Today’s Opinion: The attractiveness of black women

POSTED: 05/31/11 11:45 AM

Satoshi Kanazawa is what Wikipedia calls “a controversial evolutionary psychologist” at the London school of Economics. Last week the 48-year-old Japanese enfant terrible produced an interesting piece on the Scientific fundamentalist blog of the American magazine Psychology Today. Not everybody was happy with Kanazawa’s observations. The question he put out there alone cause people to go blown up across the globe.
“Why are black women rated less physically attractive than other women but black men are rated better looking than other men?”
That’s the kind of stuff Kanazawa occupies himself with. Using a tool called Add Health he came to this conclusion: “Women of all races are on average more physically attractive than the “average” Add health respondent, except for black women. As the following graph shows, black women are statistically no different from the “average” Add health respondents, and far less attractive than white, Asian and Native American women.”
Kanazawa soldiers on with possible explanations for what he calls the “markedly lower average level of physical attractiveness among black women.” He offers that BMI is irrelevant to the question. BMI stands for Body Mass Index, so Kanazawa found a nice way of suggesting that being fat plays no role in levels of attractiveness. But he went on recklessly skating on thin ice with a remark that the race difference intelligence does not matter either. Is he really suggesting here that intelligence is defined by the color of one’s skin? Wow.
But the explanation that Kanazawa comes up with in the end is really mind blowing. It is, he wrote, the only thing I can think of. And that is? “What 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.”
The outrage Kanazawa’s blog triggered met with a quick response from Psychology Today: it removed the blog from the web site.
But why would Psychology Today let Kanazawa on the loose, knowing who he is? The Japanese psychologist has a reputation for outrageous opinions, so in a way he was an accident waiting to happen. Maybe it is better to say that several accidents have already happened along the way, but apparently nobody gave a damn.
In 2003 for instance, the oracle of the London School of Economics declared that scientists make their biggest discoveries before their mid-thirties. He compared their productivity curve with that of criminals. Interestingly, at the time of publication, Kanazawa was 40, so he was already past his scientific prime by his own definition.
Three years later he had another remarkable discovery to share with the world: attractive people are 26 percent less likely to have sons than unattractive people. He wrote a book about it too: Why beautiful people have more daughters. Another book he wrote is entitled Why men gamble and women buy shoes.
Kanazawa has made it abundantly clear that he does not give a rat’s behind about what people think about his discoveries and theories. “The only responsibility that scientists have is to the truth, nothing else. Scientists are not responsible for the potential or actual consequences of the knowledge they create.”
About the war on terror Kanazawa once famously said that the enemies of the west have one resource we don’t have: hate. “We may be losing this war because our enemies have a full range of human emotions while we don’t.”
Then he went on with what Wikipedia calls a thought experiment: “Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter (a controversial American lawyer with right-wing political opinions – ed.). What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost.”
In March of this year Kanazawa wrote an article titled, Are all women essentially prostitutes? The article reads, “high-class prostitutes like Allie and Maggie have more in common with college professors, corporate executives, or poets than with the more affordable and visible members of their profession…prostitution is evolutionarily familiar, because mating is evolutionarily familiar and prostitutes (at least the classy ones) are no different from other women, whom men also have to pay – not in cash payments but in dinners and movies, gifts, flowers, chocolates, and motor oil.”
So you understand that Kanazawa’s observation about the attractiveness of black women, or the lack of it, is based on all those other shaky and controversial ideas he has produced in his career. It is a comforting thought that, according to Kanazawa scientists produce their best work before their mid-thirties. Kanazawa is now 48, so he has already entered the scientific twilight zone. Once a scientist is in that place his one-way ticket to publicity is controversy – and our Japanese psycho (logist) is good at that.
As far as the attractiveness of black women (or the attractiveness of any woman for that matter) we are comforted by the thought that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Let’s keep it that way.

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