You would think someone with a job title like “evolutionary psychologist at the London School of Economics” would use their intelligence and training to try and solve life’s great mysteries. But Satoshi Kanazawa, who has such a title, just wrote an article called Why Are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women, But Black Men Are Rated Better Looking Than Other Men? The article, billed early on as racist hogwash, got so much negative attention when it was posted Sunday on Psychology Today that it had been taken down by Monday afternoon. (You can see screenshots of it at BuzzFeed.)
Kanazawa, who wrote the article for The Scientific Fundamentalist blog he keeps for Psychology Today, posited that there are “marked race differences in physical attractiveness among women, but not among men,” and then set out on a hunt for an answer as to why that is.
His study used data collected by three interviewers who rated the hotness of a group of people on three occasions over the course of seven years. Then that data was then, somehow, forced into objectivity using factor analysis, a statistical procedure normally used to eradicate errors in variables measured in actual quantities, like number of votes cast or millimiters of liquid evaporated.
Kanazawa then used his results to explain that while black women are less attractive than women in every other race, black men are equally as attractive or more attractive than men of other races. He goes through a number of reasons why this might be (black women, he says, have a higher average body mass index than women who aren’t black, and “Africans have more mutations in their genomes than other races” and those mutation loads “significantly decrease physical attractiveness”) before settling on what he thinks might be an actual cause for his study finding black women so unattractive: testosterone.
The only thing I can think of that might potentially explain the lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women is testosterone. Africans on average have higher levels of testosterone than other races, and testosterone, being an androgen (male hormone) affects the physical attractiveness of men and women differently. Men with higher levels of testosterone have more masculine features and are therefore more physically attractive. In contrast, women with higher levels of testosterone also have more masculine features and are therefore less physically attractive. The race differences in the level of testosterone can therefore potentially explain why black women are less physically attractive than women of other races, while (net of intelligence) black men are more physically attractive than men of other races.
And here’s why all of that is stupid. There are stunningly gorgeous people of every race. There are also people of every race who are, well, just plain not good-looking. Not only is beauty a totally subjective thing that cannot be captured by science, it’s also just flat out racist to begin a study with the premise that one race of people — no matter which race it is — is as a group less physically attractive than another. The only thing this study proves is that Kanazawa and the people he hired to survey the attractiveness of the people in the study don’t find black women attractive. And, you know, their loss.
Kanazawa has been known to make controversial statements in the past — he once posited that people who are politically liberal tend to be a lot smarter than conservatives, and that Muslim men who decide to become suicide bombers do so because they’re sexually frustrated. Time and again, his studies have been called out for being unsound statistically and motivated more by race, sex and religion than by anything grounded in numbers. Notice that with this article, Kanazawa establishes no causal relationship between the reason he suggests for black women being rated less attractive and the fact that his numbers rate them as less attractive. In other words, he’s pulling his argument out of thin air.
The study is offensive — there’s no doubt about that. But we can’t decide what we’re more offended by: The fact that someone finds black women so totally not gorgeous or that he tried to use science to prove it.