Satoshi Kanazawa May Lose His Job Over His “Psychology Today” Article That ‘Black Women Are Less Attractive’ Than Other Women (And He Should)

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Satoshi Kanazawa's article as it appeared on the Psychology Today website before it was taken down after widespead criticism. Psychology Today as well as Kanazawa have been loathe to apologize for its racism masking as phony science, as well as stunning inaccuracies (Courtesy: Daily Mail)

After reading the article, and then the outrage on both sides of the Atlantic, particularly from African American, Caribbean, and black British women and African women, I wish that Satoshi Kanazawa would go somewhere else and stop using this field of study, “evolutionary psychology,” to pad his way in academe. To me, his controversial study isn’t science, but Kanazawa’s affinity or personal choices for the kinds of women he prefers that are on display. In fact, the only women that seem to be more attractive than others are Japanese or Asian women according to his study.  Which makes this whole exercise ethnocentrism to a large degree as well.

In fact, this guy has the effrontery to declare:

[…]”If what I say is wrong (because it is illogical or lacks credible scientific evidence), then it is my problem. If what I say offends you, it is your problem.”

Guess what, Kanazawa, you win the trifecta. It’s immoral, wrong and offensive.

The conclusions of Dr Satoshi Kanazawa have left one of the country’s leading universities mired in controversy for the second time this year.

Dr Kanazawa, a lecturer at the London School of Economics, has published findings based on a survey of white, Asian, black and native American men and women who were asked to rate each other’s attractiveness based on photographs.

Black women scored lowest, Asian highest.

The controversial Japanese academic, an evolutionary psychologist, concluded this is because African women have higher levels of testosterone than other races and therefore have more masculine features.

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More about the last assertion a bit later, but what cheeses me out to no end is this:

Why in hell do these respected institutions like the London School of Economics as well as a American psychology journal like Psychology Today continue to hire and present Kanazawa’s work under their aegis as science, knowing that it is faulty, skewed, lacking in intellectual rigor, and racist as well as sexist? And this time, these theories are being promoted by a man of color, behind which they are attempting to hide with their own set of prejudices. It is not the first time that Kanazawa has been criticized for his assumptions and conclusions, whether by researchers in his field, or by commentators who can translate these results for a mainstream audience.

It’s like William Shockley promoting his already-debunked eugenics theories about blacks from his perch at Stanford University way, way back, even after he was retired and an emeritus. I have one idea why, too: blacks were beginning to be accepted into formerly all-white colleges and universities, including Stanford, in the late Sixties and early Seventies. That old puke was trying to show that blacks didn’t possess the intelligence to perform academically. Oh, I’m sure that PT published this provocative twaddle to get people to pick up and read the magazine. But wrong is wrong: the idiots the bigots are running with this, they who especially needed confirmation that their race hatred or prejudice were justified.

So far, a week after the controversy erupted, neither Kanazawa or Psychology Today have apologized for this article, which was hastily taken down after a furious onslaught of e-mails and Tweets and commentary and responses not limited to the Black Blogosphere.   As a result, the largest student organization in Britain is calling for his ouster.

The row has prompted the University of London Union Senate, the union’s legislative body, which represents more than 120,000 students, to vote unanimously for the dismissal of Kanazawa, and to condemn his research.

Sherelle Davids, anti-racism officer-elect of the LSE students’ union, said: “Kanazawa deliberately manipulates findings that justify racist ideology. As a black woman I feel his conclusions are a direct attack on black women everywhere who are not included in social ideas of beauty.”

Amena Amer, incoming LSE students’ union education officer, added: “We support free speech and academic freedom, but Kanazawa’s research fuels hate against ethnic and religious minorities promoted by neo-Nazi groups. Not only does he use the LSE‘s credentials to legitimise his ‘research’ but this jeopardises the academic credibility of the LSE.”

The LSE launched an internal investigation into Kanazawa’s comments after senior academics at the school, including the new director, Judith Rees, received letters of complaint over the remarks. Dr Kanazawa is abroad on sabbatical this year.

He’s abroad all right, but he’s hardly an innocent abroad. This guy is permanently at sea.

Several people, like the blogger at Sister Resistor, providentially caught the study before it was deleted from the PT website, so you can read it here.

Dr. Khadijah Brittain wrote a guest blog at the Scientific American website on Monday, joining with other scientists, researchers, and intellectuals to refute Kanazawa’s claims. You should read this, (as well as the on-point response by the race blogger Mikhail Lyubansky over at Psychology Today) as excerpted here, as it is one of the finer retorts to emerge:

Kanazawa surmises that Black women’s lower attractiveness might be due to low estrogen and high testosterone. Yet, high estrogen levels and low testosterone is a leading cause of fibroids, which significantly impact Black women, especially Black women who are overweight. Also, Black women have been found to have higher levels of estrogen in a study on breast cancer. Finally, Kanazawa offended his fellow Psychology Today bloggers in 2008 with his post, “The power of female choice: Fat chicks get laid more.” The thesis there contradicts his supporting theory here. It leads me to wonder if this is all just some grand practical joke.

I resemble my father. Many first or eldest daughters resemble their fathers or fathers’ side of the family, regardless of color. I also suffered for a long time from fibroids until I had an operation–the Big H I call it–in 1997. My aunts–his surviving sisters–all suffer from breast cancer in their old age, like my paternal grandmother did. My aunts married black men because black men wanted them, and in the Twenties, Thirties, Forties, Fifties and Sixties, there were hardly any other heterosexual males who wanted and chose to be with heterosexual black women exclusively, especially in pre-civil rights, apartheid America. That was no shame, that was just a fact of survival.

So supposedly high testosterone levels and low estrogen, in Kanazawa’s view, has kept my aunts, my female cousins, my sisters, other black women and girls, and me from being considered for or sustaining relationships with other men of color or white men because we are too mannish-looking and not feminine enough?  Here we go again. Black women get this kind of dismissal from the First Lady on down. Where is the research for that statement? How does one come to such conclusions? Especially when papers like the New York Times increasingly presents photographs of black brides and white grooms in their society pages? When the comic strip Funky Winkerbean shows a black woman getting close with a responsive white man? Kanazawa’s study is what is meant by false science. Because whiteness seems to be the standard here more than anything else.

I’m going to let Akiba Solomon at ColorLines explain why Kanazawa’s research is so shoddy and dangerous. He’s even giving his data source a bad name.

Kanazawa, who draws a paycheck for teaching students at the London School of Economics, built his graphs on data from Add Health. Add Health is a massive longitudinal study commissioned and funded by the United States federal government to examine adolescent health outcomes. Starting in 1994, thousands of 7th to 12th graders from across the country filled out detailed surveys at their schools and some participated in follow-up interviews at their homes. Researchers wanted to identify factors that “may influence adolescents’ health and risk behaviors, including personal traits, families, friendships, romantic relationships, peer groups, schools, neighborhoods, and communities.”

Over the next 14 years, the multiracial group of participants continued to take Add Health surveys. According to the study administrators at the University of North Carolina’s Population Center, the adult phases of Add Health have “enabled researchers to study developmental and health trajectories across the life course of adolescence into adulthood.”

Now, Kanazawa didn’t base his baseless invective on the thousands of survey responses. Instead, he looked at how researchers rated the appearance of the adolescents and later the adults taking the survey. Here’s how he explains the data he used:

“At the end of each interview, the interviewer rates the physical attractiveness of the respondent objectively on the following five-point scale: 1=very unattractive, 2= unattractive, 3=about average, 4=attractive, 5=very attractive. The physical attractiveness of each Add Health respondent is measured three times by three different interviewers over seven years.”

I’m confused about how these data are objective. Did some bias-free robots from the utopian ether descend upon each testing site to perform this portion of the evaluation? Or were the interviewers human beings, subject to the same racism, sexism, ablelism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, fat phobia and whateverthehellelsephobia that undergirds beauty standards?

I strongly suspect that Kanazawa is guilty of partaking in a certain xenophobia and racism, abetted by right wing politics.  Someone or some people at Psychology Today must be enamored with these kinds of views, like those who suddenly “discovered” Ayn Rand during the Reagan era. Or, they’re really, really stupid, not realizing what Pandora’s box they’ve sprung open, exposing all that eugenics, Darwinist and Nazi pseudoscience that was supposedly refuted after World War II.  I tend to doubt the latter.  Which leads me to declare that institutions and publications that allow this kind of thing to proliferate are playing with fire.

I wish that I had my books with me but I don’t, so I cannot hold forth as I would wish to rip this guy a new one. I began reading about how Japanese perceive race and color some thirty years ago, when I came across  Hiroshi Wagatsuma’s 1967 Daedalus article, “The Social Perception of Skin Color in Japan.” When it comes to whiteness in Japanese culture, especially among middle-aged Japanese, the progeny born after Japan’s defeat in the Great Pacific War and Kanazawa’s generation, white skin and white looks are the ranking standard for attractiveness, despite the fact that they are not white.  (The phenomenon, however, did not begin with the American occupation, but occurred much, much earlier in their culture. I think that it also morphed into another way of identifying with the Western conqueror and to ensure a kind of specialness and difference.) To be sure, many young Japanese people coming up seem to reject this thinking. However, I think that this socialization is really what undergirds Kanazawa’s theories:  his embrace of the superiority of whiteness and his supposed “honorary white” status.

Not a few Asian American men also identify with white European males to a detrimental degree as well, and I have read that some believe that this is self-hatred that prevents A-A males from carving out their own identities beyond whiteness. If you think that I lie, I remember a young Asian male in one of my college beginning creative writing classes who wrote a science fiction piece about astronauts that was outdated by several decades and described only white characters. His fellow students and I were astounded. One would think that with Asian American astronauts going into space in the shuttle program (at that time), he would create at least one character that was like himself, and that he would discover worlds and meet aliens. It turned out that my student liked reading science fiction and fantasy of the Fifties and Sixties that showed strong white male adventurers and heroes, some of whom one would have to admit were quite cartoonish in retrospect, but he admitted no such thing, only serious admiration.  I’ve continued to wonder, what was missing from this young man’s life that he had to hide behind such characters? 

Can I add that as much as I can appreciate the phenomenon that is Jackie Chan, in Shanghai Noon (High Noon is also the name of a famous Gary Cooper film) his name in the film is Chon Wang, a close approximation of the name of John Wayne. Wayne is the so-called embodiment of white American manliness and heroism (as well as American paternalism, hegemony, racism and colonialism). I swear, as much as I wanted to enjoy that film, I couldn’t get rid of a feeling of discomfort with the name of that character, knowing what Wayne really represented to blacks and other conscious people.

Yesterday, the blog What About Our Daughters reported that St. Ives, the personal toiletries brand of Unilever, has pulled all advertising off of Psychology Today‘s website as a result of the Kanazawa controversy.  I hope that this isn’t the end of advertisers jumping ship; I think that they should all reconsider whether they want to be part of this madness.  Plus, this is the only thing that gets entities like Psychology Today to pay attention: pulling advertising.   Pulling the plug on the money that helps them keep running; pulling the plug on some BS.  That’s what brought down the likes of Glenn Beck, whose lunatic rants eventually left him with no big-money advertisers, thanks to a well-orchestrated campaign.  Faux Noise even had to show him ad-free in Britain until they couldn’t afford to pull his weight on both sides of the Atlantic.

I also hope that the LSE’s investigation of Kanazawa does not exonerate him and leads to his firing.  Unfortunately, there are thousands of people who adhere to such views,  faulty reasoning, manufactured “facts,” and grandiose leaps of logic.  People like Kanazawa who have a real need to dismiss black people. Trust me, they won’t stop here.  There is nothing wrong with someone having an alternative viewpoint, but when that viewpoint denigrates other people for possessing some kind of inherent biological or social flaw and fails to provide solid, incontrovertible proof of such flaws, other than personal prejudices, it’s time to draw the curtain down on such BS and relegate it to the garbage heap of history where it belongs.

~ by blksista on May 26, 2011.

3 Responses to “Satoshi Kanazawa May Lose His Job Over His “Psychology Today” Article That ‘Black Women Are Less Attractive’ Than Other Women (And He Should)”

  1. Really, really well done article by you. When I first read Satoshi’s article I wanted to at least give it a chance before succumbing to the criticism and gaining an internal bias beforehand, but as I read on I was dumbfounded by the conclusions.

    My biggest thing was this. How can you culminate such a huge conclusion with such a small article.


    • It may be that he was giving a wink to those who supposedly share his views, so it was shorthand. Which did not give him a leg to stand on.

      Dr. Brittain shredded him further with that falsehood about high testosterone levels in black women. Kanazawa didn’t even try to delve into medical histories involving black women to prove his theories. He could have easily found out otherwise. He already believed that high testosterone is what is causing black women’s “unattractiveness.” Some researcher.

      The guy is a lot more than just an embarrassment. But of course, a lot more people know this now.


  2. These responses are excellent and Mr. Kanazawa has revealed his own internalized racism that echoes an old Japanese proverb that “a woman’s light skin causes one to overlook the absence of other desired features.” The Japanese have considered white skin an essential characteristic of feminine beauty since recorded time. This trend toward idealization of western physical features by the Japanese became important in the mid-20’s (notice the white powder used by the Geishas). Further, the Japanese writer, Natsume Soseki (1867-1916), a great novelist of modern Japan, was one of the earliest admirers of the charms of double-folded eyes in women. In his first novel (1907), he describes one of his heroines…”Itoko with white, soft and full fingers and cute eyes with double-folded eyelids.” Added to this, Hiroshi Wagatsuma, interviewed Japanese men in 1965, he found that they all agreed in valuing the “whiteness in skin” as a component of beauty in the Japanese woman.” My conclusion is that Mr. Kanazawa’s internalized racism is displaced upon Black women and this fact is revealed in his rampantly racist article.


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