Perqs of being a black woman: Why Psychology Today can suck it

A few weeks ago my roommate and I were watching one of those Kardashian shows on E! (don’t judge us!).  We got to talking about how pretty women just get stuff because of how they look, and how it must be for Kim K. getting dick thrown at her all day, every day.  You’ve seen her, you know what I mean.  During this conversation with the roomie, I admitted that while I in no way approach the pulchritude of the Kardashian ass, I do get hit on at least once a day and it gets old, doesn’t she know what I’m talking about.  Apparently, she doesn’t.

Me: (incredulously) You mean, you don’t get a “hey beautiful” or a lip smack from the guys walking down Lenox Avenue?

Roomie:  (flatly) No

Well, I’ll be.  Because brothas are ALWAYS trynna holla, and that’s one of the coolest things about being a Black woman.

In defense of my roommate who is not ugly or deformed or in any way unappealing, I’ll say that she mostly looks like a boy.  Not a man, a little boy:  she’s 5″ 2′, wears jeans and sneakers, some kind of hat, has a short natural, and doesn’t wear make-up so she looks like a kid.  Brothas may always be trynna holla, but they ain’t trying to holla at the elementary school set.

But back to the daily, random proclamations of beauty bestowed upon Black women by our men.  Sometimes its the aforementioned “hey beautiful” by a passing stranger.  Sometimes the guy next to you on the subway says he likes your shoes or your pedicure and winks at you.  And at least 2 cab drivers every year can’t believe a beautiful woman like me is still single, after which they pledge undying love and companionship. Granted, I don’t get as much of the latter since I left Brooklyn, but I still turn a few heads a day.

The thing is, if you’re a Black woman over 18, bearing some semblance of put-together-ness (i.e., you look like you bathe and/or put some thought into your outfit) you will surely receive a compliment.  Let’s say you know you look good today, and you’ve got that “I’m fine” sashay, or you just wake up in a good mood and smiling for no reason. Brother on the corner will confirm and affirm what you already know: today you are ON!   On the flip side, if you’re dragging your tired self up the subway stairs after a long day, the brothers are there again with a “smile, beautiful” or other encouragement to make you feel better. (We’ll temporarily forget my issue with the fact that I’m always supposed to be smiling in somebody’s face)

And it’s not just Black men doling out the compliments, it’s Black women too.  One day, a sister walked up to me and said, “You are WEARING that dress!”  My ex-boyfriend called that particular ensemble my “look at me” dress because I elicited that kind of commentary whenever I wore said dress.  I’ll post a photo of me in said dress later, so you can treat yourself to my ravishing beauty.  I’m not kidding:  I looked HOT in that dress.

Right, so if I look so amazing, and other people believe it, how is Psychology Today trying to tell me that everyone thinks I’m ugly?  For those of you who don’t know, yesterday Psychology Today blogger Satoshi Kanazawa posted an article called “Why are Black Women Rated Less Physically Attractive than Other Women, but Black Men are Rated Better Looking than Other Men?”   Psychology Today has taken the article off the website, thanks to #MahoganyTwitter, though it has been reprinted in its entirety at AOL Black Voices.   Let me sum it up for you, in case you’re not into bar graphs and specious science.

The article is based on Add Health , a longitudinal study of adolescent health, behavior and psychology at the University if North Carolina.   The respondents in Add Health are purportedly racially and ethnically diverse, and are of high school age.  While Add Health uses the responses to study and predict health outcomes for children, Mr. Kanazawa uses the data to derive an “objective”, statistical measurement of attractiveness (why this is an important use of scientific research, I’ll never know).  Apparently this measurement “proved” that Black women are rated less attractive than all people, except by Black women ourselves which, obviously, means that we have an over-inflated sense of self.

[Insert Bill the Cat gagging noise here]

Then Kanazawa twists his little mind hither and yon to figure out why everyone thinks Black women are so ugly. Is it because we’re fatter than average?  Nope, apparently he controlled for that in his “statistical analysis”.  Maybe it’s because we’re not as intelligent?  Again, the stats controlled for that “fact” as well.  Finally, Kanazawa comes up with a last-ditch empirical explanation for Black female unattractiveness – testosterone level!  So, we’re fat, dim-witted and look like men and, therefore, nobody thinks we’re pretty.

So, to the multitudes of men who love a Black woman, too bad your lady looks like a dude.  To the brothers on the corner of 134th and Lenox who hit on the sisters regularly, you must like ’em dumb if you’re attracted to a Black woman. And to the Greek owner of my lunch place who tells me how beautiful my smile is every day, I’m sorry that we can’t date;  I wouldn’t want the world at large to question your judgement for being seen with an empirically hideous creature such as myself.

What Kanazawa’s article fails to point out, which you’ve hopefully realized, is that Add Health measures perception not reality.  Perhaps Black women are portrayed by popular culture as prostitutes, toothless crackheads, and loud emasculating bitches.  Perhaps those portrayals, which are the only contact with Black women many Americans have, are what’s so unappealing to adolescents of all races.   Hell, if the only Black women I saw were on Real Housewives of Atlanta  or were Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence or Keenan Thompson in a dress, I’d feel differently about us too.

Good thing I’m smart enough to know that race is a social construct that describes our perceptions and behavior and not a genetically determined fact.  To bad Mr. Satoshi Kanazawa and the editors of Psychology Today don’t realize such.

Pardon me while I polish my diploma, fix my makeup, and tell a little Black girl how beautiful she is.


  1. susan - May 16, 2011 @ 8:17 pm

    Nailed it. Thank you.

    p.s. I don't believe for a minute that your roommate doesn't get hit on by the brothas. But I do believe that she probably ignores it. I definitely do. I understand this is "one of the coolest things about being a Black woman" to a lot of Black women, but it's not something I enjoy at all. I know when I look good, and I know when I'm not trying. Either way, I don't need it pointed out to me. I don't enjoy compliments, from anyone, let alone those being yelled at me on the street in public. It's just not my thing. That said, I really appreciate the one thing this racist fool did get right in his rag of an article trying to pass as scientific research: we know we look good. We're not ashamed of it, and we won't apologize for it.

    One could argue that mainstream media and entertainment outlets actually give Black people the space _to_ feel good about themselves because they systematically exclude us from what they're peddling to white women, causin' them poor girls all kinds of stress about their looks/their weight/their tan/their tan LINES/their bush/their bumps/their butts/etc…D.L. Hughley said you ain't never seen a black anorexic. I don't know if that's 100% true, but I do know that our community embraces a different beauty aesthetic. One that affirms to us daily (if we allow it) that we are beautiful. And it's not the testosterone, baby.

  2. Adj - May 21, 2011 @ 4:15 pm

    Excellent. You did a great job with this piece. I agree with Susan, too, that your roomie probably does get hit on and just ignores it or, perhaps, doesn't recognize it. Ultimately, though, we know we look good, and we don't need a ridiculous piece in a so-called psychology publication or even the compliments of others to let us know that we look good. (Those compliments and nods "Hello's" don't hurt though!)

  3. Sandy - June 22, 2011 @ 2:39 pm


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