Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Hard Truths Aren’t True, Just Hard To Read Without Putting My Fist Through A Wall

psychology today Psychology Today recently published an article written by Dr. Satoshi Kanazawa, an “evolutionary psychologist” and regular contributor to PT via his blog-space there, “The Scientific Fundamentalist: A Look at the Hard Truths About Human Nature”.

Kanazawa’s article was titled, “Why Are Black Women Less Physically Attractive Than Other Women?”

Someone on Twitter brought my attention to the article and I read it, getting more upset the more I read. The article is no longer accessible on the PT website but you can read it in its entirety here.

The article basics: Research indicates that we think Black men are more attractive than other men, but we think Black women are less attractive than other women.

I now have a copy of the article from someone who had the foresight to copy/paste it into a Word doc, but I did get to read it all the way through before it was taken off the site. The only reference to the research done to stake these claims is the mention of the “Add Health” survey taken by respondents (men and women) in three stages. It says that respondents were surveyed three times, with the same questions each time. There is no link to what Add Health is and there is no other information provided in the article about who administered the survey, who these men & women are, how many there were, what races, ethnicities, ages, etc. they were, or what questions were asked.

I Googled, “Psychology Today Add Health” and then “Add Health” and found a few different results that pointed to “Add Health” being a shortened name for a major study. The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health interviewed over 20,000 teens and over 17,000 of their parents about many things, however, the survey is considered to be in general, about sexuality. Beginning in the mid 1990s, teens in the United States were surveyed, then a few years later were surveyed again (though surveyors weren’t able to find the entire original sample group), then a few years later surveyed again. The study reports its findings from the entire six year period.

Having read this far, you might think, ok . . . so what? A poorly referenced article tells us that according to a major U.S. study, teens and their parents think Black women aren’t as attractive as other women. That really sucks.


Here’s the “and”: MY BAD, the language of the article doesn’t actually say that people think Black women are less attractive. It flat out says, Black women ARE less attractive. For example, it says,

“It is very interesting to note that, even though black women are objectively less physically attractive than other women, black women (and men) subjectively consider themselves to be far more physically attractive than others.”

It also states that there are differences in intelligence, based on race:

“Nor can the race difference in intelligence (and the positive association between intelligence and physical attractiveness) account for the race difference in physical attractiveness among women.”

Bell Curve, anyone?

It gets worse. This article states opinion as though it were fact and it misuses and mis-states the results of research undergone for other purposes . . . but it also is operating under the premise that the European standard of beauty is the standard that all should be judged by. That photo up at the top? That’s the image that PT ran with this article. The findings that Americans think Black women are the least attractive of all the races? Sad and disgusting, but indicative of our accepted and perpetuated standard of beauty. Guess which race has features that consistently do NOT fit inside the measurements of that photo? And guess which race does?

Though the accepted cultural belief that Black women aren’t beautiful – are actually LEAST beautiful - is very sad, it’s not shocking to me. What IS shocking (Wait, why? Why is it shocking?) is that an enormous publication like Psychology Today would publish this crap. You know, it would have been one thing if they’d published the findings and said, “Man, we have work to do! We all know beauty is subjective and these results point to some serious problems in our society’s perception of beauty. What can we as psychologists and mental health professionals do to combat this?” But no – they published an article that had ZERO links to references, stating that Black women ARE less attractive than other women. Period.

Did you know that people of color (POC) are largely under-represented in the field of psychology? I work with psychologists and people studying to become psychologists – I see the anecdotal evidence to this five days a week. Guess where else POC are under-represented? In receiving care for their mental health. And of those who do receive care? They are usually treated by someone who is White.

That editors at Psychology Today saw this article as fit to publish boggles my mind. We have GOT to do better.

Here are some more great takes on this article:

Kristen Howerton from Rage Against the Minivan (includes 2 great videos and a comment from me! ha)

Racialicious (includes awesome graph and snippets of blogs from all over)

Confessions of a Cybernegress (last sentence packs a punch. So true!)

Kristen Howerton again – thoughts on the way Twitter was used to call out Psychology Today

And here is a letter from another author published on Psychology Today . . . Hmm . . . should they be off the hook?

1 comment:

Nic said...

I am so disgusted by this. SO disgusted. What in the world were they thinking? What is anyone thinking when portraying an entire class of people in a generalised way and then making a value-judgment which negates their value? Oh yeah, racism.

There was a TV programme in the UK about the 'research' that supposedly revealed the fact that black people are less intelligent than white people. Yes, really, a TV programme. I watched it to see who would be the first person to say something dumb. Fortunately the research was comprehensively discredited by the programme, because for a moment there I felt like I'd gone back 100 attitudinal years. I found it quite revolting that anyone would even give airtime to such a ridiculous piece of research, and that goes for the PT stuff too.

I had no idea about the PT article, and now you make me want to punch a hole in a wall too. What is wrong with people?! The mind truly boggles.

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