For the record, I think black women are the personification of beauty, and I would never offend them when discussing their beauty. Obviously, Psychology Today did not get this memo. An article recently published in the online version of Psychology Today, written by Satoshi Kanazawa, has upset many and turned the heads of others. These reactions are easily understood when one considers the author’s title, which takes the form of the question, “Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?”
The article has set off a fire storm, especially among African American women. Its central premise is buttressed on the purview that, via structured interviews, one can discern physical attractiveness objectively. Specifically, the interviewer measures physical attractiveness of the subject on a five-point scale: 1 = very unattractive, 2 = unattractive, 3 = about average, 4 = attractive, 5 = very attractive, and each subsequently measured by three different interviewers three times over seven years. Factor analysis was employed to compute the latent “physical attractiveness factor,” thus resulting in a latent physical attractiveness factor as a Z-score with a mean of 0 and a standard deviation of 1.
Findings suggested some race differences in physical attractiveness among women, but not among men. In each of the three cycles, data indicated that black women were perceived to be significantly less physically attractive than women of other races. This suggests that black women were perceived to be far less attractive than white, Asian and Native American women.
Now, it seems strange that such is considered as “science” in 2011. Although there is ample history to support how the standard of beauty since the western conquest of the world has been that of straight blond hair and blue eyes. We all see it. Black women straighten their hair for whatever reason, tint it blond and wear contacts to change eye color. We still, unfortunately, live where many speak of “good hair” versus “bad hair” and “light skin” versus “dark skin.”
One should not be upset at an article that supports the history of blacks in America. However, we can fault the lack of scientific rigor of not listing the race of the interviewers or the “objective” operational definitions used to define beauty. However, the cultural reality, albeit unfortunate, still exists. The truth is that the most destructive characteristic of slavery was self-hate and the inculcation of the belief that the image of white was the standard of all good and beautiful. The author of this study is just picking up on what Dr. Carter G. Woodson premised in the Mis-Education of the Negro. He basically stated that by teaching the slave that his blackness was a curse was the worse form of lynching.
Torrance Stephens is the author of the blog, rawdawgb.blogspot.com. Find him on twitter.com/rawdawgbuffalo.