attractive than other women"? How the hell does someone measure black women's beauty, objectively? By popular vote, perhaps?
I would have no problem with Kanazawa writing a post about how people tend to find black women comparatively less attractive than other women. If surveys show that, then sure, write about it if you wish. But to treat this as some objective means of measuring the physical attractiveness of anyone is deeply suspect.

So how did the study come up with the objective evaluation of beauty?
"Add Health measures the physical attractiveness of its respondents both objectively and subjectively. At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the physical attractiveness of the respondent objectively on the following five-point scale: 1 = very unattractive, 2 = unattractive, 3 = about average, 4 = attractive, 5 = very attractive. The physical attractiveness of each Add Health respondent is measured three times by three different interviewers over seven years."


Oh, I see. So the opinion of three different interviewers constitutes objectivity.

If you're smart, you might surmise that it might just be possible that these interviewers' judgement of beauty is subject to their own prejudices and preferences.
Even if there were not three but three thousand interviewers measuring people's beauty, it still wouldn't be worth a damn.
 
You could poll the entire world on their racial preferences in beauty, but what would it prove, in objective terms? A similar approach to music and food might reveal that Lady Gaga is "objectively" better than Aretha Franklin, and a hamburger and fries is "objectively" the best food in the world.
 
The other problem is one that you can commonly observe amongst the HBD crowd: treating social phenomena as if they have a basis in human evolution or genetics, and disregarding the importance of social context.
 
There are plenty of different social contexts that will affect the way we perceive the relative attractiveness of different races. But let's start with this one: since the dominant forces in global popular culture are mostly white and American, most of us are conditioned by a standard of beauty that is mostly white and American.
 
So rather than leaping straight to the assumption that black women are less physically attractive probably because they are dumber and have more testosterone, as Kanazawa does, he might reflect that the results represent the predictable outcome of a study conducted in a predominantly white country.

7 comments:

  1. "because they are dumber and have less testosterone"

    think that should read MORE testosterone.

    ... Honestly, is this a real thing in the real world???

    ReplyDelete
  2. @ Peta:
    Thanks, I corrected it.

    And yes, it is all too real. There are plenty of people who think this sort of thing; the only thing I find surprising is when people try to get uber-scientific about it yet overlook basic concepts such as social context.

    ReplyDelete
  3. In the West, lighter skin is preferred; silky hair is preferred; a pre-pubescent figure is preferred and so when you take that into account, it would appear that Black women are supposedly at the bottom of the totem pole. Yet, the features that are inherently of African descent are being sought after everywhere cosmetically.

    I have spoken to a good number of my fellow "sistahs" about the article and so happy to know that none of us really care; which in some way does reflect oneof his statements that Black women hold themselves in higher esteem than their immediate environment.

    I think I'm fly. I always have been. I also know that I am not everyone's cup of tea but that does not mean, I always crack the mirror.
    What he basically did was talk to someone for whom I am not their cup of tea and then deduce that I am thus ugly.

    ReplyDelete
  4. UPDATE:
    1. It was a 4-part study and Kanazawa only reported the first 3 studies which were men who were rating the attractiveness of young girls (grades 7-12) ew! and even that analysis was done wrong.
    2. the 4th study rated the attractiveness of adult women and it showed all women rated relatively the same; with Black and White women rating exactly the same on attractiveness and Asian women rated slightly higher. He did not report this part of the study.

    3. He stated that Black women were unattractive b/c they had higher testosterone levels (w/ no scientific backup) but it is known by health practitioners, and the Scientific American article reported, that black women have lesser testosterone levels and higher estrogen levels than whites, so high that in some black women it causes health problems.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Even if its true what position is an unattractive asian man like Satoshi Kanazawa
    to be to make such arrogant claims? Asian men are by far the losers in the dating and mating scene. Asian women always run off with white men given the chance and white women, black women always overlook asian men. Asian men have it by far the hardest. I wonder why he doesn't do a study about why asian men are less attributive to women? Probably to arrogant and sexist. Im a white women btw, he just pisses me off. He makes up studies based on his own opinion and doesn't assess data properly, he twists it to suit his own views. None of his research is that credible when you examine how it comes to these conclusions but he is so arrogant he probably just thinks people cant handle his opinion.

    ReplyDelete
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