Black Isn’t Beautiful Claims Evolutionary Psychologist

 Somalian-born supermodel, Iman

Evolutionary psychologist, Satoshi Kanazawa, claims Black women are less attractive than others. It’s apparently such good science that Psychology Today posted his piece on their website. Maybe not. They quickly took it down and recently apologized.

 Hmmmm. Thinking about Black women, there’s
Somalian-born supermodel, Iman or Sudan-born supermodel, Alek Wek. And then
there’s Halle Berry, Naomi Campbell, Tyra Banks, Thandie Newton, Beyonce, Janet
Jackson, Lisa Bonet, Jada Pinket Smith… Beautiful Melia Obama fits right in
with these folks.

lupita

Lupita Nyong’o

A few years back FX had a reality show called  “Black. White.” in which a White family’s coloring and features were  changed to Black, while a Black family’s coloring and features were changed to  White. I thought the White girl looked great Black.

Black. White.

Really, we need to take evolutionary psychology with a grain of salt. Some research from this field may have some basis. But much carries cultural bias. Indeed, as Tami Winfrey Harris over  at Ms. points out, others have demonstrated Kanazawa’s bad methodology and his taste for fashioning racism, sexism and conservatism as science. As much of evolutionary psychology is prone to do, I might add.

 Supermodel, Alek Wek

That said, as Harris eloquently observers:

All women bear the burden of the European beauty standard and the fact that, as women, our value as human beings is too often defined by how closely we fit the
standard—how close we are to being white, blond, blue-eyed, thin, with long, straight hair, and a keen nose and lips. Narrow standards of beauty are oppressive to all but a few, but it is Black women as a whole who are held up as the opposite of the ideal
.

  Ethiopian woman

On Harris’ point, people do tend to prefer the features and fashions of powerful groups, but the bias is about power, not innate beauty. Just a couple examples:

When prosperous and influential Chinese families bound the feet of their daughters to signal wealth (what woman could work with bound, dysfunctional feet?) small feet came to be seen as beautiful. Unfortunately, poor Chinese soon imitated the fashion in pursuit of this excruciating “beauty.”

Or, when tanned skin indicated outdoor, poorly-paid, physical labor, Americans avoided the sun. But when Coco Chanel came back deeply tanned after vacationing in St. Tropez, her sun-kissed skin – now linked to wealth and privilege – appeared beautiful.

 Sudanese woman

Blacks do have less power than other ethnic groups due to intense prejudice which was created to support their enslavement and the discrimination that followed. (It’s easier to feel okay about enslaving someone if they’re not quite seen as people.) Due to a history of educational and occupational discrimination, it has been more difficult for the Black community to gain and pass on wealth.

And yet, looking at all the women on this page all I can say is black is truly beautiful.

Lupita Nyong’o on Black as Beautiful here.

 

More beautiful black women here:

Related Posts on BroadBlogs
(racism)
How Does Racism Hurt Racists? The Case of Emmett Till
 “Why I Left the KKK”: One Man’s Revelation

(Evolutionary Psych)
Women Want Casual Sex? Yes and No
Are Women Naturally Monogamous?

About BroadBlogs

I have a Ph.D. from UCLA in sociology (emphasis: gender, social psych). I currently teach sociology and women's studies at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, CA. I have also lectured at San Jose State. And I have blogged for Feminispire, Ms. Magazine, The Good Men Project and Daily Kos. Also been picked up by The Alternet.

Posted on June 6, 2011, in feminism, gender, psychology, race/ethnicity, sexism, women and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 30 Comments.

  1. Beth Kamaloni

    think that the standard that women try to be so much like is ridiculous. I am mixed, my Dad is from the island of Tonga and my Mom is from German/American decent so I have always been extremely hard on myself because I don’t meet the standard of thin with blonde hair and blue eyes. I always wanted to wear the clothes that all the skinny girls wore but I couldn’t because I have big curves. I would always see how other girls would do their makeup and I couldn’t imitate it because I had darker skin and the stuff they wore didn’t look good on me. I think that it is an absolute tragedy that someone would use Science to say that black women are less attractive when I see so many black women that have distinct features that stand out way more than other women. I think that it is sad that because of the history that they have lived through they can be less attractive because of the lack of power they possess.

  2. Everyone is beautiful and unique in their own way. It’s not about what someone looks like it is about the kind of person they are. Their heart. My hair used to be gold and brown with red and brown mixed in. A few years back my mom died it a red brown because apparently darker hair was in. I missed my natural hair color so I went back to golden honey blonde. This does not mean I want to be White. Do I wish my hair was straight and or wavy at times? Yes I do. I still like my curly hair. I have an hour glass figure. Do I think that’s a good thing? Yes I do. We come in all shapes and sizes. Do I think some people are more beautiful than others? No I do not. There are things that we don’t like about ourselves. There are things that we love about ourselves. It’s high time we embraced who we are. Flaws and all.

    I am a proud Eritrean-American. This does not mean I want to be White. The European standard may be the look but it’s not the only look. That makes people feel bad when they are told they need to look that way.

  3. Every one is beautiful in their own way. White women are beautiful for their light complexion and straight hair. Asian women are beautiful for their cute almond shaped eyes and their petite little bodies that can fit into just anything. Latina women are beautiful for long dark hair and full bodies. Black women are beautiful for their strength and full lips and curvy bodies. What I’m trying to say is that we are all different but we have one thing in common, we are all women. We should tell each other how beautiful we are in our own way.

  4. Even to think that one race or image is said said to be the standard of beauty for all people is ridiculous and offensive. In truth, all people have a different view on what is beautiful. For example, one person may prefer women who are more curvy than a person who prefer women who are thin. The ideal of beauty varies widely from person to person, ethnic to ethnic and culture to culture, therefore labeling one race or body type more desirable than other is solely based on one’s bais beliefs.

    From a personal point of view, I believe that a women’s race has nothing to do with her potential for beauty, a woman’s level of beauty depends on her genetic make up and personal habits. The infleunce of the media and the false ideals of society have played a major in the formation of people’s preference an beliefs on what is beautiful and desirable.

  5. 1) The phrase, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” holds true in this case. What is considered physically beautiful to a person is solely dependent on enculturation. We often hear that people look like their spouses/partners. This is because we are comfortable with, and hence fall in love with, features we are familiar with. Since the cradle we have found familial features the most pleasing to us. In my family we find noses on the larger size to be attractive, indeed some celebrities who are considered beautiful look silly to us because their noses are too small. Whatever the norm is in your life is what will determine outward beauty. Whether we find narrow faces, round faces, thin lips, full lips, square jaws, soft chins, and body proportions are all physical features we may or not find pleasing based on our own culture. Therefore, it is ridiculous to make such an empirical statement as this psychologist has when the topic is so incredibly subjective. With the exception of Alek Wek, the women posted on this blog entry exemplify to some extent the European definition of beauty and the influence colonialism has had on all of us, even now, as far as establishing a standard of beauty.

    • Yeah. I was concerned about the Europan definition of beauty. That’s why four of the seven pictures are of women who are actually from Africa. Still, some of those four may seem to fit the European ideal, even as Africans. Makes me wonder exactly what “African” features are. Looks like there must be variations. Which also goes against the researcher’s conclusions.

      • Actually this last comment of mine reminds me of research that shows that race isn’t real. When trying to separate out exactly what signifies Black, White, Asian, Hispanic… researchers were unable to get make clear distinctions.

        But while race doesn’t seem to be “real,” ethnicity is. Ethnicity is seeing oneself as belonging to a group of people: Hispanic, White, Black, Asian, Jew, etc.

      • Hm. I’m detecting a note of sarcasm here. The point I was trying to make is that even though four of the seven pictures are of women who are actually from Africa, were they chosen to depict African beauty by someone from Africa? or by a person of European descent? Is the definition of beauty, even to Africans, dictated by European/Colonial influence? I know we would all like to think of ourselves as objective, but I think what these picture choices show is just how deeply colonial acculturation has affected everyone.

      • Actually, I didn’t mean any sarcasm. Researchers have found that they cannot clearly determine what distinguishes one race from another. So they feel that ethnicity — feeling a part of a people/being identified as a part of a people — is a better way of understanding.

        Is anyone objective in their notions of beauty? I doubt it. European notions of beauty are certainly widespread.

      • I meant sarcasm in Broadblogs original response to my post. And Georgia, totally agree with you re race and ethnicity.

  6. I agree completely with what Elizabeth said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and in our culture African american women are almost never in the spot light or in the media. Due to their absence in the media people tend not to see them as often and do not find them as attractive as say a white woman. Women shown in magazines and movies are almost always white, this makes people much more exposed to white women as well as asian women and less exposed to african american women. Due to these women being black they are discriminated against and given less opportunities in the media and in movies. The discrimination against African americans is the main culprit to african american women not being seen as beautiful.

  7. When I first read Kanazawa’s blog, many things went into my head. I felt offended and quiet disgusted with the message he was sending out to the world- especially to young impressionable minds. A few days later i was happy to see the blog posting was removed and a week or so later an apology issued. I t is one thing to aggressively seek more subscribers to a blog but it’s a whole new ball game when you base false information and claim that it is based on good science.
    It is a bitter pill to swallow that society for whatever reasons uses European standards as a yard stick to measure a woman’s beauty. In my opinion what fans this insanity is insufficient communication starting starting from a very early age. It’s almost an unwritten agreement among people from early on that ‘yes we know that we are being judged by Europeans standards, so let’s hurry up and achieve them already” and while doing this they ‘suppress” what makes them beautiful. So i think that yes the media and society at large has a lot to do with this notion of a woman is beautiful if she looks like A B and C, however people should take responsibility to foster a healthy self esteem from early on in life. Teach children the importance of good health (both physical and mental health), of self confidence and watch a generation of different, self confident and beautiful girls blossom into beautiful women. It will take time but the sooner we start the better.

  8. I totally agree with Vince when he said, “Even to think that one race or image is said to be the standard of beauty for all people is ridiculous and offensive.” how can someone even put that label out there? EVERY woman in the world is beautiful in some way. Sadly, in our past, racism and intesne prejudice have created these images and ideas in people to judge one another. This creates that thought that one race or image is standard. But what is standard?? Everyone has a different opinion about everything, incuding who is beautiful and who isnt. Personally, I dont; believe looks are what its all about. Looks don’t define what kind of person you are and many people forget that. Beauty is not only physical but also mental. Beauty comes from the heart and as long as people stay strong, no one should feel that there is a standard that you have to meet in order to be beautiful. In my opinion, woman with color have the most beautiful skin and complection. Although back in the day, being tan or anything other than white meant low class, now a days woman are spending money to get darker because that is looked at as “beautiful”. Live for yourself, not other people. You are beautiful no matter what people say.

    • Derrick Schoby

      My first thoughts when reading the title, was that this most be a joke. Black women are the most beautiful women in the world. I really do not care what some scientist thinks, my mother, my grandmothers, aunties, cousins, sister and distant relatives are all black. Majority, the worlds influences come from the black race, fashion, foods, culture, music, etc. If black isn’t beautiful how come you people getting tans too look darker. Black people were the ordinary people and black women are the ordinary Queens. One Love to all my Black Sistas.

  9. I believe that “Black is beautiful” have a much deeper context to what the appearance of a black women is, it moreover defines the struggle, and hardships of slavery, stereotypes, and discouragement African American women, face and will continue to face. It’s more of a pride thing so before everyone goes, and judge this statement do some research, you can really learn something. “Black is Beautiful” is not an expression that states that any other race is “ugly” or doesn’t have a good appearance it’s solely based on history and empowerment. The “Black is Beautiful” movement spiraled off of the Black Power ideology. It is a cultural movement beginning in the 1960s that aimed to dispel the widespread notion that Black people’s natural traits such as skin color; facial features and hair are inherently ugly, something has been stereotypical judge throughout history.

  10. Who in their right mind can say such a thing, that blacks are not beautiful. Everybody has is unique feature to them, even twins are not born to be exactly the same, making our human species very special. Also, everybody has a different prefences to what type of person it is that they are attracted to. I am Vietnamese, but i think some blacks are very attractive, for example, Akon, thinking of him just makes me hot. Living in America, a land of diversity, they should just grow up, just because you are not attractive to blacks, that doesn’t make them unattractive. There are many people out there, who think they are the hottest ethics out there, but that doesn’t mean that other ethics are unattractive.

  11. My bad. I didn’t finish my sentence. I admire what women of other ethnicities have but I am very happy with what I’ve got as well. I told my friend that I was going to get blue contact lenses. He asked me if I wanted to look like Barbie? I didn’t have blonde hair at the time but just because I liked color contact lenses did not mean I didn’t like my natural eye color. I just wanted to change up my style. Some people don’t really understand that but that is fine with me. I wasn’t put on this earth to please others. And I don’t feel that others were put on this earth for that reason as well. That is just what ends up happening sometimes. I just believe that in order to get respect you need to earn it. Treat others the way you would like to be treated.

  12. The media is so stuck on only showing society in a white persons perspective, that now when society sees women of color on TV it is almost seen as out of the ordinary or awkward. The media thinks that because this is America the majority of the population must be white (disregarding southern states where it is heavily populated with african americans). The medias image of beautiful is and always has been white, tall, large breast, small waist, blonde hair, and blue eyes. In the past white people were the only ones who had a say in anything in society (due to segregation) and eventhough things have greatly changed with racism, that stereotype stuck with the media when casting models, actors/actresses, etc. Women of color are absolutely stunning the slightest detail can make someone unique and beautiful. I believe that the media should switch up their idea of what is beautiful and try making so that people can relate with what they see on TV or in magazines.

  13. While I agree with the content of this blog, I am disappointed with the pictures that accompany it. Alek Wek and the Sudanese woman are the only ones who actually look Black (the picture of the Ethiopian woman didn’t load). Three of the women are either of mixed race and have predominantly European features or, like too many non-White women, have altered their natural appearance through hair straightening, wigs, makeup, and/or plastic surgery to look more White.
    I went to Google to find some pictures of beautiful, unaltered Black women and was even more disappointed at how difficult it was. I found a website called “Star Sistas” at silkysoul.com. It had a list of nearly 400 Black actresses. Clicking randomly on the list, I found that roughly 4 out of 5 of them didn’t look natural.
    Why are male actors like Morgan Freeman, Lawrence Fishburne, Jame Earl Jones, and Samuel L. Jackson are allowed to look Black while female actors are have to look like tan Barbie dolls?
    For pictures of Black women that I think are beautiful, go to Google, click on “Images” and put in CCH Pounder, Pearl Bailey, S. Epatha Merkerson, Whoopie Goldberg, or African Women.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful comment, but actually, there is no one way that black women look. Because the peoples of the world have interbred for thousands of years, there is no “pure” race. Anthopologists have tried to sort it all out and clearly classify, but gave up. Race has little meaning. (Another problem w/the psychologist’s study.) Ethnic group is more accurate (seeing oneself as black, white, etc.). I purposely chose pictures that 1) were mostly women who were actually born in African countries, and 2) that most people would look at and say “beautiful” because it’s difficult to use pictures that most people wouldn’t think were beautiful (Whoopi – and she’s likely part white, too) without them simply agreeing w/the findings of the study. And as I said, these are mostly women who were actually born in Africa.

    • Great posting! I know it is a couple of years old, but I think that you must know that times have changed and African American women are always changing styles and I don’t think because a black women decides to straighten her hair makes her any less black. I also don’t think you can compare African American males actors to women. Men are not women and cannot be compared, they throw on a shirt and hat and they are out of the door. I am very bothered that anyone would say that black women are not beautiful because I am a African American woman and struggle with many complexes that I have allowed my upbringing and environment to place on my mind and being black is not one of them! I am proud and know that when I walk into a meeting I demand all attention as everyone checks out the beautiful black I am.

  14. I think the idea that there is a standard set of features that we call “beautiful” is one of the biggest problems and simultaneously misconceptions. All of the women on this page are gorgeous but what makes them beautiful is not the pure mathematical combination of eyes, nose, skin color, hair, but rather their facial expression, their energy, the feeling that there is a deep interesting person/ a character/a life behind those features. The idea that these is someone whom you can look at and remember your dreams, or excitement, or the idea of a better you. I think this is what beauty is about.

    However, magazines, self-help books on how to look pretty, etc give up a different idea (even though if you were careful you would notice that even in Vogue you would see 100s of different women who all look different.) The ironic part in this is that women that we eventually do consider to be standards of beauty are the ones who usually are not standard (thin Marilyn Monroe, Kate Moss, Beyonce, Coco Chanel, Twiggy, Audrey Hepburn). They stand out precisely because they are different, as different and unique is attractive.

    Even though here I do have to agree that the more accepted images of beauty do get promoted by what people see as the symbols of the powerful group. Thus it is very inspiring to see that there is so much more diversity in the images now as far as fashion, movies, music videos go.

    Lastly the second part of irony is that usually it is women who create standards for other women. I have actually met only very few men who found models and super skinny girls attractive. In fact maybe women should give more credit to men for looking beyond the superficial features (well at least to the mature ones.)

    • I agree that women reinforce the skinny ideal more than men do. But the ideal comes initially from corporations who make a lot of $$ by setting up an impossible ideal (all the images we’re bombareded with as “beautiful”) making wmn feel bad about themselves and then spending a lot of money trying to look “perfect.”

      • Thank you for bringing this up. It actually reminded me of one of the videos I have found on one of the Russian blogs where a psychologists explains that it is economics that is driving current obsession with beauty. Basically you have this unattainable ideal for which firms can keep selling your products (like anti-aging cremes, serums, perfect complexion, spas, gym memberships, etc), which I found interesting. Not to mention that every time I go to Sephora I find out that there is more and more isles of little things that can correct my little imperfections. I have asked a few of my male friends and they said that besides mascara and foundation most of other make up makes little difference. So yes in this case women do become victims of advertisement and good marketing.
        On a side note though there is a hypothesis in econ called “beauty premium”, which tries to say that good looking people get better jobs, salaries, etc. However, the evidence as of now has been inconclusive. I am waiting for a good study to come out :)

  15. Satoshi Kanazawa is so racist. im white but black women are just as beautiful. I dont understand why some people consider white people in general are more attractive. Also like Reggie Bush and Michael Jordan, T.I. are super attractive!

  16. I find it so rediculous for people not to acknowlege the beauty in all colors of women, I am white and I have seen and noticed the beauty in colored women. I have been jelous of them too. I watched a tv show that talked about how a native american women went through harsh painful treatments to bleach her skin in hopes to be as beautiful as white women are. Her skin is now scared and damaged and completely patchy in color. She explained that she did it in hopes to be beautiful and get the attention of men like all her whites friends did. They even showed a before and after picture and she used to be so beautiful I have no idea why she would want to change who she was before. Now there is nothing she can do and she has to live with patchy scared ruined skin for the rest of her life. I hope other women who were doubting their own skin color saw that same show that i saw. There are many diffrent types of beautiful for all diffrent types of people. Most women do not get that.

  17. It’s very funny to me how Satoshi Kanazawa claims that black women are the most unattractive. How are we the most unattractive when millions of dollars each year are spent on plastic surgery to get features of a black woman? His science doesn’t add up to me. Maybe he needs a few more quarters at foothill because he sure shouldn’t be a doctor. I believe that all women are beautiful. Every race of women have something unique about them.

  18. Race is real – or significant at least – according to Richard Dawkins. Here’s an excerpt from
    The Ancestor’s Tale, by Dawkins:

    It is genuinely true that, if you measure the total variation in the human species and then partition it into a between-race component and a within-race component, the between-race component is a very small fraction of the total. Most of the variation among humans can be found within races as well as between them. Only a small admixture of extra variation distinguishes races from each other. That is all correct. What is not correct is the inference that race is therefore a meaningless concept. This point has been clearly made by the distinguished Cambridge geneticist A.W.F. Edwards in a recent paper “Human genetic diversity: Lewontin’s fallacy.” R.C. Lewontin is an equally distinguished Cambridge (Mass.) geneticist, known for the strength of his political convictions and his weakness for dragging them into science at every possible opportunity. Lewontin’s view of race has become near-universal orthodoxy in scientific circles. He wrote, in a famous paper of 1972:

    It is clear that our perception of relatively large differences between human races and subgroups, as compared to the variation within these groups, is indeed a biased perception and that, based on randomly chosen genetic differences, human races and populations are remarkably similar to each other, with the largest part by far of human variation being accounted for by the differences between individuals This is, of course, exactly the point I accepted above, not surprisingly since what I wrote was largely based on Lewontin. But see how Lewontin goes on:

    Human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. Since such racial classification is now seen to be of virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance either, no justification can be offered for its continuance.

    We can all happily agree that human racial classification is of no social value and is positively destructive of social and human relations. That is one reason why I object to ticking boxes on forms and why I object to positive discrimination in job selection. But that doesn’t mean that race is of “virtually no genetic or taxonomic significance.” This is Edwards’s point, and he reasons as follows. However small the racial partition of total variation may be, if such racial characteristics as there are highly correlated with other racial characteristics, they are by definition informative, and therefore of taxonomic significance.”

  19. lespinozagarnica

    Holy shit. Well, that’s some bogus scientific conclusion. In polls there are big variables to include in research before reaching a conclusion and this guy must have not taken anthropology in college. Or thought of anyone outside his immediate environment. It’s hard relating to white standards of beauty but it still makes it’s way into the minds of PoC and the interpretations of these standards are internalized differently. Like, you hear more black women shaming black men that are only into white women, then you hear white women shaming white men for being only into black women. And that definitely has to do with power.

    Because in that sense, you would not see so much as white women judging white men, but white people will see it as a sort of experimentation, something taboo or different. Women of color are seen as exotic and a different experience, and so it becomes a fetish/kink. Maybe people see this as progressive, regardless, because of interracial relationships, but it also objectifies women of color. Dating creates status, and with race it just becomes exponentially worse.

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