The Blog

The Cute Coefficient: Why White Women Don't Defend Black Women

As long as white feminists still use men as their benchmark for how they view themselves and their black and brown counterparts, any hope of a collective movement is impossible.
This post was published on the now-closed HuffPost Contributor platform. Contributors control their own work and posted freely to our site. If you need to flag this entry as abusive, send us an email.

By now, everyone not hunkered down for the rapture (now scheduled for October) has heard about the Psychology Today article which purported that black women were "objectively less attractive than other women." The article was written by Satoshi Kanazawa, an evolutionary psychology scholar and apparently, sole arbiter of "hotness".

According to NPR, Kanazawa states he reached his conclusions by taking data from Add Health -- which he said "measures the physical attractiveness of its respondents both objectively and subjectively." Apparently, that survey is "a study of the health of adolescents and their behavior and health during their formative years." But it's a bit of a stretch to use conclusions reached in Add Health to call black women ugly.

For what it's worth, I'm not surprised when men such as Kanazawa, who aren't black but also aren't white, immerse themselves in endeavors intended to win favor as preferred minorities among those in our prevailing Western culture. Nor am I surprised when black men date white women exclusively or announce their distaste for black women, as recently evidenced by football player Albert Haynesworth who defended himself against accusations that he groped a female waitress at the W Hotel. He boorishly protested that he "doesn't even date black girls". On another note, someone should alert Haynesworth that groping and dating are two altogether different animals.

In my mind, black men such as Haynesworth are struggling with an enormous amount of self-hatred, and it's much easier to climb atop a white woman than it is to climb out of one's own skin. I get it. And because I get it, I don't react to it much.

As a black woman living in a 24/7 media culture, which exalts both physical and intellectual hollowness, I know that it is solely my responsibility to safeguard the psychological well-being of me and my sisters. Hips, curves, shades of brown, articulateness, thoughtfulness and all other features or qualities which evoke some level of three-dimensionalism are taboo in our media culture. To protect ourselves as black women means not allowing anyone to encroach upon our definitions and assessments of who we are. Only we can define us.

So I am not as bothered by the re-emergence of bell curve racism disguised as scholarly research. What does bother me, however, is the silence of white women on this issue. Where is the National Organization for Women, Gloria Steinem, and other female activist organizations when black women are berated? If Kanazawa had degraded white women, you can bet that the outcry would've been immediate. But calling black women ugly means that white women are, by default, pretty, or at least prettier than black women.

Black women have bore witness to the silence of white women on issues important to us in the past, most notably during the feminist movement. Most black women are aware that many of the rifts created during that movement were brought about by the dual lens used by white feminists to dismiss -- or sometimes totally ignore -- the impact of issues which affected poor, black, and brown women.

It was Audre Lourde who asked "what does it mean when the tools of a racist patriarchy are used to examine the fruits of that same patriarchy?" Well, it means that even though the voice and power of women is still not on par with that of men, many white women still view themselves through the prism of patriarchy.

They'll march in the streets to protest sliding pay scales and the like, but it only takes one man to enter the scenario and call them cute, and it's swooning time. As long as white feminists still use men as their benchmark for how they view themselves and their black and brown counterparts, any hope of a collective movement is impossible.

Yvette Carnell is a political analyst for