This morning Psychology Today published an article with the salacious title, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?” In it, the author uses what he calls an objective, scientific measure to analyze the beauty of women across racial lines. The author doesn’t go into much detail about his methodology. He describes his measurement techniques fairly cryptically, but if I understand him correctly, participants are rated for attractiveness three times by three different interviewers. He then says he combines these “objective” scores with a subjective measurement that is not described at all, but based on the picture accompanying the article, I’m deducing it to be some kind of facial measurement program. One that measures things like the distance between the eyes, and the width of the nasal bridge, to then determine “objective beauty”.
Objective beauty which is no doubt calculated against European features and beauty standards.
So based on his “objective measurements” of having three people rate someone’s beauty and then (maybe?) measuring their features and comparing them to an ideal (but no less subjective) matrix, Satoshi Kanazawa has determined that African American women are objectively less beautiful. And then Psychology Today went ahead and let him post this as science.
American culture has an ugly history of setting up white women as the standard of beauty. African American women have to fight pressure to conform, from their hair to their facial features to their skin tone. I believe that progress has been made in the last decade, but undoubtedly women of color are still fighting the subtle and pervasive racism that says that beauty should look like a blonde, white woman.
Hearing an “evolutionary psychologist” further perpetuate these stereotypes under the guise of objective science is infuriating to me. I’m further incensed that there is no mention of glaring and obvious confounding variable of white privilege in a study like this. As a researcher, one would think this would have been a part of any dialogue about race and physical appearance.
As an academic, I’m appalled by the poor science of this article. Human beauty is not something that can be quantified in scientific terms. It is a ludicrous as judging a Picasso’s objective beauty by measuring it against a matrix developed from the beauty merits of a Monet.
As an anti-racist ally, I’m even more frustrated. I’m shocked that an article like this was posted on Psychology Today with such obvious racist undertones. This is not psychology. This is a sorry excuse for justifying racial bias.
In my opinion, Satoshi Kanazawa needs to go back to his graduated studies for a refresher course in research design and methodology (not to mention a couple courses on diversity). Also? He should probably be fired. As an evolutionary psychologist, he doesn’t seem so “evolved”.
Alright, enough of that ugly business. Here’s a reminder about the beauty of different from the wise (and beautiful) Karen Walrond.