By Sharanya Gopinathan
I love laughing at Cosmopolitan, especially when they’re telling us things according to science, which they do quite frequently. Like when they informed us that according to science women are more likely to climax if their partners are rich and confident (um, what?), finding out what kind of drunk you are according to science, or telling us why science says its better to be single.
Yesterday, Cosmo’s according-to-science offering got them into hot water on Twitter after their now-deleted tweet listed out the ten most scientifically beautiful women in the world. They were all white.
Apparently, “it all comes down to an ancient Greek philosophy called the Phi ratio, which Julian De Silva, MD, of the Centre for Advanced Facial Cosmetic and Plastic Surgery, used along with computer facial mapping to determine which famous women have the ideal face ratio and symmetry”. Eh.
We can’t tell for sure whether no women of colour fit this apparently universal and fool-proof scientific ratio, or if no women of colour were put through the test at all to even see if they made the cut. I guess the only thing we can tell for sure is that white standards of beauty rule cultural space in terms of what we think of as beautiful, even causing women around the world to opt for plastic surgery to fit more closely with Western standards of beauty. These messages and reinforcements come through movies, television, ad campaigns and beauty magazines, and it’s clear that the packaging of these messages isn’t even subtle.
It’s also clear that tacking on the word science to something doesn’t make it race and gender neutral, or inherently unbiased. Science and technology are coloured by the biases of the people who engage with them, and cannot just be assumed to be neutral. Remember when the Google Photos software identified black people as gorillas because it was basically programmed to recognise white faces as human faces?