“You Ain’t Cute…”: The [Attempted] Annihilation of the Black Woman’s Self Esteem

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...contrary to what some may think.

I just had to do it. I had to share my 2 cents on the ridiculousness that is Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa’s recent piece of hotmessness “scholarship” that appeared on Psychology Today‘s website, titled “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”

I thought this was a cruel joke. A hoax. But, tragically, it wasn’t. Psychology Today really did have the unmitigated gall to post this very “unscientific” article on its website on Sunday. Then, all at once, they yanked it. Still, cached versions of it have been making their way around the Internets all week. Is this 2011 or 1811?

First, Redskins lineman Albert Haynesworth declared that he didn’t even like Black women in an effort to deny charges of sexual assault [that’s a whole other post] , and now we Black women are considered “far less attractive than white, Asian, and Native American women” according to this dude Dr. Kanazawa. Awesome.

Actually, my problem is not so much with Dr. Kanazawa. After all, this is the same guy that made a living off of publishing some other questionable eugenics scholarship promoting racial stereotypes. I mean, how can you take someone seriously who claims that Asians are biologically smarter and that people of African ancestry are intellectually inferior? C’mon son. So let’s ignore his shenanigans for a sec.

My problem is with Psychology Today. Now, I understand that the purpose of publishing scholarship (or an abbreviated form of it) is to get us to a higher understanding of ourselves and our overall environment. Some scholarship has even shaken up some realities and made people upset (Exhibit A: the earth being round instead of flat). Yet, just because it upsets people doesn’t make such discoveries less true. But Dr. Kanazawa’s conclusion about Black women is an entirely different matter. I’m no scientist, but I’m pretty sure that the study lacks internal/external/construct validity of any kind. I mean, how can  the word “objective” and the concept of attractiveness even be in the same sentence? Essentially, the author of this study fails to outline his methods in a way that scientists are supposed to. I mean, who were the respondents? How many respondents were there? How was attractiveness operationalized?  More importantly, though, how is Dr. Kanazawa defining “Black”? It’s a feat in itself that he fails to even address. Black women come in all hues, shapes and sizes. Essentially, the study has more holes in it than Swiss cheese. Still, Psychology Today decided that it was okay to publish such sub-par scholarship. It makes me question the credibility of the magazine and those making these decisions.

As a friend so eloquently pointed out to me, the larger issue is the social consequences that could result from articles like these. In a world where 8 year olds are being taught to hate their bodies and get botox injections [I wish I could make this up], where it’s still necessary to have “Black” issues of Vogue magazine, it seems to me providing a forum for Dr. Kanazawa’s conclusion creates a harsh environment for young girls and even grown women, especially Black women in this case. It’s just not a good look for fragile or even not-so-fragile self esteems. I mean, how can you scientifically assess attractiveness, anyway? Is that not one of the most subjective concepts ever? Beyond that, Psychology Today’s choice to publish this article signals to me that the Eurocentric view of beauty and attractiveness is what should be praised, while anything else is inferior or “ugly.” I suppose the editor-in-chief ignores the fact that women who lack melanin frequent tanning beds, spend hundreds of dollars on botox injections for their lips, and get implants for their hind parts to become more “attractive” and to obtain more aesthetically pleasing features that many Black women and other women of color tend to have naturally. But, I digress.

Call me crazy, but between Steve Harvey’s books schooling Black women about how to act like women, but think like men to trap, hog-tie, and hoodwink  find, keep, and understand a man; the marriage and mating “crisis” among Black women being publicized and even broadcast on news outlets with reckless abandon; and this article, it seems like there’s a calculated attempt in 2009-2011 to discursively annihilate our self-esteem. I mean, if you’re uglier than your non-Black peers and are ignorant of the ways to maintain relationships and/or marriages with the unavailable and/or un-marriageable pool of Black men that you may desire, what hope is there?!

Yet, all of the above are just mere attempts. We know what we’re working with. My self-esteem hasn’t gone down any from these attempts, and  the beautiful, educated, married, and successful Black women I know don’t seem to be affected in the least bit by them, either.

But, as I stated on my Facebook page, defamation like this must end. I’m tired of the myths, foolishness, and unfounded conclusions about and portrayals of Black women that clog up our precious media space. I called attention to this article not to give a racist dimwit “scholar” more shine, but to ignite some action among those of us who are fed up. On Monday, I e-mailed the editor in chief (click here for the contact info) of Psychology Today to express my disapproval and disappointment in the content they chose to post. Though the content has since been removed, the fact that it was even seen on the website is problematic enough for me. [If you care to read the article, here is a cached version]. So, I urge you, men and women alike, who feel the same way to express your opinions as well. Let’s show Psychology Today that we won’t tolerate these types of things to be spread all willy-nilly.

“‘De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see. Ah been prayin’ fuh it tuh be different wid you. Lawd, Lawd, Lawd’” -Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God

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One response »

  1. Your rebuttal to that tasteless article was very tactful and well timed. That scholarship about black women, and maybe it’s just me, but the title alone seems catty and a little spiteful. I can only hope it was a calculated attempt to provoke black women to assert themselves but without reading the article I cannot have much faith in that idea. It just goes to show that intellect and wisdom do not go hand in hand. Wow, did he get his heart broken by a black women? Is he ashamed of being attracted to black women? Is he frustrated that there aren’t any Japanesse woman that can contend with black women’s combination of strength and physical attributes?
    Unfortunately it’s probably much uglier than that. I hope phaycology today has a very good explanation for publishing that. As a bi-racial male with a white mother it upsets me how prevalent the double standard is out there that if your are white or just not black, it’s ok to tan your skin, and accentuate your features: get fuller lips, fuller back-side, higher cheek bones, tighter skin, but look down on the very models you are trying to become. It’s truly psychological warfare. Maybe there should be an article about stereotype of why Asian men are not well endued? But that would not be fair to non-racist Asian people and it would be stooping a level that is beneath you, I, and everyone else that sees the ignorance on either of these subjects.
    Usually I feel that attention is the fuel of ignorance but an explanation would be nice from psychology today. Maybe this is why the magazine isn’t THAT well known in the first place. Thank you for your stand against this

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