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Outrage over “Psychology Today” article deeming black women less attractive

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Janelle Monae

The internet is awash in backlash against Psychology Today blogger Satoshi Kanazawa and his article, published online yesterday. The piece's original title, "Why Are African American Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?" was later changed to the cumbersome, "Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men?”

The data used for the article was drawn from the Add Health study, a massive longitudinal study commissioned by the United States government to examine adolescent health outcomes and potential factors for risk-taking behaviors. Thousands of adolescents took part in the study over a period of fourteen years. After each student took the survey, the administrator of the survey assigned them an "attractiveness value" from one to five. The students also assessed themselves using the same scale.

The issue with Kanazawa's work is not that the study results showed a marked difference between the attractiveness of white, black, Asian, and Native American women, but that Kanazawa sought to present this data as objectively true. He pointed to physiological factors such as testosterone levels to explain why the black women are less attractive. You'd imagine that in a magazine devoted to psychology, issues of socialization and subjective beauty standards would be given some attention, but instead Kanazawa's piece reads like some 1920s, Darwinian-influenced treatise on why certain races are inferior.

To me, the findings of the study seem like an obvious result of America's historical white-beauty worship. Though standards are certainly changing, there's still a lack of black women in fashion spreads, and black models are nearly nonexistent in many designers' runway shows. The influence of all these images of white women supposedly epitomizing beauty cannot be underestimated. The individuals assigning "attractiveness values" to young women weren't immune from this influence. The culture's obsession with one race's beauty creates a beauty standard that centers around that race, not the other way around.