Freedom of speech does not trump the freedoms of others
On Monday afternoon, I found my Facebook news feed filled with links to an article from Psychology Today entitled ‘Why are Black women less attractive than other women?’ The article was by LSE academic Satoshi Kanazawa who is not exactly a stranger to controversy. It’s important to put this man’s credibility into context. After 9/11 he suggested the best way to get rid of terrorism was to wipe every man, woman and child in the Middle East off the map with nuclear bombs. He has also in the past alleged that the reason for Africa’s poverty is down to their unintelligence. So from the outset I was aware he was not exactly the most cultural sensitive man ever.
The article ‘Why are Black women less attractive than other women?’ went on to talk about the research Kanazawa had conducted. Apparently the research participants were given the opportunity to ‘objectively’ pass judgement on the physical attractiveness of women from a range of racial groups which led to the result of Black women being ranked as the least attractive group. He coupled this with the notion that Black women also have higher levels of testosterone meaning they resemble men much more closely than other women. He also noted black women are generally fatter than any other racial groups but apparently this factor doesn’t affect their attractiveness, or lack of. Using this abundance of scientific research the only conclusion Kanazawa could reach was that Black women, according to biological determination are less attractive than all other women.
The title was later changed to ‘Why are Black women rated less attractive than other women?’ Rephrased in this way, this question becomes an important one to propose, but for the answer to contain any legitimacy it must address the effect of societal and cultural ideology on our ideas of beauty. As Mikhail Lyubansky wrote in Psychology Today on the evening of the article’s release, ‘Beauty May Be in Eye of Beholder but Eyes See What Culture Socializes’. For Kanazawa, an employee of LSE an institution of Social Science, to neglect the area of social constructions in what could have been important research makes me question this man’s agenda and quite frankly exposes his own personal views.
The article released is extremely damaging to the health of Black Women. By using Science’s perception of reliability to fortify the opinion of the participants in his research, he acts to legitimise the oppression and discrimination black women face based on their natural characteristics. Western ideas of beauty hit black women harder than any other group in the world. Black Women are willing to chemically and irreversibly alter their hair, skin colour and facial features in order to achieve that supposed “objective” beauty Kanazawa was on about. This articles serves to justify why black women are so underrepresented in the media and in others areas of mass objectification such as the modelling industry. There are Black Women every day that look in the mirror and are depressed by what they see. There are black women every day that can’t understand why their bodies don’t look like the women on the TV and in the magazines, no matter how many meals they skip. Single-handedly, Kanazawa slapped all those insecure black women in the face with his racially degrading conclusions and single-handedly told all black women with low self-esteem that their self-hatred was justified.
I have no problem with so called Scientists doing research into taboo areas but to take a selection of opinions and present them as fact is nothing more than fraud. Over the past few days I have continuously seen Kanazawa defended under the idea that his freedom of speech and academic freedom should be respected and those that disagree with his views should respect them – very similar to what the management at LSE continue to spout. I support and defend those rights but I do not consider those rights to trump the freedoms of others. What about the rights of people to live their lives without having accredited scientist arming neo-Nazi groups with fuel for their racist ideology? What about my right as a black woman to feel good about myself without having an article justify my insecurities? I detest and condemn LSE’s decision to keep this man under their employment. His so called research is nothing more than an excuse for him to spout his own ideological views, views that are an embarrassment to an institution that so often brands itself on academic intelligence.