Friday, May 20, 2011

"Black Women Less Attractive." - A Scientist

This is not a new idea. It's not a news story. It's not notable that a highly-paid scientist at an elite university would use statistics to pretend to prove it, apart from any social or political context.

The author, in true keeping with the thinking of the Bell Curve, finally says that black women are probably less attractive because they naturally have more testosterone than other women.

His job requires, he seems to think, that he leave out any social or political aspects of the aesthetics of race and beauty, that he look at race as a purely scientific phenomenon, even after generation after generation of legal segregation, police and state violence, and social divisions which substitute race for class.

But race is not a scientific category. Or it is scientific to the extent and in the sense that the Eiffel tower is scientific: it's a real construction of human society.

So we have to look at race, particularly the binary imaginary of black and white, as we might look at the Eiffel tower: as an aesthetic monument which was built in a particular political context for certain reasons. Because we don't have black people or white people--we have various shades of brown and beige. And black Americans have far more, genetically, in common with white Americans than with most Africans, which is linked to a history of nonconsent.

Ultimately we can't put this task in the hands of scientists alone, especially not people like this author who seem to want to ignore both politics and aesthetics completely. We should listen to philosophers, artists, and literary critics, not merely because these are three areas where black women are far better represented in numbers than in the so-called "hard sciences," for some answers about the entanglements of race and beauty. Hortense Spillers can redirect us from this madness:

The black body "brings into focus a gathering of social realities as well as a metaphor for value so thoroughly interwoven in their literal and figurative emphases that distinctions between them are virtually is as if neither time nor history shows movement...I would call it the Great Long National Shame...We might concede, at the very least, that sticks and bricks might break our bones, but words will most certainly kill us. ("Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe," Diacritics, 1987, 68)."

In other words, blackness as a real category, as a reflection of something we see with our own eyes in the world, as with skin color or body language, is so thoroughly interwoven with various metaphors of value (economic value, the value of beauty, moral value, etc.), that we cannot make any useful distinctions between them.

In order to see black women as beautiful, it's not enough to throw around the slogan "Black is beautiful," although this is a nice start. We need to revalue all our values, in politics, science, art and history, as Nietzsche and Achille Mbembe have called for, in order to begin to poke our heads out of the garbage heap of guilty racist eroticism.


  1. what are you saying? - that race is a social construct - how silly.

    as disraeli said - it's in the blood.

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  3. Race is a social construct. There are all sorts of variations in human beings including skin pigmentation and skeletal differences, but the word "race" is a stupid, out of date word that was invented in the bad old days in order to promote white supremacy through fake science. There's no excuse and no use for such words and the pernicious attitudes and assumptions hiding behind such words today.