At least, not according to evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa. Psychology Today published an article by the London School of Economics psychologist that concludes that black women are less attractive based on some dicey and very biased statistical analysis of very subjective opinions obtained from a longitudinal study of adolescent health (Add Health). This is the article as it originally appeared:
(The full nonsense is here.)What makes this story particularly interesting are two things. First, the article appeared under the magazine’s web column titled “The Scientific Fundamentalist,” which is your first clue that its conclusions are not based on anything approaching science. Sure there are numbers, and there are calculations, but the result is more numerology than mathematics.
Second, and more important, is that Psychology Today attempted to delete the article from existence the moment it started receiving negative attention. This is important, because it confirms that neither Psychology Today nor the article’s author were prepared to defend the conclusion.
And the conclusion is defensible. Based on the study, the interviews, and the population of respondents, the conclusion the author arrived at is the only one possible. But then you immediately have to ask Why do people have this subjective opinion?
And that’s where the research went wrong. The study really only shows that black women are less attractive to the people surveyed. Who is surveyed? Add Health respondents. What the hell is add health? “The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (also called Add Health) is the only nationally representative study of adolescent sexuality, which has spawned over one thousand peer-reviewed publications on many issues related to adolescent health and sexuality, and other adolescent health risk behaviors.”
It’s is based entirely on their perceptions of attractiveness. And those perceptions are not formed in a void. They are formed in an adolescence saturated with media, in which white women are presented in one way, Asian women in another, and Black women in still another.
How are black women portrayed in the media? How many black female characters have you seen that are sassy, or represent a certain “ghetto” attitude? How many many were overweight?
How many times have you seen black women that were actually black men in drag? Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Foxx, and Eddie Murphy all have a black female alter ego that was a staple of their comedy career?
And when you do see a black woman presented beautifully, she is photographed in such a way that her skin tone appears lighter. Her hair is straightened, and often lightened significantly. In other words, when television and film producers want to present a black woman as attractive, they present her as whiter.
Perception is reality. If kids see the same images over and over again, it is only natural that they assume that those images are accurate representations of reality. We need to remember that they are not.
If the Psychology Today study revealed that Add Health respondents think black women are less attractive, the follow-up questions should be, “Why?”