Author: has written 5289 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

203 Responses

  1. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 1:39 pm |

    This guy has accepted a handful of racist tropes and then decided it’s his career goal to prove all of them. It looks like shitty theories + shitty research = shitty conclusions, and black women, AGAIN, are left with a big pile of shit to answer to.

  2. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 16, 2011 at 1:46 pm |

    Recall that women on average are more physically attractive than men.

    Speak for yourself, buddy.

    Ridiculous EP is ridiculous.

  3. Ev`Yan
    Ev`Yan May 16, 2011 at 1:58 pm |

    As a black woman, I take major offense to this asshole’s findings.

    Fuck you, Mr. Kanazawa.

  4. Shannon Drury
    Shannon Drury May 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm |

    Testosterone.

    Really.

    Really?

  5. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 2:03 pm |

    I’m wondering why you chose to illustrate this article (and your point) with a photo of a black woman who has mostly Caucasoid features.

  6. Leo
    Leo May 16, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    Please don’t reject evolutionary psychology because a bunch of idiots misapply it. It’s like quantum mechanics – perfectly legit, with real-world applications, but used to make bullshit sound sciencey.

    Ev-psych is a legitimate branch of ev-bio that makes interesting predictions. It’s also grossly misused by people who don’t know the math, have looked at only one culture, and confuse the ancestral environment with early farming societies.

    The analysis in that study is outright silly. There’s ev-psych to be done here, but it’s not “In the ancestral environment your children were less likely to reproduce with their mother was black so there was selection for men who find them unattractive”. (How would that even work?) It’s “In the ancestral environment your children were less likely to reproduce if your partner was low-status so there was selection for people who find unattractive whichever physical traits are linked to low status in their culture”. (The study suggests this only for male attraction to women, but the explanation holds in general.)

    And once you have that explanation, you don’t conclude “My study shows this” – you say “My results with North Americans show this, let’s go test this hypothesis in other cultures”.

  7. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 16, 2011 at 2:10 pm |

    How does this guy have an affiliation with the London School of Economics? Don’t they require job applicants to show some level of scientific competence?

  8. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 2:13 pm |

    SIDE TOPIC: Leo, the only exposure I’ve had to evo psych is crap like this. Can you point me to an example of research that’s not-crappy?

  9. Linnaeus
    Linnaeus May 16, 2011 at 2:19 pm |

    Hey, in the same article, the author says that black men are more attractive than white men because they have more testosterone. So it’s totally not racist!

  10. gretel
    gretel May 16, 2011 at 2:21 pm |

    Just read the list of papers he’s published if you need more convincing that this person is absolutely ridiculous. http://www2.lse.ac.uk/researchAndExpertise/Experts/s.kanazawa@lse.ac.uk

    I can’t wait until he publishes “Why left-handed carnival barkers whose fathers are fluent Esperanto speakers from Arizona have more sons.”

  11. blondie
    blondie May 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm |

    I am objectively amazed that someone is paying this guy to write this stuff.

  12. DAS
    DAS May 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    Women are, to use some radical feminist parlance, the sex class. We’re the object of the male gaze; our bodies are used to represent (heterosexual) sex itself, and being beautiful (or at least trying to be beautiful) is a basic requirement.

    FWIW, even this line of thinking is culturally influenced. For example, I am sure the ancient Greeks would beg to differ about who is the object of whose gaze and why.

    Certainly from a “naturalistic”, “evolutionary biology” point of view, if you look at species where one sex is more “attractive” than the other (e.g. in certain birds the male is quite colorful while the female is very dull), the “attractive” gender is the one with more partners. So if women are “attractive” and men are not, one prediction of this is that we would expect polyandry to be the “natural” state of human affairs.

    Do evolutionary psych. types believe this to be true?

    I, for one, actually am inclined to believe that in some “state of nature” (whatever that means for as social of an animal as humans) women are the “attractive” sex and polyandry was at one time the norm amongst humans. Certainly, when I think of a culture in which men are considered the “attractive sex”, what I think of is ancient Greece which tended to place a certain value on artifice over what comes naturally anyway.

    But I am hardly learned in such matters. I am curious, though — do any evo psych types claim humans naturally tend to polyandry?

  13. Dorian
    Dorian May 16, 2011 at 2:31 pm |

    Jill, I think what LoriA was trying to “get at” is that it’s sort of unfortunate to choose a mixed-race woman whose features read “white” as your defense of black women being hot. Because regardless of your intent, it kind of comes off as “black women can be hot! …if they lack most of the distinguishing features many black women have”.

    not that Pam Grier isn’t attractive, or that black women with Caucasoid features are less black than other black women. Just that for illustrating the point in this particular post, she may have been a poor decision.

  14. Snarky's Machine
    Snarky's Machine May 16, 2011 at 2:32 pm |

    Jill: Um, what? I chose to illustrate this post with a photo of Pam Grier. Because Pam Grier is hot. Not because she has “Caucasoid” features.

    I’m wondering what your comment is trying to get at.

    It’s both lulzy and a fair critique to question why you used a post of a mixed raced individual for the post. Pam Grier is hot, but so is Grace Jones, Alek Wek and countless other dark skinned, wide nosed black divas. It’s hard to take seriously an article unpacking racist beauty standards by perpetrating them yourself.

    hope this helps!

  15. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 2:40 pm |

    @Jill
    What I’m getting at is that you chose to illustrate your article about how awful it is to say that black women are less attractive than white women with a photo of a mixed race woman with light skin and stereotypically Caucasian facial features.

    What I’m getting at is that there’s a reason that you chose Pam Grier instead of Naomi Campbell.

    What I’m getting at is that your defensiveness combined with this kind of repeated bullshit is racist as fuck.

  16. Arkady
    Arkady May 16, 2011 at 2:44 pm |

    Checked the name but doesn’t seem to be the same LSE guy who did the ‘in the future, women will have huge boobs and men will be extremely well endowed because!evolution’ press release (turned out to be a promo for some tv channel, get an academic to sign to a crap press release and watch all the free publicity generated). Needless to say the LSE’s ‘science’ output makes a lot of evolutionary biologists (not psychologists!) pretty angry.

  17. The Nerd
    The Nerd May 16, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    Ugh, I had a white man share that article with me as his justification that it’s Totally Not Racist! of him to not be attracted to any black women. I didn’t have the gag reflex of steel needed to read it all the way through.

  18. Taneshia
    Taneshia May 16, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    Snarky’s Machine: It’s both lulzy and a fair critique to question why you used a post of a mixed raced individual for the post. Pam Grier is hot, but so is Grace Jones, Alek Wek and countless other dark skinned, wide nosed black divas. It’s hard to take seriously an article unpacking racist beauty standards by perpetrating them yourself. hope this helps!

    Well, one, I don’t think Jill meant to be “racist”, but two
    Pam Grier is about “biracial” as most black folk in that I believe her grandfather was white or something. Well, guess what, most black folk (whether we admit it or not) has something like that in her blood line. In fact, my children are both way lighter complexioned than me for that very reason. We all don’t have fuller lips (I envy my daughters’ full lips) or wider noses! Even “full blooded Africans” don’t always have those features!

  19. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    What I’m getting at is that your defensiveness combined with this kind of repeated bullshit is racist as fuck.

    I prefer the Jay Smooth approach here, as employed by Dorian and Snarky’s Machine.

  20. Odin
    Odin May 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    Over and over again, it’s a way for scientists to look at a particular set of cultural preferences and make up a reason for why those preferences exist (spoiler: the reason is always “evolution,” and “evolution” is apparently tied quite closely to “things straight white American men like”).

    Can we please not call these people scientists? It’s like calling Sarah Palin a feminist.

    Yes, there can be ev psych that is actually science, but this particular crap is Not Science.

  21. Zes
    Zes May 16, 2011 at 2:50 pm |

    This is the same bumpkin who said religion is genetic. Ie if your ancestor is a Muslim, you are totes a Muslim – hence POTUS is one, says Kanazawa. It boggles my mind anyone’s listening to him anyway.

  22. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 2:53 pm |

    Taneshia: Well, one, I don’t think Jill meant to be “racist”, but two
    Pam Grier is about “biracial” as most black folk in that I believe her grandfather was white or something.

    Yes, thank you. It’s extremely weird for a bunch of white kids to come on Feministe imposing a new version of the one-drop rule.

  23. Comrade Kevin
    Comrade Kevin May 16, 2011 at 2:55 pm |

    I inject testosterone into my body every week. So I’ll see if the day I do it I am found to be more attractive based completely on data I pull directly out of my ass.

  24. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm |

    Excuse me for not being all palatable.

    Christ, I’m white and even this is too fucking annoying to handle. So much for all the traffic Self-promotion Sundays was sending my way, I am so out.

  25. Sheelzebub
    Sheelzebub May 16, 2011 at 2:58 pm |

    Shroedinger’s Lady-Boner?

    Comrade Kevin:
    I inject testosterone into my body every week.So I’ll see if the day I do it I am found to be more attractive based completely on data I pull directly out of my ass.

  26. RachelA
    RachelA May 16, 2011 at 3:00 pm |

    While I do understand, to a certain extent, the critique of using Pam Grier’s picture to make a counter-argument about black women’s beauty (cause she *does* have a facial structure that is more commonly associated with people of caucasian descent) I also feel the need to point out that such a ‘critique’ takes race, and the notion of racial purity, for granted.

    Remember people: RACE IS NOT A BIOLOGICAL FACTICITY, IT IS A SOCIAL CONSTRUCT. Who even counts as being “mixed-raced” and “purely raced” is ultimately a matter of subjective opinion. There is not a single person’s body on this earth that can ever be objectively ‘raced’ because what even counts as a racial feature (skin color, eye shape, hair texture, facial structure) is ultimately arbitrary and contingent on particular historical and cultural discourses.

    So again, while I do understand the ‘problem’ with using Pam Grier as THE emblem of black feminine beauty, I also think we need to stop treating race as if it is a biological facticity that can ever manifest in “pure” forms. I think we should perhaps, instead, devote our energies into deconstructing race and recognizing that all racial categories are ambiguous, contested, and fundamentally not capable of being pinned down or purified…because they are social constructs.

    This critique, by the way, also applies to the actually study and constitutes another reason why it is fundamentally bogus. Just as there is no such thing as objective attractiveness, there is also no such thing as an objective racial category. Race is, itself, a subjective thing.

  27. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 3:08 pm |

    RachelA: This critique, by the way, also applies to the actually study and constitutes another reason why it is fundamentally bogus. Just as there is no such thing as objective attractiveness, there is also no such thing as an objective racial category. Race is, itself, a subjective thing.

    I love this. Thank you.

    [This thought is a common thread in TNC’s work (who I love for being a particularly nuanced and beautiful writer who considers race and gender and humanity with real grace) and was even mentioned in one of his posts from today, about Civil War soldiers and the arbitrary divisions of black and white troops.]

  28. smmo
    smmo May 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    Jill we are in total agreement. (Imaginary high five!) This ev psych stuff makes me insane(r.)

    Leo: Ev-psych is a legitimate branch of ev-bio that makes interesting predictions. It’s also grossly misused by people who don’t know the math, have looked at only one culture, and confuse the ancestral environment with early farming societies.

    The study linked, the “good” ev psych, is – while less disgusting the Kanazawa, no less stupid. What is the point of asking parents to predict their grief level at losing children at different ages? Isn’t that (ignoring the ghoulishness of it) rather subjective? It’s supposed to be some grand statement on the Value of Our Genes, but it’s just a mess.

    No matter how interesting this stuff might be to poke at, for some, it can’t be anything but dangerous to women. Cyborgs dammit! (Haraway)

  29. Stan Szczesny
    Stan Szczesny May 16, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    I haven’t read it, but from everything I can gather, the PT article is unscientific garbage. Coincidentally, I posted on race and beauty just this morning before seeing the PT article. There are a lot of interesting perceptions out there, past and present on the issue. Here’s some of what I wrote:

    “I have noticed one use of the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ in literature of which I’ll give just two examples. The first is found in The Song of Solomon 1:5-6: “I am black, but comely…Look not upon me, because I am black, because the sun hath looked upon me: my mother’s children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine own vineyard have I not kept.” Solomon’s beloved apologizes for being black and says she is beautiful in spite of her skin color. The term ‘black’ seems here to be synonymous with ‘ugly.’ Granted, Solomon’s beloved gained darker color because of working in the vineyards and not necessarily because of race, but the verse doesn’t say ‘I am tan, but comely.’

    Before I give my second example, here are some of Webster’s definitions of ‘fair:’

    “Fair: Clear; free from spots; free from a dark hue; white; as a fair skin; a fair complexion. Hence, Beautiful; handsome; properly having a handsome face, pleasing to the eye…just, equitable…not foul…honest, honorable, civil, liberal, free from stain or blemish…”

    My second example comes from Romeo and Juliet. Romeo likens Juliet’s beauty, when compared to other women, to “a snowy dove trooping with crows” and to “a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear.” It would seem, at least in the times of Shakespeare, King James, and Noah Webster, that the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ meant ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful.’ In the Shakespeare quote, an ‘Ethiope’ is the embodiment of ‘ugly.”

    Feel free to read the rest of it at:

    http://stansgreatbooksblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/on-connotations-of-racial-terms-black.html

  30. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2011 at 3:22 pm |

    And here I was thinking Jill picked Pam Grier on purpose because of her cultural salience in the Black Is Beautiful era and her huge and awesome Afro.

    My bad.

  31. Lisa
    Lisa May 16, 2011 at 3:23 pm |

    Awesome. thanks for taking time out of your day to take a stab at this piece of shit article.

  32. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    This B.S. keeps showing up on my Twitter, and of course I come back and Jill has accused me of begging for cookies as she updates her post *based on my critique*.

    I…don’t…even…

  33. Wendell
    Wendell May 16, 2011 at 3:36 pm |

    Jill, excellent point about how “attractiveness” is inextricable from historical context. Evo-psych consistently misses this point.

    This is yet another example of pseudo-science done by someone who thinks they can apply “science” to an area where they have no conception of the social science necessary to bring the issue into relief. The result is something that does violence to science, social science, and the people lumped into the study’s broad strokes. Yet another practitioner of “evolutionary psychology,” an area of study that gets attention mostly when it reinforces cultural preconceptions (likely born from the authors’ own biases, of which they are hopelessly unaware). When you read more about evo-psych and how it maintains that human behavior is an artifact shaped in and largely unchanged from the stone age–a completely un-testable thesis to begin with (the fossil record is notably silent on behavior)–it begs the question how such work even gets funded. This premise (of the stone-age brain) also completely overlooks neuroscience’s findings on just how plastic much of the brain can be (which, for example, could speak to how notions of attractiveness can change through history and with cultural context).

  34. Wendell
    Wendell May 16, 2011 at 3:38 pm |

    An article on why the author is the “great idiot of social science”: http://www.alternet.org/story/145903/controversy_grows_over_study_claiming_liberals_and_atheists_are_smarter/

  35. Smithy
    Smithy May 16, 2011 at 3:43 pm |

    Florence: Yes, thank you. It’s extremely weird for a bunch of white kids to come on Feministe imposing a new version of the one-drop rule.

    Nice assumption there. Way to get on the same judgemental, vaguely racist level as said “white kids”.

  36. cet
    cet May 16, 2011 at 3:55 pm |

    The article is now a “page not found” on Psychology Today. Someone uploaded a copy to Scribd, though:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/55558908/Why-Are-Black-Women-Rated-Less-Physically-Attractive-Than-Other-Women-But-Black-Men-Are-Rated-Better-Looking-Than-Other-Men

  37. Jason Alston
    Jason Alston May 16, 2011 at 3:58 pm |

    I too believe that Lori’s question is a valid one. Dorian and Snarky’s Machine took the words right out of my mouth. We unfortunately have some issues when the black women who receive mention/reference in your article are Pam Grier and Beyonce, who both have loads of easily-recognizable Euro traits.

    I’m just as offended as you are by what this “researcher”‘s study suggests, but I think there are things within your rebuttal that actually negate your attempts to discredit him.

  38. Tony
    Tony May 16, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    FashionablyEvil: How does this guy have an affiliation with the London School of Economics? Don’t they require job applicants to show some level of scientific competence?

    Judging by who they deem to accept money and give PhD awards to, they don’t have very high standards overall. For those that still don’t understand why people use the term “academic industrial complex”.

  39. Arkady
    Arkady May 16, 2011 at 4:02 pm |

    PZ Myers has posted a takedown, it’s apparently not the first time this writer has spouted such bullshit (previous most charming statement from Kanazawa: Ann Coulter should have been President on sept. 12, 2001 and nuked the entire middle east).

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/05/i_guess_even_psychology_today.php

  40. Athenia
    Athenia May 16, 2011 at 4:03 pm |

    I wonder if this Kanazawa guy took this whole “Caucasoid” features into account.

    Probably not.

  41. Tony
    Tony May 16, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    LoriA: I’m wondering why you chose to illustrate this article (and your point) with a photo of a black woman who has mostly Caucasoid features.

    I’d say it was the content of the post pointing out that “objective” is never defined in the study and is really a proxy for cultural norms that “illustrated the point”, not the photo of Pam Grier. If it was just the photo, it wouldn’t be much of a rebuttal to a statistical study, would it? No, choosing a photo of a light skinned black woman with mostly Caucasoid features was not perhaps the most apt, but there’s nothing to indicate that that was done deliberately, as your post seems to suggest. Pam Grier is an extremely accomplished black celebrity known for her beauty, and that photo is really striking and unique. So there were definitely valid reasons for choosing it. If you had not come in assuming or insinuating bad faith– something I’ve seen you do before, you would have gotten a better response from Jill I think.

  42. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm |

    Um… guys? This “Caucasoid features” stuff. If we are at the point as a community that we can debate the terms of relatively arbitrary language, certainly we can agree that framing race in terms of “caucasoid/negroid/mongoloid” is NOT A GOOD THING.

  43. samanthab
    samanthab May 16, 2011 at 4:14 pm |

    LoriA, Naomi Campbell has blue eyes. Your own example is not the best example!

  44. Leo
    Leo May 16, 2011 at 4:20 pm |

    (Disclaimer: I’m not a professional evolutionary psychologist, or even a particularly good amateur.)

    ssmo:

    The study linked, the “good” ev psych, is – while less disgusting the Kanazawa, no less stupid. What is the point of asking parents to predict their grief level at losing children at different ages?

    To test the obvious hypothesis about the evolutionary cause of parental grief. If we found grief was unrelated to reproductive value in the ancestral environment, it’d mean parental grief wasn’t fine-tuned by evolution – maybe it’s a strongly cultural phenomenon, maybe it’s a signalling ploy, maybe it’s grief at lost opportunities rather than for children. Turns out it’s just what you’d expect. Not all research is ground-breaking.

    Isn’t that (ignoring the ghoulishness of it) rather subjective?

    Not sure what you mean. “So-and-so is grieving” is a very concrete thing, you can see it with MRI. Maybe you mean “the amount of grief depends on who’s grieving”? Sure, but you can still compare averages. Or you mean “There’s no objective amount of grief”? Expressions will vary with individuals and cultures, but the neural circuitry of grief is the same for all humans, so I would guess that you can compare the strength of the raw emotion.

    It’s supposed to be some grand statement on the Value of Our Genes, but it’s just a mess.

    Meh, not really. Just “You can use ev-psych to predict true things”.

    DAS:

    Certainly from a “naturalistic”, “evolutionary biology” point of view, if you look at species where one sex is more “attractive” than the other (e.g. in certain birds the male is quite colorful while the female is very dull), the “attractive” gender is the one with more partners. So if women are “attractive” and men are not, one prediction of this is that we would expect polyandry to be the “natural” state of human affairs.

    Doesn’t necessarily apply. It’s quite possible for a gender to be “attractive” to attract one high-quality (in terms of genes and care for offspring) mate rather than many mates.

    But yeah, that “women are the attractive gender” is purely cultural. Humans have about the same level of competition for mates. We’re mildly to strongly (there’s a controversy) polygamous. There’s a weak trend towards polygyny (compare the number of polygynous vs polyandrous cultures), but it’s overshadowed by culture.

    Florence: The obvious starting points are Cosmides & Tooby, who are getting obsolete and messed up badly a few times, but still got the whole thing started; and the amazing Sex at Dawn by Ryan and Jethá. There’s also Pinker, but be warier because he’s made some stupid mistakes like deduce the frequency of homicide in the ancestral environment from non-hunter-gatherer tribes.

  45. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2011 at 4:21 pm |

    Seriously, it’s only in the last couple of decades, if that, that any American would even entertain the idea that Pam Grier looked white in that photo. But if we’re going to continue debating whether Pam Grier is black enough to illustrate this article, could we at least drop the pseudoscience jargon? “Caucasoid features”? Really?

  46. Kai
    Kai May 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    Fuck Kanazawa and Psychology Today.

    The jarring term “Caucasoid” comes from German “scientist” Johann Friedrich Blumenbach who explained: “I have taken the name of this variety from Mount Caucasus, both because its neighborhood, and especially its southern slope, produces the most beautiful race of men.” That’s why I prefer not to use “Caucasian”, which I believe necessarily invokes that origin. I talk about white people with European features or phenotype.

    Yes, race is a social-political construct and whiteness is a fluid strategy of power and domination. If white people were honest, I bet 90% of them would agree with this “study” that white women are more attractive than black women. The cultural evidence here in North America is ample and in-your-face every time you walk past a magazine stand, turn on the TV, or load a white-centric website.

  47. riteilu
    riteilu May 16, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    I don’t understand how any scientist could seriously post an article that basically amounts to, “Well, this hasn’t been disproven yet, and I can’t think of any other possibilities! It must be true.” That doesn’t mean you’re an edgy rulebreaker living unconfined by “political correctness”; it means you aren’t creative enough to come up with an alternative explanation OR a method of supporting your claim. And that you’re trying to hide your ineptitude by offending people. Ugh.

  48. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    No, black women with multiracial heritage are not less legitimately black; yes, Pam Grier is hot; yes, race is a social construct; no, Naomi Campbell is not THE standard of black beauty; yes, ‘Caucasoid’ was probably not the best word to use, but it’s also not the same as using ‘Negroid’ or ‘Mongoloid'; no, my tone hasn’t been super nice after that initial post; no, I don’t want anyone’s cookies.

    Now that we all agree on that, maybe we can focus on the point that I actually made: choosing a woman with stereotypically white features to represent black female beauty is problematic, and responding to someone pointing this out in a completely neutral way with escalating hostility that ends in tone arguments and accusations of cookie-grubbing– while updating your post to reflect that critique anyway!– is downright wrong, especially in light of this blog’s recent history.

    @Tony
    I didn’t imply anything at all with that first comment. I was giving Jill a chance to respond, and she chose to respond with escalating defensiveness, before taking my suggestion (excuse me, the suggestion that other people echoed more politely) anyway.

    @Jill
    Has it occurred to you that I mentioned my race because I wanted to let you know that it’s not only women of color you’re alienating with your progressively ridiculous defensiveness around issues of race (and disability, and poverty…)? When people respond with that kind of defensiveness (and tone argument, and dismissiveness) to what was an entirely neutral first comment, yeah, I start getting mad.

  49. Leo
    Leo May 16, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Wendell:
    [Evo-psych] maintains that human behavior is an artifact shaped in and largely unchanged from the stone age

    What? No! Ev-psych maintains that adaptations are unchanged – which means that, when they execute in a different environment, they’ll translate into completely different behaviors. For example, “People compete for status” creates egalitarian societies in the ancestral environment (because nobody lets others rise) and cheftains in farming societies (because you can’t just walk away).

  50. Ruth Black
    Ruth Black May 16, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    Still I Rise
    You may write me down in history 
    With your bitter, twisted lies, 
    You may trod me in the very dirt 
    But still, like dust, I’ll rise. 

    Does my sassiness upset you? 
    Why are you beset with gloom? 
    ‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells 
    Pumping in my living room. 

    Just like moons and like suns, 
    With the certainty of tides, 
    Just like hopes springing high, 
    Still I’ll rise. 

    Did you want to see me broken? 
    Bowed head and lowered eyes? 
    Shoulders falling down like teardrops. 
    Weakened by my soulful cries. 

    Does my haughtiness offend you? 
    Don’t you take it awful hard 
    ‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines 
    Diggin’ in my own back yard. 

    You may shoot me with your words, 
    You may cut me with your eyes, 
    You may kill me with your hatefulness, 
    But still, like air, I’ll rise. 

    Does my sexiness upset you? 
    Does it come as a surprise 
    That I dance like I’ve got diamonds 
    At the meeting of my thighs? 

    Out of the huts of history’s shame 
    I rise 
    Up from a past that’s rooted in pain 
    I rise 
    I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide, 
    Welling and swelling I bear in the tide. 
    Leaving behind nights of terror and fear 
    I rise 
    Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear 
    I rise 
    Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave, 
    I am the dream and the hope of the slave. 
    I rise 
    I rise 
    I rise.

    Maya Angelou

  51. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    @Jill
    I really tried to make it as neutral as possible. If you read it differently, frankly, I don’t really care. Your tone argument is still not a valid argument.

  52. Jen
    Jen May 16, 2011 at 4:51 pm |

    LoriA:
    I’m wondering why you chose to illustrate this article (and your point) with a photo of a black woman who has mostly Caucasoid features.

    I get kinda sick of hearing people talk about Black people having white features. The continent of Africa has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world combined. Black Americans are, by definition, multiethnic. Our features are ours, and they are, as is to suspected given our background, very diverse. Pam Grier does not have “Caucasoid” features. She has Black American features.

  53. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 4:54 pm |

    LoriA, may I make a suggestion, food for thought? I think your rendering of “black” and “white” features is narrow and distincly USian. Take, for example, Iman, an Eastern African woman who is easily among the most beautiful women in modern pop culture, who shares similarly “white” features with the picture of Grier above. Would you argue that she isn’t black enough to serve in a blog post (FFS!) about black beauty?

    Categorizing Pam Grier as “mixed race” when (I can’t verify this, so I’m running with it unless someone can correct me) she has a white grandparent is literally using the same definitions of whiteness and blackness that were used to define the lives of Southerners in the antebellum period. From the link:

    Hundreds of families of color had gained their freedom in the colonial era because they had English mothers, and within a generation or two, they could claim to be white. Their claims were supported by law, which never drew the color line at “one drop” of African ancestry in the antebellum era. Most Southern states followed a one-quarter or one-eighth rule: anyone with a black grandparent or great-grandparent was legally black, and those with more remote ancestry were legally white.

    This need for racial purity in the name of anti-racism is problematic, yes? Also, does it mean nothing that Grier was a major figurehead in the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 1970s, for a whole lot of reasons that were in addition to her unquestionable beauty (her politics, strength, attitude, fearlessness, sexuality)? And that this is perhaps something to celebrate and not to tear down?

  54. Brennan
    Brennan May 16, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    Really? They’re *still* pulling this shit? *headdesk*

    Florence: Um… guys? This “Caucasoid features” stuff. If we are at the point as a community that we can debate the terms of relatively arbitrary language, certainly we can agree that framing race in terms of “caucasoid/negroid/mongoloid” is NOT A GOOD THING.

    I see your point. Is there a better alternative in this particular context? I’m not trying to be difficult. Obviously, there’s a long and troubling history of negative stigma built around features/people being racially classified based on those features/social status being determined based on that classification, but in a conversation like this, which is about how society perceives people based on physical appearance, as we’re making the point that society stigmatizes certain features due to their racial origin (not vice versa), are there less problematic words that describe the particular group of features? Sorry for the awkwardly worded question; obviously I’m not quite sure how to say what I’m trying to say.

  55. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 16, 2011 at 4:57 pm |

    Dear White women,

    Stop. Just…stop.

    Sincerely,

    A Black woman

  56. smmo
    smmo May 16, 2011 at 4:59 pm |

    LeoThe neural circuitry of grief is the same for all humans, so I would guess that you can compare the strength of the raw emotion.

    As far as I could tell, the study was about grief as related to the ages of children who died. But it asked parents to imagine their grief, which is just, frankly, kind of dumb. And then something about reproductive values that made no sense? Hence my use of the term subjective. I don’t see how imagined grief can have anything to do with neural circuitry. This is junk science.

  57. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 16, 2011 at 5:03 pm |

    Brennan: are there less problematic words that describe the particular group of features?

    I personally err on the side of wordiness. After reading The Mismeasure of Man which lifts from The Bell Curve to refute its claims, the words just felt gross to me. For me, those words are inextricably linked to evolutionary essentialism. But if you’re looking for concise phrasing, fucked if I know. Maybe ask the evopsych guy on the other thread?

  58. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm |

    Oh wait, THIS thread! Sorry, I was busy refreshing for my afternoon entertainment.

    Leo, thoughts?

  59. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 5:05 pm |

    Brennan, I’m so not the expert here, but this is my take. It’s not about the features, it’s about the social status assigned to these features. We know from beauty science that the primary indicators of beauty worldwide aren’t as specific as “thin nose” or “blue eyes,” they’re more like body or facial symmetry and reflections of health. We also know that even these indicators are so arbitrary that, worldwide, there are no many exceptions that there just aren’t hard rules.

    I saw a great mini-series on this on the BBC a few years ago. It’s worth watching just for cultural approaches to beauty culture(s) and the development of commercial and aspirational beauty culture(s). Don’t know what it’s called.

    When this asshole posing as a scientist is ranking “attractiveness” according to race, he is basically measuring his sample’s attraction and/or aversion to our social constructions around race. Why are black women ranked “least attractive”? It’s not just because the scientist is a racist ass with a history of questionable, if flashy, research. It’s also because we are racist and we have assigned certain (some “positive” some negative) social constructions around certain racial characteristics that rank some stereotypes more “sexy” than others. Need more concrete examples? Porn.

  60. zuzu
    zuzu May 16, 2011 at 5:09 pm |

    LoriA:
    Excuse me for not being all palatable.

    Christ, I’m white and even this is too fucking annoying to handle. So much for all the traffic Self-promotion Sundays was sending my way, I am so out.

    Aaaaannnnnd FLOUNCE!

  61. zuzu
    zuzu May 16, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    LoriA:
    This B.S. keeps showing up on my Twitter, and of course I come back and Jill has accused me of begging for cookies as she updates her post *based on my critique*.

    I…don’t…even…

    Kids today.

    Can’t commit to a flounce.

  62. zuzu
    zuzu May 16, 2011 at 5:21 pm |

    LoriA: choosing a woman with stereotypically white features to represent black female beauty is problematic

    I’m with Angus: anyone looking at that photo in the 70s or 80s would not AT ALL consider Pam Grier to have anything “stereotypically white” about her. The hair alone would have marked her as “political.” There’s a reason Afros were — and to some extent, still are — a big statement.

    Also problematic? #1 White Girl deciding who’s black enough, or not black enough, and using terms like “Caucasoid.” Do you go in for phrenology, too?

  63. For Serious?
    For Serious? May 16, 2011 at 5:24 pm |

    LoriA:
    Now that we all agree on that, maybe we can focus on the point that I actually made: choosing a woman with stereotypically white features to represent black female beauty is problematic

    I think a lot of people find it problematic that Pam Grier is being labelled as having “stereotypically white features”. I can understand having a problem with the post using a single picture to represent the entirety of black female beauty, even though this is clearly not what Jill intended and kind of trolly/splitting hairs, but saying Pam Grier is not black enough to be presented as an image of black female beauty is actually pretty offensive to me.

  64. Leo
    Leo May 16, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    smmo: But it asked parents to imagine their grief, which is just, frankly, kind of dumb.

    From the comments on the study:

    You might think it an inelegance of the experiment that it was performed prospectively on imagined grief, rather than retrospectively on real grief. But it is prospectively imagined grief that will actually operate to steer parental behavior away from losing the child!

    And then something about reproductive values that made no sense?

    “Reproductive value” is just the average number of future descendants, weighted by similarity in DNA variance. It’s “valuable” from an evolutionary standpoint, which is entirely unlike what people actually value.

    I don’t see how imagined grief can have anything to do with neural circuitry.

    Uh, neural circuitry is what you use to imagine grief. Okay, there may be big cultural and individual factors that influence how much grief you expect to feel, but it’s not all over the scale – there’s a curve of prospective grief as a function of child age that isn’t just an unreadable cloud.

    PrettyAmiable: For me, those words are inextricably linked to evolutionary essentialism. But if you’re looking for concise phrasing, fucked if I know. Maybe ask the evopsych guy on the other thread?

    You’re right, that’s race essentialism. There are genetic markers that correlate with where your fourth-generation ancestors lived [1], but they don’t correlate all that well with your features, let alone with the social concept of “race” that classifies the same person as white in a given time and place and black in another. Classification based on facial features didn’t turn out to be useful and turned out to be freaking dangerous, so it was dropped.

    [1] Source: Razib Khan, but I don’t remember where – I think in this video http://www.gnxp.com/blog/2010/02/eliezer-yudkowsky-razib-khan-on.php

  65. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 16, 2011 at 5:28 pm |

    What I’m wondering about is exactly how one parses which features belong to which “race”? And I’m putting “race” in the scare-quotes in this context because we’re not talking about genetic heritage or self-identification, we’re talking about how others perceive what that heritage MIGHT be based on phenotype.

    White supremacy privileges light skin over darker shades, and generally the white-beauty-standard-compliant shades are lighter for women than men. It’s no accident that Pam Grier is not the same skin tone as Grace Jones. But does that mean that Ms. Grier’s *other* features are then read as more WBS compliant than Ms. Jones’? I mean, is there a tendency to read the same-sized lips as “full” on a lighter skinned woman versus “big” on a dark skinned woman? Are noses “strong” versus “wide”? “Almond shaped” eyes versus, “oriental”?

    I also wonder whether claiming a lighter-skinned woman is more “Caucasian” (and may I Nth the hate on that term?) isn’t a form of appropriation in some ways. As in “Hey, look at that beautiful WOC. Owait, only white women are beautiful. Ah! Let’s claim $_X feature as WBS-compliant! Problem Solved!” I kinda feel like this is what has happened with “full-lips”, what with all the white ladies who’ve had augmentation done.

  66. Kai
    Kai May 16, 2011 at 5:32 pm |

    Just for fun, I had to dig up another Kanazawa gem from March 2008:

    Here’s a little 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. 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.

    Yes, we need a woman in the White House, but not the one who’s running.

  67. smmo
    smmo May 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm |

    Inelegant is polite. I’m no scientist, but because two graphs look vaguely the same isn’t a Eureka moment. Even if we accept the whole “imagined grief” thing (cough) the study’s conclusion that we grieve more (again, I don’t buy that grief is measurable) for children as they age because they’re more likely to breed and pass on our precious genes is offensive.

  68. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    For the fourth(?) time, I’m not saying Pam Grier isn’t black or isn’t black enough. I’m saying that there is a reason light-skinned black women with thin lips and noses are chosen as representations of black female beauty and it is a combination of racism and colorism. There are so many gorgeous dark-skinned women out there with broader features, and we hardly ever see them held up as gorgeous.

    I’m not allowed to speak out against racism as a white person, then that leaves a helluva lot of work for people of color. Of course, people of color *did* speak up about this, and they’re just being ignored.

  69. Leo
    Leo May 16, 2011 at 5:58 pm |

    smmo:
    The study’s conclusion that we grieve more for children as they age because they’re more likely to breed and pass on our precious genes is offensive.

    We do not grieve because we expect they would have passed on our genes. We grieve because we love them and are attached to them and have an emotion of grief that gets activated when bad things happen to those we love. Grief is sincere, we don’t think about passing on genes when we grieve.

    But the emotion of grief had to evolve in the first place! If it didn’t use to lead to genes being passed on, it couldn’t exist. Having intestines led to reproducing more, so now we have intestines, but we don’t digest for the express purpose of reproducing. Having an (anticipation of the) emotion of grief shaped a certain way led to reproducing more, so now we have an emotion of grief shaped this way, but we don’t grieve with ulterior motives.

    (I’m annoyed I have to say that, because it’s pointed out in the discussion that if grief was even a little bit motivated by reproduction, it would update for Canadian curves, not stay at !Kung ones.)

    Also, it’s more than two graphs looking the same – it’s that anticipation of grief doesn’t vary too much among people of a given culture; that it varies with age in roughly the same way; and then that its graphs looks the same (more than vaguely, r=.92 is a lot) as another, which was predicted in advance.

  70. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2011 at 6:02 pm |

    Lori, give it a rest. Seriously. Nobody’s saying you’re “not allowed to speak out against racism.” People are disagreeing with your analysis, and with the way you presented it.

    Any no, “tone argument” isn’t a get-out-of-jail-free card. Not when you call Jill “racist as fuck” at 2:40, then ask for forbearance on your use of “Caucasoid” less than two hours later.

    Lots of us here, of various different racial and ethnic identifications, disagree with your characterization of Pam Grier as “stereotypically Caucasian,” and we’ve mostly disagreed in language a hell of a lot less inflammatory than the language you’ve been using. You want to have a conversation about race and racism? Let’s have it. But you’re not the standard-bearer for the armies of righteousness here, and as long as you keep claiming that title, you’re going to keep getting mocked and yelled at.

  71. For Serious?
    For Serious? May 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    I’m a person of color. Do I have to declare that before I have an opinion? Is it like in Magic: The Gathering where you have to tap the card at the beginning of the round for it to count? (See, ’cause I’m playing the the race card. See what I did there?)

    And I still think what is being said is kind of problematic. While its necessary and important to point out how black beauty is often celebrated along the axes of Eurocentric traits, doing this analysis on an individual (and even if you don’t mean it that way, that’s how it’s coming off) comes off as kind of racialist. Like, how thin does someone’s lips or nose have to be before they cross the line? Pam Grier isn’t the darkest skinned person around, but she doesn’t exactly pass the paper bag test, either. No one is arguing that we don’t need more depictions of different kinds of beauty. Pointing out a single person as an example of the “wrong” kind of beauty makes people uncomfortable.

  72. smmo
    smmo May 16, 2011 at 6:09 pm |

    Again, I’m not a scientist, but I’m going to need a lot more than one tiny study to draw the big conclusions you’re drawing here. And a lot more than how people think they might act in a given situation.

    It would be amusing that they feel human behavior was so predictable if it wasn’t so dangerous.

    My conclusion? Evpsych is the same shit different day of reducing people (mostly women) to their reproductive capabilities and woo woo connections to ancient times. One need look no further than the evpsych crowd’s endless fascination with beauty. How silly can you get?

  73. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm |

    - I said that Jill’s recent behavior and defensiveness about it is ‘racist as fuck.’ I did not say that Jill is ‘racist as fuck.’
    – I haven’t been defending ‘Caucasoid’.
    – Because people here seem to be failing at reading coprehension, I’ll repeat yet again in yet a different way: Pam Greer is not stereotypically Caucasian. Some of her features are, especially compared to other, darker-skinned black women.

    I find it fascinating that people keep vociferously disagreeing with my analysis and simultaneously completely ignore the people of color who have made similar points. Is it because it’s harder to dismiss them with a ‘shut up white girl’?

    And LOL at the ‘standard-bearer for the armies of rightesousness.’ Yeah, I call myself that all the time. It’s on my business card.

  74. rain
    rain May 16, 2011 at 6:13 pm |

    Echidne of the Snakes did a whole series on the guy back in ’09. The Kanazawa Question, Parts I, II, and III. Ending with Bye bye, Mr. Kanazawa.

  75. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    As for Brennan’s question about how to describe the way people look, it’s important to start from a recognition that race really IS a cultural construct, and that there’s no one way that people of any “race” look.

    Florence mentioned Iman earlier, and noted that she has what could be described as “white” features. That’s not because she has any European ancestry, though. It’s because the particular features we associate with “blackness” aren’t predominant among [1] people of her particular ethnicity or [2] Iman herself. If she doesn’t look black, in other words, it’s purely a reflection of the cultural constructedness of the concept.

    There are no “white features,” in other words, just features that are coded white. And how certain features are coded varies by time and place.

  76. Professor Tracey
    Professor Tracey May 16, 2011 at 6:14 pm |

    I’ve yet to see a white woman that looks like Pam Grier.

    This is why white feminist blogs aren’t the place to defend black women. Your reading audience’s comments are just as fucked up as the original article this post is addressing.

    “Caucasoid features” – WTF!!!!!

    And what kills me is trying to claim Pam Grier as somehow “white-looking” for God Sakes! Most white women wouldn’t know who the hell she was if it wasn’t for black women.

    Pam Grier is HOT. She is a BLACK female ICON, not a caucasoid icon. Never has been, never will be.

    Looking at the post, there are multiple pictures of black women, different shapes, sizes, colors, etc… I believe that is the CLEAR point, black women reflect many different kinds of beauty, too many to be so dismissively written about in such a derogatory and flippant fashion.

  77. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 16, 2011 at 6:19 pm |

    This is why white feminist blogs aren’t the place to defend black women. Your reading audience’s comments are just as fucked up as the original article this post is addressing.

    THANK YOU!!!

  78. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 6:20 pm |

    @Professor Tracey

    When Jill originally posted this piece, it only featured Pam Grier, and it did not identify her as Pam Grier.

    I fucked-up with the term ‘Caucasoid.’ I apologize. I was trying really hard to use neutral-sounding language because I did not want to be seen as ‘attacking’ Jill. I though it sounded scientific, and I was unaware of the history of the term. Again, I apologize.

    My point still stands that choosing, mixed-race, lighter-skinned women with thin facial features to represent black female beauty is wide-spread and problematic, and responding with anger and defensiveness when people point this out- as Jill did- is even more problematic.

  79. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2011 at 6:22 pm |

    Lori, if you don’t recognize Pam Fucking Grier when you see her, maybe you should do a little more listening and a little less lecturing when folks are talking about cultural constructions of race and gender.

  80. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 6:26 pm |

    I didn’t say that I didn’t recognize her. I did, and I was aware that she is mixed race, and I am aware that she has light skin, and I am aware that people often hold up such women as the ideal form of black female beauty because it better matches standards of white female beauty. I wanted to point this out to Jill. I used the wrong word. I apologized. I still apologize. My point still stands.

  81. Florence
    Florence May 16, 2011 at 6:32 pm |

    This:

    Angus Johnston: Lori, if you don’t recognize Pam Fucking Grier when you see her, maybe you should do a little more listening and a little less lecturing when folks are talking about cultural constructions of race and gender.

    and everything Professor Tracey said.

    YES.

  82. Nahida
    Nahida May 16, 2011 at 6:39 pm |

    This may or may not be relevant to the thread.

    You know, I’ve been told that I have “a white woman’s chin and mouth” (literally that) and it always disturbed me, because–if I did accept a geographical race, or if I accepted the race socially imposed on me–I’m not white. No percent of me is white, and I would never be considered white, socially with appearance or geographically with origin. How can parts of me be white? And for someone to tell me that my mouth and chin are white instead of the race that I actually am sort of feels like erasure.

    These features aren’t white people features. They’re MY features, of MY race. White people also happen to have them. That doesn’t make them white.

  83. Professor Tracey
    Professor Tracey May 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm |

    @Lori,

    I hear you, but you’re not getting it. Pam Grier is NOT mixed race…she is a BLACK woman.

    Her parents are black. Most black folks, particularly ones born in the South can claim some kinds of mixed heritage, white, Native American, etc… That doesn’t not make them, mixed race in the same sense as someone like Halle Berry, whose mother is white.

    Quite frankly, light-skin is in the eye of the beholder. My sister is much lighter than Pam Grier, I’m slightly lighter-skinned than Pam Grier, but I consider myself brown-skinned, not light. Other folks make think and say different. Not that it matters, because I am clearly black all day…just like Pam Grier. That’s the point.

    Thin lips and thin features according to whom? I think white women, even our allied ones, hold some deep seeded stereotypes about black women’s beauty to make themselves feel good. If a black woman is attractive, she has to have white features.

    Pam Grier is the absolutely RIGHT black woman standard to use if you know anything about her. She was criticized for rocking the huge Afro….pure hotness in my opinion…She was criticized for the tight outfits that showed off…black boobs, thick thighs, and a big butt that could not lie…. Throughout her career, Pam Grier suffered every slight a black actress could suffer, but I never cared. When I saw her on screen, she represented black womanhood, me, kicking ass and taking names, looking fine as hell the entire time.

    That’s why you are catching so much heat, Pam Grier is a beloved black female icon. She came along long before that black standard of beauty crap, that color complex stuff. Jill tried to tell and I told you myself…one more time for the record, Pam Grier is hot.

    And like Angus said, if you couldn’t recognize Pam “Foxy Brown” Grier from the get go, then maybe you should listen more and talk less……

  84. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 6:56 pm |

    I did recognize Pam Grier. I get why people are mad. I really can’t keep making the same points. I need to stop responding in this thread for my own mental health and for the sake of the thread.

    I’d still like to hear people respond to Snarky’s Machine and Dorian, but I guess that’s a lost cause.

  85. Angus Johnston
    Angus Johnston May 16, 2011 at 7:00 pm |

    LoriA: I’d still like to hear people respond to Snarky’s Machine and Dorian, but I guess that’s a lost cause.

    Lori, Jill herself said “Snarky’s Machine and Dorian bring up good points; you two are right, I didn’t really think that one through, and was just looking for a quick photo to illustrate the post. I should have thought it out better.”

    She said that FIVE HOURS AGO.

  86. debbie
    debbie May 16, 2011 at 7:01 pm |

    Actually LoriA, the POC who made similar points weren’t ignored. Jill specifically acknowledged their posts, and edited the original post to include pictures of other black women.

  87. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 16, 2011 at 7:13 pm |

    Nahida:
    You know, I’ve been told that I have “a white woman’s chin and mouth” (literally that) and it always disturbed me

    It disturbs me too…WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE REST OF HER????

  88. LoriA
    LoriA May 16, 2011 at 7:17 pm |

    That was not what I was saying.

  89. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 16, 2011 at 7:18 pm |

    LeftSidePositive: It disturbs me too…WHAT HAVE YOU DONE WITH THE REST OF HER????

    hahahahahahahaha

  90. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 16, 2011 at 7:31 pm |

    And LoriA, the reason no one’s talking about the other commenters is that their points were well-reasoned, concise, and informative. Their comments have been generally accepted and even incorporated into the original post! That’s not really fodder for debate.

    You will also notice that no one is stating that you were wrong that there is historical baggage associated with posting someone who looks like Pam Grier in the context of what features we code as “white” or “black.” We are, however, taking issue with your posturing that the use of Pam Grier was Totally Unforgivable (most especially considering the life story of Pam Grier herself, as people have mentioned), and that you’ve somehow found the Holy Grail of Racism hidden at Feministe which therefore entitles you to berate all of us because you in your Superior Radical Feminist Enlightenment have determined that clearly we should all feel Very Very Guilty. It’s pretty damn tiresome.

  91. Ebonmuse
    Ebonmuse May 16, 2011 at 7:41 pm |

    Don’t you love how the person who declared “I am so out” keeps coming back to the thread after saying that? If you’re going to flounce off, at least do it properly!

  92. My God
    My God May 16, 2011 at 7:48 pm |

    Firstly, as a dark skinned black women, I’m upset about the responses of other WOC on this thread. Dear WOC, please don’t bother addressing the other white people, since it’s clear that you’ll say anything they want to hear; please address me as a dark skinned WOC and explain how colorism doesn’t exist and how there is no problem at all with the complete erasure of a large subset of black women in wider society. Tell me how the paper bag test didn’t exist. Explain how “good hair” “yellow” “redbone” weren’t praise before they were insults. Tell me that people haven’t said “oh, you’re pretty for a dark skinned girl.” Not white people, black people. This is such bs. Go on, seriously…

    Since “all features black people have are black features” then I guess the discussion is over. You win. It’s completely fine that “acceptable” blackness mimics whiteness. It’s completely fine of course because it’s not like dark skin or big lips were ever ridiculed and demonized on POC. Nope.

    Yet again, feministe sets aside STRUCTURAL RACISM to wallow in the mememe individualism of third wave feminism. I “feel” like there’s nothing wrong with the only acceptable representation of blackness looking like Beyonce so I guess it’s fine! Yet again, feminism fails fails fails.

    Go on, all the POC on this thread defending Jill, defending this racist ideal, refusing to acknowledge its problems and making tone arguments – let’s hear it!!!

  93. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 16, 2011 at 7:49 pm |

    I believe that’s called a flounce-bounce

  94. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 16, 2011 at 8:06 pm |

    My God:
    […]
    Since “all features black people have are black features” then I guess the discussion is over. You win. It’s completely fine that “acceptable” blackness mimics whiteness. It’s completely fine of course because it’s not like dark skin or big lips were ever ridiculed and demonized on POC. Nope.

    Yet again, feministe sets aside STRUCTURAL RACISM to wallow in the mememe individualism of third wave feminism. I “feel” like there’s nothing wrong with the only acceptable representation of blackness looking like Beyonce so I guess it’s fine! Yet again, feminism fails fails fails.

    Go on, all the POC on this thread defending Jill, defending this racist ideal, refusing to acknowledge its problems and making tone arguments – let’s hear it!!!

    We wouldn’t be defending Jill if she actually said anything even remotely resembling what you seem to be imagining she said.

    (Oh, and one other teensy tiny little thing…actually, the ENTIRE POINT OF THE PIECE was that beauty standards are culturally mediated and heavily influenced by historical biases and structural racism therefore rendering the whole concept of “acceptable” moot, and in fact Jill acknowledged the problems with an image that would even SEEM to imply that blackness we perceive to be mimicking whiteness is the attractive kind, even when that image, you know, didn’t actually represent that.)

    And furthermore, the original piece even…

    Oh, never mind.

  95. My God
    My God May 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm |

    @ Jill

    Actually they did. Denying that certain features are associated with whiteness, and these features have been historically valued, is denying colorism and racism. Simple as that. Oh, but race is a social construct! Look at Iman! Being light skinned and looking more similar to whites is totally African and not related in any way to racism. Go on…If these preferences aren’t a reflection of racism then what do they reflect? Please enlighten me.

    So dear WOC, is there or is there not something problematic about the fact that women like Pam Grier, and generally only women who look like Pam Grier are allowed to represent “beautiful” blackness in society? Are you denying that there is racism or colorism behind this limitation? Do you have a problem with it?

    Seems like I’m being patronizing but I’m getting to the point where I’m never surprised by racism.

  96. My God
    My God May 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    Also, stuff like this

    Florence: This need for racial purity in the name of anti-racism is problematic, yes? Also, does it mean nothing that Grier was a major figurehead in the “Black is Beautiful” movement of the 1970s, for a whole lot of reasons that were in addition to her unquestionable beauty (her politics, strength, attitude, fearlessness, sexuality)? And that this is perhaps something to celebrate and not to tear down?

    is just too stupid to be offensive. Do you understand that erasing the entire history of colorism in the US and attempts to discuss and counter that as “the need for racial purity” and some sort of hypocrisy are 1. stupid 2.racist and 3. derailing. Here’s a request: can white people please STOP trying to make this sound uncomplicated? No, it’s not a paradox or ironic. FFS. Guess what – clubs based around minority membership are not paradoxical either even though *shock* they support racial equality with *gasp* separation. Can people actually conceive of something really out-there? I HATE this. I HATE it. Imagine this: POC. are. not. stupid. Really. Just let it sink in for a second. Is it possible that it’s ACTUALLY complicated and messy? That the history is tortured and difficult and that it’s not going to be summarizable in some pithy sentence. Whites in America spent a long time making sure this wasn’t the case. So please, entering racial conversations and saying things are “paradoxical” because one day a dark skinned WOC is going to punch you in the face and you’re going to know why.

  97. Jen
    Jen May 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |

    IrishUp: I also wonder whether claiming a lighter-skinned woman is more “Caucasian” (and may I Nth the hate on that term?) isn’t a form of appropriation in some ways. As in “Hey, look at that beautiful WOC. Owait, only white women are beautiful. Ah! Let’s claim $_X feature as WBS-compliant! Problem Solved!”

    Professor Tracey: Thin lips and thin features according to whom? I think white women, even our allied ones, hold some deep seeded stereotypes about black women’s beauty to make themselves feel good. If a black woman is attractive, she has to have white features.

    You hit the nail on the head. This KILLS me. I KNOW I have very African features. Many times–particularly when abroad, I have had African people from various countries inquire about my ancestry, believing that it was shared. Yet, white strangers approach me on a regular basis to ask me if I am multiracial or to otherwise attempt to dilute my Blackness–and always after commenting how attractive I am.

    Way to kill a compliment.

    LoriA: There are so many gorgeous dark-skinned women out there with broader features, and we hardly ever see them held up as gorgeous.

    This particular refrain bothers me because it simply isn’t true. The most successful black models in the industry have been either dark-skinned or African or both. Naomi Campbell, Naomi Sims, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Beverly Peele, Alex Wek, Oluchi Onweagba, Jessica White…these are all brown to dark skinned Black women. Light skinned black models are honestly a relative rarity. Even Tyra Banks, whose name people typically throw out to illustrate this so-called phenomenon isn’t light skinned by most Black Americans’ standards!

    The problem isn’t really an underrepresentation of dark-skinned women or women with full lips and round noses. It’s an underrepresentation of Black women, period and this bizarre refusal by Americans to recognize its existing acknowledgment of Black women as beautiful.

  98. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 16, 2011 at 9:00 pm |

    @My God

    I think maybe a problem with your argument here is that it runs the risk of falling into a ‘false consciousness’ trope. If Pam Grier is a Black woman who is beautiful and proud and has been embraced by many BW as a symbol of proud Black female beauty, then there are problems associated with critiquing that (especially if the critiquer -is that a word!? – is white). It is also really tricky, I think, to get into an argument about who ‘looks white’ and who doesn’t (and even trickier to use the word Caucasoid without coming off like a twit or worse). That I think was the basis of a lot of the frustration with LoriA.
    That being said, your call for a more profound structural analysis of the way beauty is framed – and how BW are *so* often the losers in that process – I imagine is (definitely should be!) more than welcome.

  99. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 16, 2011 at 9:05 pm |

    “this bizarre refusal by Americans to recognize its existing acknowledgment of Black women as beautiful.”

    Wow. Amazing point.

  100. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 16, 2011 at 9:13 pm |

    @My God–I don’t think you’re reading the same stuff we’re all reading.

    You’ve misinterpreted people objecting to features being associated with whiteness: these commenters are not, as I understand it, claiming that these features are not in fact associated with whiteness *in our society* (nor are they denying the problems of privilege associated with that) but they are saying that this in and of itself is silly, because these features are coded as such by a cultural construct even on people who have no white ancestry.

    And, no one here, of any pigmentation, has denied that there is something problematic with beautiful blackness being narrowly coded in our society. We’ve just said that Pam Grier, herself, deserves to be celebrated, and posting her picture isn’t ipso facto evidence of feminists being closet racists.

    Maybe you might want to consider slowing down and reading what people write, and that way you may notice that what you’re getting so offended about people saying isn’t even being said (and, conversely, what you’re offended about people not saying, actually, is being said…).

  101. Nahida
    Nahida May 16, 2011 at 9:29 pm |

    My God: Denying that certain features are associated with whiteness, and these features have been historically valued, is denying colorism and racism. Simple as that. Oh, but race is a social construct! Look at Iman! Being light skinned and looking more similar to whites is totally African and not related in any way to racism.

    When did anyone deny that certain features are associated with whiteness? My whole point was that they are associated with whiteness, and they shouldn’t be, because white people do not *own* these features. Rather, they are measured and defined as white by privileged white people, and are considered beautiful by privileged white people, who then force these standards on the rest of us and actively contribute to the oppression of POC–and YES that is problematic and racist.

  102. littlem
    littlem May 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm |

    Angel H.:
    Dear White women,

    Stop. Just…stop.

    Sincerely,

    A Black woman

    Yeah, that was an … interesting derail.

    Back on topic:

    RT @socialitedreams: Don’t let @PsychToday pretend that the appalling article about Black Women didn’t happen! http://t.co/OKk2TcD via @MoreAndAgain

  103. rayuela23
    rayuela23 May 16, 2011 at 10:01 pm |

    Great article, @littlem.

    I’m not super science-fluent, but isn’t it supposed to be all about eliminating the influence of confounding variables? Was there ANY attempt to do this in the “experiment”?

  104. Tony
    Tony May 16, 2011 at 11:11 pm |

    Let me first apologize for using That Term, in case anyone is keeping track.

    However, I will say that the only thing as bad as this study is some of the comments in response to it. Let’s see.

    “asian women are the most attractive?! ..sure…if we have a surplus of testosterone asian women are lacking in estrogen …most are shaped like teenage boys….lol!”

    “anybody see the irony of an asian dude writing this??? can they even buy an asian woman now??”

    “wow some asian man commenting on bw..shid asian men cant even keep their own women”

    And more that I’m not even going to post here. Yeah, fuck you, commenters. Frankly, I’ve been spending way too much time hanging out at Feministe trying to parse out whether I should be offended by X or Y slight that I’d almost forgotten what real, raw and ugly racism looks like. I was just reminded tonight.

  105. Miss S
    Miss S May 16, 2011 at 11:14 pm |

    Putting the issue of the picture aside the reality for a lot of black women is that they are seen as less attractive than other races. Wasn’t there a study that showed that most men who were dating online expressed a preference against black women?

    This has real world implications for black women. In terms of dating interracially, it can be difficult if men of other races are ‘socialized’ or whatever to see us as less attractive. It affects us in the workplace- studies show that women deemed attractive make more.

  106. Azalea
    Azalea May 17, 2011 at 12:12 am |

    Oh for fuck’s sakes! Not all black women have the same hair texture, hair color, skin color, bone structure, same measurement in facial features. I could go on and on. So when I hear ANYONE say any shit about how al black women are ____ and we are talking about appearances I expect to hear a bunch of racist ignorant bullshit. I do. This doesnt surprise me because THIS is what I was talking about when I said (on feministe before no less) that back women have had to defend being femininity, had to defend our very womanhood because somehow being black AND female makes you less of a woman and less of a human being than everybody else.

  107. Caity
    Caity May 17, 2011 at 1:55 am |

    Sssh don’t anyone tell Foxy Brown she’s not somehow not black anymore. I know what happens to people who mess with her in the movie and I don’t want to be around here when it happens.

    Pam Grier is an icon and no one should be questioning her awesomeness and validity as a depiction of a totally amazing-looking woman who is also black. I don’t see how it makes any real sense.

  108. Leo
    Leo May 17, 2011 at 4:59 am |

    Azalea:
    Not all black women have the same hair texture, hair color, skin color, bone structure, same measurement in facial features. I could go on and on. So when I hear ANYONE say any shit about how al black women are ____ and we are talking about appearances I expect to hear a bunch of racist ignorant bullshit.

    Actually, I expect that if you show people a picture of the same woman and a short text describing her, they will rate her as less attractive if the text says she’s black that if it says she’s white.

  109. Sonia
    Sonia May 17, 2011 at 5:17 am |

    Wow! How quickly this whole thing derailed. Though it should be pointed out that women in their reproductive prime usually appear pretty regardless of anything else. How they look once they age a bit can be very dependent on genetics.

    That said, I always wonder why do men engage so much in rating women or claiming who is prettier and all that. If you don’t like a particular kind of look don’t bother with her. Black women can get enough attention when they want it.

  110. Florence
    Florence May 17, 2011 at 7:17 am |

    Ah god, there are so many tangents and competing messages at this point I shouldn’t try to jump in.

    My God: Do you understand that erasing the entire history of colorism in the US and attempts to discuss and counter that as “the need for racial purity” and some sort of hypocrisy are 1. stupid 2.racist and 3. derailing. Here’s a request: can white people please STOP trying to make this sound uncomplicated?

    Totally don’t want to erase the history of colorism. In this case I was speaking to a particular white person (LoriA) whose stance and explanation of was particularly problematic. My attempt to untangle her argument simplified the history of the US’s relationship to color with the purpose of clarification, and my oversimplification is my shortcoming. I apologize. It does stand, however, that Grier was a figurehead for the Black is Beautiful movement, which does make it particularly problematic for a white lady today to come along and say that Grier is not black enough to illustrate a blog post about black beauty, which was the only real point I aimed to defend.

    Leo: Actually, I expect that if you show people a picture of the same woman and a short text describing her, they will rate her as less attractive if the text says she’s black that if it says she’s white.

    Dude. Thanks for the recap, but stop.

    Azalea: This doesnt surprise me because THIS is what I was talking about when I said (on feministe before no less) that back women have had to defend being femininity, had to defend our very womanhood because somehow being black AND female makes you less of a woman and less of a human being than everybody else.

    Yes, yes, yes.

    Nahida: When did anyone deny that certain features are associated with whiteness? My whole point was that they are associated with whiteness, and they shouldn’t be, because white people do not *own* these features. Rather, they are measured and defined as white by privileged white people, and are considered beautiful by privileged white people, who then force these standards on the rest of us and actively contribute to the oppression of POC–and YES that is problematic and racist.

    Right, another example of white-as-default.

  111. Alexis
    Alexis May 17, 2011 at 8:42 am |

    I think what is particularly annoying is the mental energy being put into trying to explain why these underlying, socialized projections of colorism aren’t racist on the part of the people talking about them, because you ARE ALL SO BUSY patting yourself on the back because you recognize them, and are willing to talk about them, unlike most white people or “feminists.”

    It’s still not cute at all, and you are not cool for pointing out to black women in pain that their perceptions and emotional reactions to this devastating issue are out of place here, because you in your superior recognition of the issue, are able to explain it away by what you DON’T mean, because it’s not YOU saying it — you are just discussing the effed up system in place, that’s all.

    You are totally missing the point of how it feels to be the living, breathing, loving black woman living under the desiccating eye of this system from the moment of your birth, throughout your entire life. The soul destroying implications of all you so blithely and self-righteously seek to sum up for us as if none of us have taken a theory class is something you clearly do not understand and can’t even hear if you are more interested in “correcting” the black women posters sharing irate views than learning something new about an experience you are writing about, but cannot have possibly experienced.

    Jill: for

  112. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 17, 2011 at 8:52 am |

    littlem,

    It wasn’t a derail. Just as My God and Professor Tracey have already said, a bunch of White women analyzing and deconstructing Black women’s beauty is problematic, at best. Most of the comments made range from laughable to downright ignorant.

    So, again PLEASE JUST STOP.

  113. Florence
    Florence May 17, 2011 at 9:00 am |

    Racialicious is apparently working on a roundtable in response to this asshole’s study. Thank god.

  114. Mickie T
    Mickie T May 17, 2011 at 9:28 am |
  115. Miss S
    Miss S May 17, 2011 at 10:35 am |

    This particular refrain bothers me because it simply isn’t true. The most successful black models in the industry have been either dark-skinned or African or both. Naomi Campbell, Naomi Sims, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Beverly Peele, Alex Wek, Oluchi Onweagba, Jessica White…these are all brown to dark skinned Black women. Light skinned black models are honestly a relative rarity.

    Truth.

    Also, I’ve never heard a black person refer to Pam Grier as biracial. I didn’t think she was. And how many representations of black women with afros as gorgeous do we see today? Not many, which is why I love her and that image.
    Also? I’m really tired of people (not just here, in real life too) claiming that someone doesn’t look ‘black’ enough to be considered black. It means that when people ask me what I am, and I say ‘black’ they just stare at me. And then: “what else?” Well, my family has a mixed ancestry, like most black people I know. But people prod you into giving them that ancestry. Or they start guessing: Hispanic? Philippine?

  116. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 17, 2011 at 10:49 am |

    Also? I’m really tired of people (not just here, in real life too) claiming that someone doesn’t look ‘black’ enough to be considered black. It means that when people ask me what I am, and I say ‘black’ they just stare at me. And then: “what else?” Well, my family has a mixed ancestry, like most black people I know. But people prod you into giving them that ancestry. Or they start guessing: Hispanic? Philippine?

    Inorite! When my parents came to one of my school functions as a kid, I remember turning to my classmates and saying, “See! I told you I was Black!”

  117. Catherine
    Catherine May 17, 2011 at 10:59 am |

    No, no, this dude is totally right. “Subjective” means what you think about yourself, and “objective” means what you think about other people. Also, variables are for losers.

  118. Miss S
    Miss S May 17, 2011 at 11:29 am |

    It’s actually not just about features and complexion. It’s also about the concept of femininity. Black women have historically been portrayed as masculine, tough, abrasive, overweight, etc. Being seen as feminine is something that many black women are currently struggling for. How many portrayals of feminine black women do we really see? Not many. My dark skinned sorority sister was always getting asked ‘what she was’ and I think it’s because she was a very feminine girl. It’s like people can’t conceive of ‘black’ and ‘feminine’ at the same time.

    White women and Asian women, and I suppose Hispanic women, are automatically coded as feminine. Black women don’t have this luxury. Remember that youtube video from a couple of months ago when a white woman called two black girls ‘animals’ for eating on the subway? Black women are othered as less than women, and less than human. We have black men publicly declaring that they don’t ‘date black girls.’ We have images like those of the girl from Precious supposedly representing the average black women. I mean, come the hell on. Most black women I know don’t fit any of the stereotypes of black women.

  119. Rose
    Rose May 17, 2011 at 11:41 am |

    Which sample did he use? Attraction is culturally inherited, if he sampled mainly Americans of different ethnicities, then I am not surprised at the statistics of the results. If he really wants to do it properly, he should have sampled people from across different cultures around the world, because then the results will be drastically different, and he will find out that beauty is indeed subjective.

  120. K
    K May 17, 2011 at 11:46 am |

    This whole discussion of what/whether certain features are “typically” black or white calls to mind this image: http://feministphilosophers.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/the-average-face-of-women-across-the-world/

    A composite of “average” women’s pictures from a variety of national populations. Notice that US-ians aren’t on there, because there *is* no “typical” American face. Melting pot and all that, blah blah blah.

    My forebears are English, Scottish, French and German. In the US, I’m read as “white” and nothing more. In Central Asia, my blonde hair and wide face read as “Russian”. In Russia, my high cheek bones and full chin read as “German”. My “whiteness” changes based on the beholders, who are sensitized to a different “racial spectrum” from the one I was raised with in the US. After about a year, I could begin to see the subtle differences between an Uzbek or a Uighur, Kazak and Kyrgyz, that I had been blind to before.

    In conclusion, Race is a Social Construct. Very profound, I know. But I would go on to say that the Construct is based on visual cues that people in the Society are highly sensitized to, even if they don’t realize it.

  121. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 12:39 pm |

    Wow, lots of food for thought here. First off, I agree with LoriA. Though she may not have made her point as elegantly as some of the other posters, the truth is still the truth. Here’s some historical context that I think helps flesh out the argument even more: to me, it’s undeniable that Pam Grier is a gorgeous woman and an empowering black female icon, as is true of Angela Davis and Kathleen Cleaver. However, it’s disingenuous to act as if their light skin tones and “white coded” facial features didn’t play a major role in them getting the kind of media exposure that Cicely Tyson, Esther Rolle and…(wow, I can’t even think of a young famous dark-skinned progressive WOC artist or activist of that era who approached the status of Grier, Davis or Cleaver! Roberta Flack perhaps? Audre Lorde and Shirley Chisolm were not celebrated for their beauty or widely perceived as iconoclastic, and first black famous model Beverly Johnson was dark-skinned but had features deemed acceptable by the white supremacist paradigm i.e. looked like a chocolate-dipped Barbie doll) others never got.

    All that to say, I believe that Grier’s hotness as an individual is beside the point. The fact that she or Beyonce or Rihanna or Halle Berry are OVERWHELMINGLY more likely to be used as “normative” representations of black beauty than, say, Ledisi or Serena Williams or Michelle Obama IS a function of racism/colorism.

    And lastly:

    LoriA: There are so many gorgeous dark-skinned women out there with broader features, and we hardly ever see them held up as gorgeous.

    Miss S This particular refrain bothers me because it simply isn’t true. The most successful black models in the industry have been either dark-skinned or African or both. Naomi Campbell, Naomi Sims, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Beverly Peele, Alex Wek, Oluchi Onweagba, Jessica White…these are all brown to dark skinned Black women. Light skinned black models are honestly a relative rarity. Even Tyra Banks, whose name people typically throw out to illustrate this so-called phenomenon isn’t light skinned by most Black Americans’ standards!

    ^^^That iargument is HIGHLY problematic because 1) the women listed by and large look like (literal) carbon copies of white female models, and 2) they make up .01% of the modeling industry as a whole, which is blindingly white.

    I find it bizarre and even disheartening that what folks like LoriA, My God, Alexis, Snarky’s Machine and Dorian are saying is so obvious and self-evident and yet still so woefully misunderstood by so many.

    I witnessed the exact same dynamic play out in two other sites. On another messageboard, the thread consisted of a (mostly) guys poo-pooing the article, then posting pics of (mostly light-skinned) black women that they found hot, as their way of refuting the article. One or two guys pointed out how that practice insidiously undermined their claims that they weren’t affected by society’s racialized conditioning of their attraction preferences.

    There was another site (that had nothing to do with the silly magazine article) that was even more glaring in their blind spot. It was about women learning to embrace their body image. Guess what EVERY SINGLE PICTURE in the article consisted of…thin young white women! Eye roll…..

    Although I feel like I’m giving LoriA a cookie for doing what I think ALL white folks ought to be doing (calling each other out on inadvertent/subconscious racism/unfortunate implications), that kind of blind spot gets so tiresome to point out, so I’m actually glad that there are more white people like LoriA taking on that work. And I hope you’re as vociferous with your family and friends and co-workers in real life too. And I’m glad that you DID take heed Jill and think more deeply about the many interconnecting dots between the constructs of race, beauty perception, representation and value, and the impact you have as an author critiquing that interplay.

  122. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 12:49 pm |

    As for the article itself, there’s nothing more for me to add that hasn’t already been beautifully stated by you and others. I am not inclined to even dignify the article with a response, other than…damn. Really? Sigh. Sticks and stones my ass…words DO hurt. The editors at PT thought so little of women who look like me (many of whom I’m sure were subscribers) that they thought it as okay to publish that? Or was it all an elaborate plan to get free publicity on the backs of black women? It just hurts to be barraged by that kind of bullshit all day every day. So I’ll be doing a creative response, a “mixtape” of sorts. I’d love to share it with you once it’s complete.

  123. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 12:51 pm |

    Ooops, didn’t mean to post the same thing three times. The server stalled. I trust you’ll be able to erase the repeats. Thanks!

  124. Ama
    Ama May 17, 2011 at 1:04 pm |

    LoriA: I’m wondering why you chose to illustrate this article (and your point) with a photo of a black woman who has mostly Caucasoid features.

    I think that Jill did a good job of representing black women with a range of skin tones and features. Pam Grier, Erykah Badu, Alek Wek, Jill Scott, and Gabrielle Union represent a spectrum of black beauty. Just as I would not choose any one group among Ghanaians, Tunisians, Somalis, Zimbabweans, and Congolese to represent Africa, I would not choose one “type” of black woman to represent black beauty. Thank you Jill.

  125. groggette
    groggette May 17, 2011 at 1:12 pm |

    @Ama
    FYI, in the original article there was only the picture of Pam Grier. Jill updated it with more pictures later.

  126. Kim
    Kim May 17, 2011 at 1:17 pm |

    LoriA: I’m wondering why you chose to illustrate this article (and your point) with a photo of a black woman who has mostly Caucasoid features.

    Those women have my features and I am damn sure a African American woman. GTFOH.

  127. Kim
    Kim May 17, 2011 at 1:21 pm |

    Dorian: Jill, I think what LoriA was trying to “get at” is that it’s sort of unfortunate to choose a mixed-race woman whose features read “white” as your defense of black women being hot. Because regardless of your intent, it kind of comes off as “black women can be hot! …if they lack most of the distinguishing features many black women have”.not that Pam Grier isn’t attractive, or that black women with Caucasoid features are less black than other black women. Just that for illustrating the point in this particular post, she may have been a poor decision.

    None of those women are mixed race. Where do you all get this mess from?

  128. Kim
    Kim May 17, 2011 at 1:36 pm |

    LoriA: I didn’t say that I didn’t recognize her. I did, and I was aware that she is mixed race, and I am aware that she has light skin, and I am aware that people often hold up such women as the ideal form of black female beauty because it better matches standards of white female beauty. I wanted to point this out to Jill. I used the wrong word. I apologized. I still apologize. My point still stands.

    She is not mixed race. What is wrong with you? She is no more mixed race than most African Americans I know. My goodness, some of you have deep issues.

  129. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 1:48 pm |

    @ Kim, see groggette’s comment right above yours. The previous posters were referring only to Grier. The other pictures were posted later .

    And while Grier isn’t “mixed race” as in having two parents of different ethnicities, she DOES have the kind of features that are more likely to elicit the meme “you’re a pretty black woman. What are you mixed with?” Whereas, Beverley Johnson is more likely to hear the meme “you’re pretty…for a dark-skinned woman.” Both of those memes are destructive in ways both blatant and subtle.

  130. Rare Vos
    Rare Vos May 17, 2011 at 2:30 pm |

    “So, again PLEASE JUST STOP.”

    So then we can complain about how the white feminists ignore our issues? There’s no winning here.

    Either we talk about this, get all the problematic crap out on the table and challenge it, or we put an end to the conversation and challenge nothing.

  131. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 17, 2011 at 3:02 pm |

    Rare Vos: “So, again PLEASE JUST STOP.”So then we can complain about how the white feminists ignore our issues? There’s no winning here. Either we talk about this, get all the problematic crap out on the table and challenge it, or we put an end to the conversation and challenge nothing.

    Absolutely, it should be discussed. But when white women start deconstructing Black women’s beauty based on which body parts can be considered “caucasoid” or not, that’s when I get offended.

  132. Kai
    Kai May 17, 2011 at 3:39 pm |

    Race is a social-political construct, but it is not based on visual cues or encoded features. It is based on power and domination. The rest is secondary; white feminine beauty standards might be seen from that perspective as a misogynistic arm of the fundamental imperative. When people say things like “I’m read as this in this place and that in that place, it’s all relativistic and you can draw no absolutes, we’re all mixed!” it sounds to me like they’re basically trying to gloss over white supremacism, which is what’s being discussed here. Race is not ethnicity. As I see it, race in this context has to do with the power of whiteness to impose and enforce the normative (though necessarily fluid and contradictory) standards by which all others are judged and according to which others are lifted or crushed.

  133. Jen
    Jen May 17, 2011 at 3:53 pm |

    Matriotic Muse: first black famous model Beverly Johnson was dark-skinned but had features deemed acceptable by the white supremacist paradigm i.e. looked like a chocolate-dipped Barbie doll

    Matriotic Muse: And while Grier isn’t “mixed race” as in having two parents of different ethnicities, she DOES have the kind of features that are more likely to elicit the meme “you’re a pretty black woman. What are you mixed with?” Whereas, Beverley Johnson is more likely to hear the meme “you’re pretty…for a dark-skinned woman.”

    You clearly think that Pam Grier looks “mixed” because she has features that are coded white.

    But you also seem to think that Beverly Johnson has features that are coded white. Otherwise, why else would you describe her as looking like a “chocolate dipped Barbie doll”?

    None of the women I listed as dark-skinned models look white, but you dismissed them as being “too normative” to count. THIS IS, IRONICALLY, EXACTLY WHAT I COMPLAINED ABOUT IN LISTING THESE WOMEN. None of these women look any more “normative” than Ledisi or Michelle Obama in their facial features. Naomi Campbell’s lips are far thicker than Michelle Obama’s. Ledisi’s nose is smaller than Oluchi Onweagba. I could go on. You code them as “more normative” simply because they are supermodels–icons of beauty–and these other woman, while also attractive, simply are not.

    Matriotic Muse: I can’t even think of a young famous dark-skinned progressive WOC artist or activist of that era who approached the status of Grier, Davis or Cleaver!

    That’s funny. Because, for me, Nina Simone, Fannie Lou Hamer and, a little later on, Assata Shakur immediately come to mind.

    And a picture of Shirley Chisholm, by the way, is up high on the walls of every Black independent school I’ve ever visited (I assume by saying “perceived as iconoclastic,” you meant “perceived as icons”).

  134. Kai
    Kai May 17, 2011 at 4:27 pm |

    There’s a petition at Change.org which you can sign, which states:

    On May 16, 2011, Psychology Today published an article on attractiveness that contradicted the basic tenets of scientific rigor and exhibited pure irresponsibility on behalf of the Psychology Today editorial staff. Numerous psychologists have sent letters expressing disappointment and concern at the publication’s recent decision. Psychology Today’s response has been to pull the article. This superficial band-aid, however, only hides the wound’s surface. The carelessness of the recent article marks a trend by Psychology Today to publish unreliable, pseudo-scientific content in the name of “science.” This poor standard for presenting research is particularly concerning given the national popularity of publications such as Psychology Today, which are seen by many members of the general public as credible representations of psychological research.

    Accordingly, we petition psychological professional associations to devise a formal statement alerting the public that given their track record Psychology Today should not be considered a reliable source of psychological knowledge. We also encourage the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science to devise mechanisms that may help to hold popular media sources, such as Psychology Today, accountable for the research they present to the public. The misuse and misrepresentation of psychological science, such as what has been seen today requires clear distancing from these types of publications.

    I don’t know enough about the field to know if it’ll be effective at all, but can’t hurt to share.

  135. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    @ Jen, are you familiar with the two memes I mentioned? And do you get how they relate to my overall point? You seem to have glossed over that. Also, I’ve personally NEVER heard any men or women regard Simone, Hamer or Shakur as “hot.” Talented, brilliant, phenomenal, etc. yes, but they were NEVER projected in the media as sexually attractive. THAT’S the point you and so many other folks seem to be missing as it relates to, as Kai put it, the “white feminine beauty standards” that are the “misogynistic arm of the fundamental imperative” of white supremacy.

    Also, you stated:

    None of [the models you listed] look any more “normative” than Ledisi or Michelle Obama in their facial features…You code them as “more normative” simply because they are supermodels–icons of beauty–and these other woman, while also attractive, simply are not.

    Maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I say they had the opportunity to become supermodels precisely BECAUSE they look like brown Barbie dolls, whereas it’s extremely unlikely that someone who looks like Obama or Ledisi or Whoopi Goldberg would be afforded the same shine (specifically in terms of being perceived as “hot”) and to say otherwise seems really disingenuous to me.

    (Side note – the linguist in me can’t resist: I deliberately chose “iconoclastic” because it has a different connotation than “icon.” The latter implies great recognition in one’s field. The former implies a more transcendent recognition, a game-changer. Example: “Peter Tosh is a reggae icon. Bob Marley is an iconoclast.” And it’s no accident that the black folks who get elevated to iconoclastic status tend to be lighter skinned as well. Example: Martin and Malcolm loom large in the American imagination, while Marcus Garvey’s legacy is suppressed. And so on and so on and so on.)

  136. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    Thanks for posting the petition.

  137. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat May 17, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    And here I thought the pic of Pam Grier at the beginning of the post was ironic and appropriate. Why? General public opinion (to my knowledge) is that Pam is hot as hell, but according to tainted US society white is desirable and black is not, so if Pam is near-universally-attractive and black, where does that leave Kanazawa’s crap “study”? Is Pam just “blessed” with lower levels of testosterone than other black women? (I cannot believe something a supposed “scientist” wrote forced me to write that fucked-up sentence.) I call bullshit.

    And maybe my reasoning is bullshit too. Shred me if it is; I won’t mind. I probably deserve it after eating popcorn while reading the comments.

  138. Jen
    Jen May 17, 2011 at 7:42 pm |

    Matriotic Muse: Jen, are you familiar with the two memes I mentioned?

    Yes, I am. I am a brown-skinned Black women. Of course I am “familiar” with them (although, no, I have never been told that I am “pretty for a dark skinned woman.”)

    Matriotic Muse: Also, I’ve personally NEVER heard any men or women regard Simone, Hamer or Shakur as “hot.”

    Oh, I’m sorry. You were trying to list “hot” revolutionaries? You were equating “hotness” with “status”? The comment was kind of rambling. I didn’t catch that. I have to tell you: it has not been my experience as a Black woman that women must be “hot” to be influential or iconic in my community. In fact, the overt sexualization of our heroes tends to be discouraged. It is viewed as disrespectful.

    Matriotic Muse: Maybe we’ll have to agree to disagree on that one. I say they had the opportunity to become supermodels precisely BECAUSE they look like brown Barbie dolls, whereas it’s extremely unlikely that someone who looks like Obama or Ledisi or Whoopi Goldberg would be afforded the same shine (specifically in terms of being perceived as “hot”) and to say otherwise seems really disingenuous to me.

    They are and were models because they are beautiful, not because they look somehow “more white” than Michelle Obama. This is what has been repeatedly expressed. For anybody to look at a Naomi Campbell or a Beverly Peele and say that she “looks more white” or has more “features that are coded white” than a Michelle Obama is indicative of some kind of psychosis to me.

    You, like most Americans, suffer from a curious affliction, which causes you to code features you are extraordinarily attracted to as white even despite clear evidence to the contrary. I have never seen a white woman who looks like Pam Grier or ANY of the other Black women who have been described as attractive by people commenting on this post.

    If I were to take this a step further: I have never seen a white woman who looks like Beyonce or Halle Berry, either–even though people love to say that they, as lighter-skinned Black women are only promoted as beautiful because they “look white.” Neither of these women “look biracial” to Black people–even though Halle Berry actually is! Under no circumstances would it be my assumption that a stranger who resembled Halle Berry had a white parent.

    Matriotic Muse: And it’s no accident that the black folks who get elevated to iconoclastic status tend to be lighter skinned as well. Example: Martin and Malcolm loom large in the American imagination, while Marcus Garvey’s legacy is suppressed. And so on and so on and so on.)

    So you think AMERICA remembers Martin and Malcolm more than they remember Marcus because they were lighter skinned than Marcus…you know, as opposed to the fact that Martin and Malcolm were AMERICANS and Marcus Garvey was JAMAICAN? You understand he is considered a national hero in Jamaica, right?

    Also, since when is MLK not a dark skinned Black man?? Uh oh. If I don’t watch out, he’ll be multiracial within a few posts.

  139. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 7:49 pm |

    Not to derail the thread, but….I’m aware of its etymology and my use of the term “iconoclast” is deliberate. Thanks.

  140. April
    April May 17, 2011 at 8:12 pm |

    LoriA: I find it fascinating that people keep vociferously disagreeing with my analysis and simultaneously completely ignore the people of color who have made similar points. Is it because it’s harder to dismiss them with a ‘shut up white girl’?

    No, it’s because you won’t shut up.

  141. Matriotic Muse
    Matriotic Muse May 17, 2011 at 8:16 pm |

    Jen, I’m unclear as to what your overall point is, and I think you’re misreading my post completely, and/or are reading my post through a filter of defensiveness. “Hotness” refers to physical attractiveness, which is what this ENTIRE discussion is about lol (not influential, revolutionary, etc). Here is my point, put succinctly: given that women like Pam Grier/Beyonce/Halle Berry are overwhelmingly what’s presented as the black feminine ideal in American culture (light skin, long hair or big curls if it’s an afro), it’s undermining to use ONLY such an image when presenting an essay that CHALLENGES the existence of any kind of feminine ideal (a point that Jill understood and thus added more images to represent a wider range of black beauty).

    And the dig about Americans and the rambling commentary, I hope you’re not that snarky and dismissive in person. I know, I know, the “tone” argument, but there’s something to be said for civility and respect. There’s no right or wrong, there’s only mutual understanding, which I’m not sure we’ve achieved but it was valuable for me to read your point of view nonetheless.

  142. Jen
    Jen May 17, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

    Matriotic Muse: Here is my point, put succinctly: given that women like Pam Grier/Beyonce/Halle Berry are overwhelmingly what’s presented as the black feminine ideal in American culture (light skin, long hair or big curls if it’s an afro)

    And here you firmly establish that you’ve read absolutely nothing that I’ve written. Good for you!

    My point has been stated and expanded upon repeatedly. To wit:

    Jen: The continent of Africa has more genetic diversity than the rest of the world combined. Black Americans are, by definition, multiethnic. Our features are ours, and they are, as is to suspected given our background, very diverse.

    Jen: he most successful black models in the industry have been either dark-skinned or African or both. Naomi Campbell, Naomi Sims, Iman, Beverly Johnson, Beverly Peele, Alex Wek, Oluchi Onweagba, Jessica White…these are all brown to dark skinned Black women. Light skinned black models are honestly a relative rarity.

    Jen: The problem isn’t really an underrepresentation of dark-skinned women or women with full lips and round noses. It’s an underrepresentation of Black women, period and this bizarre refusal by Americans to recognize its existing acknowledgment of Black women as beautiful.

    Jen: None of the women I listed as dark-skinned models look white, but you dismissed them as being “too normative” to count.

    Jen: None of these women look any more “normative” than Ledisi or Michelle Obama in their facial features.

    Jen: For anybody to look at a Naomi Campbell or a Beverly Peele and say that she “looks more white” or has more “features that are coded white” than a Michelle Obama is indicative of some kind of psychosis to me.

    Jen:
    You, like most Americans, suffer from a curious affliction, which causes you to code features you are extraordinarily attracted to as white even despite clear evidence to the contrary.

    I hope that clarified things for you.

  143. April
    April May 18, 2011 at 12:50 am |

    I always heard that attractive = symmetrical faces. This dude’s paying attention to the wrong Serious Science.

  144. Azalea
    Azalea May 18, 2011 at 3:50 am |

    Miss S: It’s actually not just about features and complexion. It’s also about the concept of femininity. Black women have historically been portrayed as masculine, tough, abrasive, overweight, etc. Being seen as feminine is something that many black women are currently struggling for. How many portrayals of feminine black women do we really see? Not many. My dark skinned sorority sister was always getting asked ‘what she was’ and I think it’s because she was a very feminine girl. It’s like people can’t conceive of ‘black’ and ‘feminine’ at the same time. White women and Asian women, and I suppose Hispanic women, are automatically coded as feminine. Black women don’t have this luxury. Remember that youtube video from a couple of months ago when a white woman called two black girls ‘animals’ for eating on the subway? Black women are othered as less than women, and less than human. We have black men publicly declaring that they don’t ‘date black girls.’ We have images like those of the girl from Precious supposedly representing the average black women. I mean, come the hell on. Most black women I know don’t fit any of the stereotypes of black women.

    I couldn’t have said this better myself. Thank you!

  145. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 18, 2011 at 8:18 am |

    That women are arguing over and over, on a feminist blog, what makes women “hot” in patriarchy’s eyes is enough to make me take to my bed with a cold towel over my eyes.

  146. Open Thread: Preliminary Thoughts on Being an Anti-Racist, Anti-Sexist Ally — The Hathor Legacy

    […] from the usual suspects: Karnythia, who is ALWAYS AWESOME, ABW, and Racialicious. I saw a post on feministe, but haven’t seen ones on Jezebel, even though Satoshi Kanazawa received some criticism from […]

  147. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 18, 2011 at 9:18 am |

    tinfoil hattie: That women are arguing over and over, on a feminist blog, what makes women “hot” in patriarchy’s eyes is enough to make me take to my bed with a cold towel over my eyes.

    Sorry that a discussion centering Black women bores you so.

  148. Azalea
    Azalea May 18, 2011 at 10:02 am |

    Leo: Actually, I expect that if you show people a picture of the same woman and a short text describing her, they will rate her as less attractive if the text says she’s black that if it says she’s white.

    Exhibit A

  149. Azalea
    Azalea May 18, 2011 at 10:04 am |

    I didn’t intend to post the same thing three times. My apologies.

  150. ama
    ama May 18, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    groggette: Ama

    Actually, Grogette, thanks for the information. I could not understand where all of the controversy was coming from and now I understand better. The glorification of lighter hued and thinner featured black women is certainly an issue that is deserving of attention and activism. I’m darker hued with features that demonstrate my Ghanaian parentage. Trust me, I’m deeply aware. Perhaps in this context it would serve the point better to choose a representative who is undeniably gorgeous while having the dark skin tone and broader features that are so often under attack. Please see the photo of this post in the root http://www.theroot.com/buzz/black-women-are-less-attractive-oh-really. But I still believe that Pam Grier is undeniably of “Black African” descent and undeniably beautiful and therefore she was not a horrible choice of representatives.

  151. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 18, 2011 at 11:20 am |

    No, Angel H – WOMEN arguing on a FEMINIST BLOG what makes women HOT under PATRIARCHY boggles MY MIND.

    But please. Change my words to suit you.

  152. Jen
    Jen May 18, 2011 at 11:32 am |

    In case it wasn’t clear, I also wanted to point out that this statement is a “meme” more than a truth:

    “Women like Pam Grier/Beyonce/Halle Berry are overwhelmingly what’s presented as the black feminine ideal in American culture (light skin, long hair or big curls if it’s an afro)”

    There is, in fact, a study that analyzed images of black women presented in Vogue magazine over the course of five years. Of the black models featured in the magazines, nearly half were dark skinned (like the models I listed); about 35% had medium skin tones (similar to Pam Grier) and the remainder were light skinned (like Beyonce). Dark skinned black women are already the preferred “black feminine ideal.”

    Additionally, if you pay attention to advertising (as I do, as it was a major focus of my undergraduate education), you will notice that, in recent years, there has been an emergence of advertisements featuring women with natural hairstyles. Stock images of black women with natural hair are also gaining popularity. The textures featured are genuinely varied. I truly believe this is a function of a movement, particularly among well-educated, liberal-leaning black women, toward “going natural.” These women represent, among other things, a worthy target market to advertisers, and we are seeing an emergence of ads meant to attract their dollars. I know of no studies documenting this phenomenon, but as someone with eyes within the industry, I am sure they are forthcoming.

    I believe that we are entering a period wherein Black American feminine ideals–even as they are conveyed by mainstream media–will be aligned with what Black women actually look like more than ever before.

    We are simultaneously entering a period of a “hispanicization” of beauty standards, wherein the mainsteam ideal is no longer thin and lithe and blonde, but curvy and tanned and some variation of brunette. It happens that many light skinned Black women fit squarely within this ideal. This is why women like Halle Berry and Beyonce (as opposed to Naomi Campbell or Kelly Rowland) are selected to endorse beauty products like L’Oreal and Revlon, which are clearly for white women. They are not being presented by white advertisers as figures black women should aspire to look like, but women that WHITE women should aspire to look like. They are being coded to consumers as “normative” and, thus, white.

  153. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 18, 2011 at 11:47 am |

    tinfoil hattie: No, Angel H – WOMEN arguing on a FEMINIST BLOG what makes women HOT under PATRIARCHY boggles MY MIND.But please. Change my words to suit you.

    The fact that it concerns Black women makes it more complicated than that:

    From Saartjie Baartman aka “Venus Hottentot” to Satoshi Kanazawa’s “scientific” study claiming Black women being less physically attractive than EVERYBODY else, we’ve been studied like freaks of nature instead of just regarded as human beings with the same value as all others.

    Source.

    But please. Ignore racialized sexism when it suits you.

  154. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 18, 2011 at 11:54 am |

    Huh. Funny, I thought it was basic Feminism 101 to recognize that “patriarchy” doesn’t impact all women the same way. But then again, I don’t think there’s anything inherently unfeminist about critiquing representations of beauty, or *racialized* definitions of beauty, on a feminist blog.

  155. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 18, 2011 at 11:55 am |

    Jen: In case it wasn’t clear, I also wanted to point out that this statement is a “meme” more than a truth:“Women like Pam Grier/Beyonce/Halle Berry are overwhelmingly what’s presented as the black feminine ideal in American culture (light skin, long hair or big curls if it’s an afro)”There is, in fact, a study that analyzed images of black women presented in Vogue magazine over the course of five years. Of the black models featured in the magazines, nearly half were dark skinned (like the models I listed); about 35% had medium skin tones (similar to Pam Grier) and the remainder were light skinned (like Beyonce). Dark skinned black women are already the preferred “black feminine ideal.”

    I believe this is more about the exotification of dark-skinned Black women than about them being the preferred black feminine ideal. When Black models are represented in high fashion, it’s usually while wearing animal prints, “ethnic”-type clothing, or to serve as as human accessories for their white counterparts. This post shows several examples.

  156. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 18, 2011 at 2:02 pm |

    “Patriarchy” is what ultimately determines who is “beautiful” and who is not. Some patriarchal standards are racist and sexist. ALL patriarchal standards are sexist and therefore impossible to achieve.

    Commenting on the irony of FEMINISTS arguing about who meets what patriarchal standard of beauty is NOT racist.

    This post, and multiple commenters, keep talking about “beauty” and “hotness,” both patriarchal concepts.

  157. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 18, 2011 at 2:04 pm |

    La Lubu, I agree. But that’s not what I’m commenting about. I’m commenting about people who keep perpetuating the myth that “hotness” and “beauty” are things feminists want to define, and achieve. They are PATRIARCHAL concepts. It’s Feminism 101, all right. And it’s what I’m talking about. It’s not what most people here are talking about.

    But please, keep changing my words without reading WHAT I ACTUALLY WROTE.

  158. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 18, 2011 at 2:06 pm |

    La Lubu: I agree. But the post, and many commenters, keep talking about who is “hot” and who is “beautiful,” as though those are terms that women get to define. WE DON’T. To try and uphold the impossible patriarchal standards of beauty is an exercise that makes me want to bang my head against the desk.

    But please, don’t read my words. Just project what you THINK I am saying.

  159. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 18, 2011 at 2:45 pm |

    tinfoil hattie: “Patriarchy” is what ultimately determines who is “beautiful” and who is not. Some patriarchal standards are racist and sexist. ALL patriarchal standards are sexist and therefore impossible to achieve.Commenting on the irony of FEMINISTS arguing about who meets what patriarchal standard of beauty is NOT racist.This post, and multiple commenters, keep talking about “beauty” and “hotness,” both patriarchal concepts.

    You’re assuming 2 things: 1) heteronormativity and 2) that the only reason to examine beauty is in regards to the male gaze. Black women have had the validity of our beauty questioned in regards to our humanity.

    Also:

    Stop telling us to stop getting upset. Stop telling us to not be mad despite having to deal with this crap ALL THE TIME. Why are we supposed to put up with this reckless disregard for our humanity with a smile on our face? Because we’re women? Because we’re Black? Please, miss me with that bull. We are HUMAN first. This anger is righteous and all ignoring it and the causes of it will do is create a dyspeptic breeding ground for spiritual, psychological, social and physical dis-ease.

    Everyone should really read the entire thing. It is soooo full of awesome goodness!

  160. miga
    miga May 18, 2011 at 3:02 pm |

    I’m just gonna pop in here and give an example of an African woman: http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_xj576tWACAc/R1Mbd8Gb7qI/AAAAAAAAAKc/HxRYFo4CLaM/s320/awalk2beautiful1.jpg

    She’s from Ethiopia: the only African country that was never colonized by the West. Many people from her country have her features. Many don’t. Doesn’t make any of them more or less African.

    It’s been pointed out here before that most African-Americans are not “purely” African- a legacy of slave rape, at the very worst. A legacy of overcoming barriers to love at the very best. There are recently mixed folk who you couldn’t tell walking down the street that they were “mixed” with white at all. The reverse is true. It’s all about how we identify.

    Remember, Africa’s a HUGE CONTINENT, with lots of different people. Its citizens were kidnapped throughout and transported here. We’re about as varied in facial features as the rest of the world. Elevating a certain segment of the population as beautiful while ignoring the rest is awful (and what happens a lot in the US), but so is only qualifying certain features/people as “true” representatives of that group (which ALSO happens a lot).

    What cultural group claimed these certain facial/body features as White anyway? making it so everyone else was “other”–OH WAIT…

  161. IrishUp
    IrishUp May 18, 2011 at 3:21 pm |

    @Angel H.
    I can’t follow the link right now (werk browser is blocking it) but thank you for the awesome quote. I really appreciate what you’re bringing to this conversation; I’m sorry you – and others here -are wading thru such hurtful shit to bring it.

  162. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 18, 2011 at 5:15 pm |

    I am not arguing that there are unfair and inconsistent standards of beauty for women of color. Of course there are. Because patriarchy likes nothing better than a double-whammy of racism and sexism, unless it’s pitting women against each other arguing over which of PATRIARCHY’S definitions of beauty is fair or unfair or good or bad or better or worse or … on ad infinitum.

    “Beauty” as it stands in this world, right now, is determined by a patriarchal system. To argue over patriarchy’s definitions of beauty is futile.

    It’s Radfem 101.

  163. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 18, 2011 at 5:34 pm |

    Women of Color get to decide for ourselves which issues we would like to tackle with or without the permission of White women.

    That’s Womanism 101.

  164. Scarlett
    Scarlett May 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm |

    Angel H.:
    Women of Color get to decide for ourselves which issues we would like to tackle with or without the permission of White women.

    That’s Womanism 101.

    You have just won one (1) internet. Best comment I’ve read on Feministe this many a long year!

  165. Claire N
    Claire N May 18, 2011 at 8:29 pm |

    Actually patriarchy is not fucking first and foremost to black women. This is about black women ONLY and it is WHITE SUPREMACY and PATRIARCHY and ridiculous beauty standards and other institutions–here evolutionary psychology, that dictate that black women are ‘objectively unattractive’ compared other groups of women.

    How many times do black women have to say this shit before white women will actually listen?

  166. Claire N
    Claire N May 18, 2011 at 8:32 pm |

    And also I don’t want to be perceived as hot compared to other groups of women including white women. I couldn’t give two flying fucks. Black women are BEAUTIFUL. But I am sick of non-black people saying this shit about black women, and bullshit like this actually being debated–oooh yeah let’s ignore this bullshit about beauty–yep because you can actually afford to.

  167. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 19, 2011 at 6:33 am |

    Women of Color get to decide for ourselves which issues we would like to tackle with or without the permission of White women.

    That’s Womanism 101.

    Magnificence.

    tinfoil hattie, Radfem 101 is totally irrelevant to my life. It doesn’t offer any tools for dealing with the here-and-now, making the daily ends, getting through the day. It doesn’t have any practical bent to it. Also, I have a huge problem with ceding all power to the kyriarchy (even on the theoretical level)—as if only those “above” me in it have the power to name and claim. Fuck that.

    Expanding the definition of beauty is REJECTING, actively rejecting not only white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’s standards, but rejecting the notion that we don’t get to claim our own standards—that only those with institutional power over us get to declare what is real, true, or yes….beautiful.

  168. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 19, 2011 at 10:04 am |

    Expanding the definition of beauty is REJECTING, actively rejecting not only white supremacist capitalist patriarchy’s standards, but rejecting the notion that we don’t get to claim our own standards—that only those with institutional power over us get to declare what is real, true, or yes….beautiful.

    Which is, of course, one of the many tenets of horrible, irrelevant, impractical radical feminism.

  169. tinfoil hattie
    tinfoil hattie May 19, 2011 at 10:06 am |

    Women of Color get to decide for ourselves which issues we would like to tackle with or without the permission of White women.

    That’s Womanism 101.

    Nobody has said you need “permission.” Including me.

    My point is, beauty is an irrelevant and patriarchally-constructed concept, with a smothering dose of racism on top. Useless to debate which beauty is “best” on a feminist blog.

    Feminist means ALL women.

  170. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 19, 2011 at 10:20 am |

    Nobody has said you need “permission.” Including me.

    And yet you keep trying to silence the conversation by saying stuff like this (emphasis mine):

    My point is, beauty is an irrelevant and patriarchally-constructed concept, with a smothering dose of racism on top. Useless to debate which beauty is “best” on a feminist blog.

    Feminist means ALL women.

    Like hell. Since when?

  171. shfree
    shfree May 19, 2011 at 11:49 am |

    Women of Color have said you are silencing them by telling them to well, not have this conversation. Could you respect that and maybe sit back and listen instead of claiming you ARE sitting back, listening, and continuing to talk?

    tinfoil hattie:
    Women of Color get to decide for ourselves which issues we would like to tackle with or without the permission of White women.


    That’s Womanism 101.

    Nobody has said you need “permission.”Including me.

    My point is, beauty is an irrelevant and patriarchally-constructed concept, with a smothering dose of racism on top.Useless to debate which beauty is “best” on a feminist blog.

    Feminist means ALL women.

  172. shfree
    shfree May 19, 2011 at 11:52 am |

    Ack, toss in a “yet” there after that last “and”

    shfree:
    Women of Color have said you are silencing them by telling them to well, not have this conversation.Could you respect that and maybe sit back and listen instead of claiming you ARE sitting back, listening, and continuing to talk?

  173. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 19, 2011 at 1:18 pm |

    Ok, lemme get this straight. We can have beautiful sunsets, beautiful architecture, beautiful poetry, beautiful prose, beautiful guitar solos, beautiful dance, beautiful drives, beautiful dreams, beautiful forward passes, beautiful arias, beautiful gardens, beautiful puppies and kittens, anything and everything in the world can be beautiful….

    …except people. ‘Specially women.

    If I recall correctly, it is also a tenet of radfem thinking that gender is an imaginary construct, too. That no one really experiences having a gender unless they suffer from stockholm syndrome. Except….not.

    Look. We are *embodied*. We experience our being, and others experience us, through our bodies. We don’t live in nor experience the world solely through our thoughts. So, most people find it far more liberating (not to mention that it’s easier to organize around) to break down the artificial limits of narrow constructs, than to deny the constructs themselves exist. Your lived experience is going to throw you up against the wall of those constructs, even if you don’t share them and wish to deny their existence.

    I know that when I reached an age where I started caring about my physical appearance, it was more liberating to me to realize that the mainstream standards of beauty were just *wrong*, wrong because they were too narrow, than to try and pretend that beauty didn’t exist. It was liberating to know that beauty existed in me, regardless of mainstream USian standards. Every bit as liberating as it was to discover that I was intelligent, despite mainstream assumptions….or that I was capable of creating beauty, again despite all odds.

    It’s much easier to organize around folks’ material circumstances, and build from there, than to try and organize around an abstract that most of us can’t relate to. No matter how often I’m told that beauty itself is a lie, that it’s impossible to see through any other eyes than the eyes of my oppressor….I still see it, and still reject the lie that my own vision is worthless.

  174. Holly
    Holly May 19, 2011 at 3:06 pm |

    Dear Angel, I’m a white woman, and all I want to say to you is thank you.

    Angel H.:
    Dear White women,

    Stop. Just…stop.

    Sincerely,

    A Black woman

  175. KohanaFlux
    KohanaFlux May 19, 2011 at 3:17 pm |

    Kanazawa’s study was very clear in what it considered to be the marker of attractiveness and that was skin color. It’s becoming incredibly disingenuous of white women to declare beauty irrelevant when their skin color never has to factor into it. There is an immense amount of privilege to be had in a society that declares that any woman with white skin is more deserving of praise, admiration, and basic human respect than any other woman. It’s a privilege that means white women aren’t humiliated through bullshit studies like this one and then having it accepted as scientific fact, for one. It’s not just about fulfilling the male gaze; beauty keeps white women fiercely protected in our society and woc as barely worth their humanity.

  176. Catherine
    Catherine May 19, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    Funny thing about social constructs–Identifying them as such doesn’t render them dismissable. Yes, race is a social construct. Yes, the idea of which features are “white” and which aren’t is a fairly arbitrary social construct as well. That does not mean that a whole lot of women haven’t been hurt and had their beauty ignored and dismissed throughout the history of the US because they didn’t meet these “white-like” standards. There’s evidence of a lot of that hurt right here on this thread. You can’t ignore that as a reality just because it “shouldn’t” be true, or can be explained as an arbitrary social construct.

  177. Kai
    Kai May 19, 2011 at 4:43 pm |

    Catherine: Funny thing about social constructs–Identifying them as such doesn’t render them dismissable.

    Exactly. Many social constructs actually shape the world. Like national borders. Governments. Laws. Corporations. And money. I can assert that money is merely a social construct but if I’m broke that hardly helps. For a white person to argue that race is merely a social construct is sort of like being a rich person arguing that money is imaginary so there’s no need to spread it around or worry about who has more or less of it.

  178. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 19, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    @Catherine & Kai,

    My understanding was that people here were mainly stating that “race is a social construct and thus the definitions and classifications that people are assigned are arbitrary, self-serving to entrenched interests, and harmful” (Like those above who have stated that they are told that some of their features don’t *belong* to them because their features are coded as “white”). I don’t think the argument made here has been “race is a social construct and therefore it magically goes away when we say so.”

    I really haven’t been reading this discussion as you have been reading it, so I guess I’d have to ask, who is ignoring that reality by saying it shouldn’t be true, as opposed to engaging in a discussion about a reality that affects their lives?

  179. Jim
    Jim May 19, 2011 at 5:25 pm |

    tinfoil hattie: No, Angel H – WOMEN arguing on a FEMINIST BLOG what makes women HOT under PATRIARCHY boggles MY MIND.
    But please. Change my words to suit you.

    Yeah, God forbid that straight women talk about heterosexuality. It squicks me out too. /sarcasm off

    “Black women have historically been portrayed as masculine, tough, abrasive, overweight, etc. Being seen as feminine is something that many black women are currently struggling for. How many portrayals of feminine black women do we really see? Not many. ”

    There is an element of class at work here, which overlaps with race generally. working class women in general are precieved or expected to be coarse. And non-working class men are often perceived inversely as feminine.

  180. Kai
    Kai May 19, 2011 at 5:27 pm |

    LeftSidePositive, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Not being mean, I just literally don’t know what you’re saying or asking.

  181. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 19, 2011 at 6:00 pm |

    @Kai, I’m asking about comments like this one of yours:

    Kai:For a white person to argue that race is merely a social construct is sort of like being a rich person arguing that money is imaginary so there’s no need to spread it around or worry about who has more or less of it.

    My understanding of this discussion has been that people here saying that race is a social construct have NOT been using that as an excuse to ignore or minimize its effects on people or its importance as a social issue, but rather to emphasize that it is an arbitrary tool of oppression. Also (and I’m not a regular commenter on Feministe so I may be wrong), but my impression was that a significant portion of those stating race is a social construct do not self-identify as white.

  182. Kai
    Kai May 19, 2011 at 8:32 pm |

    LeftSidePositive, okay. And what? This has been a long and wide-ranging convo. Maybe you’re connecting dots that I either missed or have forgotten. The comment you quoted is just me agreeing with Catherine and adding my half-cent, building on what she said, offering my observations. Obviously, many persons of color (like me) talk about race as a social construct (as I do, including earlier in this thread) in a manner which I believe advances analysis. Longtime readers here know that this kind of analysis is actually kinda my thing, that’s usually what I bring to the party. And that’s all I really have to say about that, I don’t know where else to go with this line of questioning.

  183. LeftSidePositive
    LeftSidePositive May 19, 2011 at 9:41 pm |

    So where have people here (i.e., on this thread) been arguing that race is “merely” a social construct? Have I misinterpreted someone who was trying to get out of their social responsibilities to think critically about race as someone who was advancing analysis? How do we define who is “advancing analysis” by discussing race as a social construct and who is arguing that race is “merely a social construct”? (And where, exactly, did this happen here?)

    Why, for instance, do LoriA and MyGod indulge in such berating–when I honestly haven’t found other commenters saying anything that remotely resembles what they’re berating them for? I’m also confused about a lot of the vitriol about “white feminists” and race (specifically the ones here, not the stereotype of the Ivy Tower Womyn’s Studies Major circa 1978), and how some commenters seem to be saying that this blog (as a “white feminist blog,” etc.) is somehow not worthy of holding a discussion about gender and race? I haven’t seen anything justifying that from the original post, which, to my reading, is specifically about the social inequalities that have made our culture prejudiced against black women, and how attractiveness is culturally defined and not objective, etc., and then I see people here accusing the site and commenters of ignoring the very issues that the main post seems to be *about.*

    Maybe I’ve just gotten hopelessly lost about who is calling out whom in this thread…

  184. Angel H.
    Angel H. May 20, 2011 at 8:30 am |

    LeftSidePositive: … I’m also confused about a lot of the vitriol about “white feminists” and race (specifically the ones here, not the stereotype of the Ivy Tower Womyn’s Studies Major circa 1978), and how some commenters seem to be saying that this blog (as a “white feminist blog,” etc.) is somehow not worthy of holding a discussion about gender and race? I haven’t seen anything justifying that from the original post, which, to my reading, is specifically about the social inequalities that have made our culture prejudiced against black women, and how attractiveness is culturally defined and not objective, etc., and then I see people here accusing the site and commenters of ignoring the very issues that the main post seems to be *about.*

    Since I’m assuming that some of the comments you’re referring to in this thread include my own, I’ll answer from my POV.

    Despite my criticisms of Jill and the Feministe blog, I do think that this post was well done. She called out the article for the crap that it was and broke it down nicely. Unfortunately, some of the white commenters took it upon themselves to evaluate society’s perceptions of a Black women’s beauty based on certain features. Other WOC spoke out about the erasure in those kinds of conversations (talking about us as though we weren’t even there), like in Alexis’s earlier comment:

    You are totally missing the point of how it feels to be the living, breathing, loving black woman living under the desiccating eye of this system from the moment of your birth, throughout your entire life.

  185. Catherine
    Catherine May 20, 2011 at 9:50 am |

    @LeftSidePositive I will agree that this has been a very wide-ranging discussion, and my post might have come 50 or 60 comments after it would have been pertinent. The progression of the thread, as I saw it, was everyone calling everyone else out beginning with “You are holding up oppressive white standards of beauty by tagging this article with a photo of a black woman who adheres to a lot of “white” (and therefore acceptable) beauty standards,” followed by, “No actually YOU are, upholding the idea that certain features are “white” when really people of African descent can look about a billion different ways and the idea that african-american women “look” a certain way is an arbitrary, racist social construct.” My comment was meant to address that latter argument.

  186. A (Male) Student
    A (Male) Student May 20, 2011 at 2:05 pm |

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments (found this late), but I wanted to raise two points I don’t believe have been made yet:

    1. His claim about factor analysis removing “all measurement error” is completely wrong. The mean and standard deviation of the resultant factors are artifacts of the process. These factors are determined by cross-correlations between measured variables that are (wait for it!) subjec to the same source of measurement error as any other. It’s also worth pointing out the factors themselves have no objective interpretation: factor analysis can show that much of the variance in a half-dozen variables is explainable by two or three factors, but the interpretation of the factors is entirely subjective.

    2. Regarding evo-psych: Linda Cosmides is the best-known scholar I would classify with this tag whom I have read. There are many in my field who are critical of her work, but I believe her work overall is a good example of what scholarly evo-psych looks like. Check her out if you want to evaluate her work for yourself.

  187. Tiffany
    Tiffany May 25, 2011 at 9:01 pm |

    Please consider signing this petition to hold Psychology Today accountable for its content (http://www.change.org/petitions/hold-psychology-today-accountable). Over and above the content of the recent blog post, which just so happens to be race-related, this is an act of abuse and irresponsibility. This was not “a study.” This was not “research.” The findings were not “objective.” Conjecture is not “proof.” And credible research does not use language such as “I think” and “I believe.” I am a psychologist and it takes me YEARS to get research published. There is integrity in my work and how I disseminate that work. Kanazawa’s rantings were purely editorial, coupled with rather primitive statistics and presented as credible. It was a joke. And it should have never, ever been presented as scientific. Psychology Today should be held accountable.

  188. Eric
    Eric May 26, 2011 at 5:50 pm |

    I haven’t been on here in a while. As one who has been flamed on this blog in the past for citing evo psych research, I just wanted to say that now I understand why I got flamed so bad. Yikes! Racist/sexist assumptions in this article aside, his science was just horrifically wrong. I mean, he clearly does not understand even the basics about evolutionary biology. As (Male) Student pointed out, he butchered factor analysis so badly that I’m not sure whether to laugh or cry. (Factor analysis increases measurement error more often than not, especially when it is performed poorly.) And the claim that black women are unattractive because people from Africa have more genetic variation and most genetic changes are deleterious… ARGH! WE ALL ORIGINATED IN AFRICA, DUMBASS! The reason that Africans have more genetic variation is because all of our ancestors had these genetic variations initially but they disappeared in non-African populations due to intermarriage in isolated populations. If anything, deleterious mutations would be more likely to survive in non-African populations. Moreover, most genetic changes are not deleterious but rather neutral, since about 99.5% of our DNA is noncoding “junk” DNA. This is something that anyone who has taken 1st year biology should know.

    Anyway… I am still going to say that not all evo psych is this bad, and that one shouldn’t automatically dismiss everything that comes out of that field. Having said that, I can see why readers of this blog are so resistant to this area. Because this was pretty horrendous.

  189. Sisou
    Sisou May 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm |

    So if a person wrote a comment about how females have it better in some cases than males as a way of ignoring sexism we would all pile on and correct them.
    But the stuff from @Jen and @Miss S
    we let stand ( except for one commenter). Plus there are actually people congrats them for basically ignoring colorism. Well, sorry I refuse to choose between racism and colorism like you two are doing.

    Jen: The problem isn’t really an underrepresentation of dark-skinned women or women with full lips and round noses. It’s an underrepresentation of Black women, period and this bizarre refusal by Americans to recognize its existing acknowledgment of Black women as beautiful.

    So, I guess as Black folks can throw a party because colorism is over, the hardships of our dark skin sisters is over cause Jen can name Dark skin models!

    Except, the colorism that dark skin Black have face is not just about a who white people like to dress up. It is about the historical, current and systemic privileged that Light skin black ( especially those who read as mixed) have over dark skin blacks.
    It is about the fact that YES most of the Famous Black people in our entertainment history have been light skin. It is the fact that there is a economic gap between light skin black and dark skin Blacks. It is the fact that since slavery Light skin Blacks were favored against Dark skin ones. And so fourth and so on…

    None of this changes because there are dark skin models. So I call BS on your comments cause I grew up Black too, JEn. I know for a FACT that dark skin Black do get treating badly regardless if you want to close your eyes to it. I heard dark skin women being called ugly. I heard people asked other Blacks “are you mixed” as a compliment cause being not dark and being anything other than just Black was better. And as a medium tone Black person, white people are always comparing me to Darker Blacks and saying things like, ” You are pretty because you are not as BLACK as … they are so BLACK…”

    @ Miss S perhaps I am misunderstanding you but from the few comments you have posted. It seems as if you are deciding what
    is a “real black woman.”

    Miss S: We have images like those of the girl from Precious supposedly representing the average black women. I mean, come the hell on. Most black women I know don’t fit any of the stereotypes of black women.

    Yes, not all Black women are dark skin, plus size or in a lower economic class. But at all Black women are light, thin or ( read as: mixed). And there are Black women who look like Precious and I don’t think they are just stereotypes. The stereotypes that White assumed of Blacks are based on imaginary qualities, assumptions that we are all alike but they are also about demeaning the type of Black folks that white hate the most… the ones who fit the least into White norms which include poor dark skin Blacks who are not thin with heavy dialects. So I am sort of confused to how your comment is helpful when it seems to erase the variety of Blackness and lumps some Blacks into just stereotypes, not real, not important.

    please correct me if I am misinterpreting you.

  190. Alek
    Alek May 30, 2011 at 2:47 pm |

    OkCupid found similar results-but this time in dating. It found that of all nationalities,ethnicities* etc – and it found that black women faired the worst – got the most rejections, got contacted the least etc.

    While that part agrees with Kazanawa (in some ways)-what OkCupid found was also tha black women were the friendliest and most receptive. So at least it shattered the negative stereotype about black women as being unapproachable. OkCupid found the opposite-black women are the most open.

    *-I’m not from the USA so I say ethnicities, groups etc instead of races. In my culture/language we only recognize “a human race”, not “races”.

  191. I.
    I. June 14, 2011 at 10:01 am |

    Surprising! I am European and I saw European (white) men have another attitude toward black women. My father, brother and cousin find black women in average more attractive than white women. Who was the most attractive Spice girl? The colored one!
    Beauty is dictate by culture, anyway.
    Don’t give so much attention to the author of this study. He is famous as a strange scientist. And in his culture black people are the most discriminated. Culture again!

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.