Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Mean Muggin'

Sometimes it's helpful to understand or at least be aware of other people's impressions of oneself.

Maybe it'll lead to greater enlightenment. Maybe it'll lead to change. Maybe it lead to nothing, at all.

In this case, I'm a Black male interested in briefly holding the mirror up to Black women. The below may not reflect your experience or perspective, at all, but I've seen it enough for it to make an impression on me. So here it is:

*ahem*
"Y'all be 'mean-muggin' somethin' FIERCE!"

That is all.


Again I say that this may not be true from the perspective of others. It may not be true on a large scale. Even if it IS true, there may be good reasons for why this is.

Whatever the case, it may partially explain why Black women, as whole, have something of a reputation for being mean or having an attitude. Obviously, this ain't all there is to it, but I've found myself associating a mean facial expression with, not just women or people at the end of a workday, but BLACK WOMEN - usually those over 35 or 40 years of age.

In fact, I remember commenting, recently, about a younger woman who was driving around with that mean facial expression. It didn't seem like regular pissivity (and I should've stated this part earlier).

When I mention this mean-muggin', I'm talking about a mean expression that appears to reflect, not just momentary anger, but a negative outlook or worldview. I'd think it would take years to develop those deep frown lines and the general cynical vibe.

It's surprising to see that from a young'un - and kinda sad.

Honestly, it's kind of sad to see it from anyone. If that facial expression truly does reflect a pessimistic view of the world - one that's so strong that the "neutral" expression is supplanted by this visaged, pre-emptive strike - that's really unfortunate, to say the least.

Maybe it's time to make a real change in the conditions that lead people to that sort of outlook and/or maybe it's time to change the outlook that, perhaps, leads to negative conditions.


Sometimes, our perspective determines our reality. (And I'm sure I'm no exception.)

9 comments:

DW said...

From the Peanut Gallery: As someone who is constantly accused of being "mean looking" and admonished by strange men to "smile," I felt pulled to comment.

Consider the following: If you saw a man, any race of man, walking down the street without smiling, would you stop the guy and say "Smile brother"? Not likely. You might assume he has alot on his mind, may have just lost his job, etc. So why is it that when I, a 26-year-old black female come walking down the street doing the same, I'm expected to shuck and jive? There's some major sexism there - not the least of which is the inference that as a female, my obligation is to look happy and pretty for random men. I've literally been walking down the street wiht a boot on my car; worrying about finances; or in dramatic physical pain. Please consider that the next time you wonder why someone isn't smiling.

Additionally let's be realistic. The majority of dudes who say "hi" or the dreaded "how you dooooin" are not interested in your emotional state. They're interested in how they're going to get your number; if you don't believe it, observe how many extremely fat women get the "how you doiiiiiin." It's pretentious and annoying; there's nothign I hate more than getting repeated "how you doins" at 8 a.m. Bruh, you see a bag in my hand, I'm downtown, I'm in pumps, and I'm on the move. Put two and two together - I'm rushing to work! The lack of consideration there is unbelievable - never crosses their minds that I have somewhere to be.

I don't think this is exclusive to black men, nor do I think a serious expression is exclusive to black women. Just my observations. Oh yeah, also consider that a woman might be married (and not want to attract any attention by speaking) or, in my case, supergay. In which case I again, wouldn't want to have much discussion.

West said...

Welcome, DW. I'm glad you stopped by, but I have to ask:

Did you finish reading my post or did you read a little and assume you knew the rest?

You spent the majority of your comment talking about women responding to some guy's inquiries or admonishments, but I'm not that guy and I certainly didn't take up his cause in this post.

What I've discussed here is NOT how women ought to shuck OR jive. You say that women ought to be able to walk down the street without a smile, as if I hadn't already pointed out that I'm not talking about neutral expressions so much as mean ones that go beyond the moment and seem to seep into the core of a person's being.

When the neutral expression is almost permanently replaced by a mean mug, that's worth making note of.

Feel free to disagree, of course, but your case would be better made if it more directly addressed what I actually said, instead of the words and feelings of a bunch of faceless and wholly absent men.

chele said...

I'm guilty of this. Not the neutral face but of the MEAN face. Maybe it is representative of my overall cynical outlook (which I'm trying to change) or maybe I use it as a deterrant so triflin' negroes won't speak to me. However, it seems to work against me because the meaner I look the more I get, "Why don't you smile, girl?"

West said...

Hehe. That IS kinda ironic.

In response to DW's earlier comment, I think it'd be great if some guys didn't walk around lookin' like Ice Cube all the time.

I'm not going to tell him to smile, but that's mostly because I try to do things that will accomplish the goal and avoid things that would be counter-productive. In this case, telling some dude to smile is a little too likely to result in his thinking I'm interested in his jock.

DW said...

Alert to West: You're on the defensive.

Nobody is saying you're defending people. I'm just representing the other side. What you have to consider here is that mitigating word you're using - seem. People "seem" to have an angry face or outlook. But that's your interpretation. And that interpretation may, whether you know it or not, be influenced by your expectations of what a woman's visage is supposed to look like.

Or I could be full of bologna and pimentos. The point is not to argue - the point is to expand.

DW said...

Addendum: when I said you were being defensive, I meant of self. I recognize the contradiction in the first two sentences.

West said...

re: "Alert to West: You're on the defensive."

Nah. Just bringing up a blog topic and figuring that any comment that follows must be related to it.

I think that's a reasonable expectation.

re: "Nobody is saying you're defending people. I'm just representing the other side. What you have to consider here is that mitigating word you're using - seem. People "seem" to have an angry face or outlook. But that's your interpretation. And that interpretation may, whether you know it or not, be influenced by your expectations of what a woman's visage is supposed to look like."

And, again, the post goes out of its way to point out that this is all "perspective" and not objective, experiential fact. So, I don't get why you think I'm missing the "seem" element.

re: "Or I could be full of bologna and pimentos. The point is not to argue - the point is to expand."
That's ONE point, yes.

Francis Michael O'Halloran said...

I live in DC and I go to school in a less than desirable area. I see many young black women walking with the 'mean mugs'. I understand the root of the 'mean look'. When I see middle aged men trying to whisper to these girls, I can understand why they need to put up their walls. I'd expect my sister, wife, mom to do the same.

At times, I've smiled at a girl on the street and gotten a smile back. It's like a ray of sunshine through the clouds. It's unexpected and beautiful, but I can understand why they might choose not to smile back at me. I look like all the other dudes on the block, they can't tell my intentions and sometimes it's best to keep your guard up.

West said...

I feel you, FMO'H, but it's not like these women only have these grills on as they walk down the street.

Honestly, a dude can approach them at any time. Mean-muggin' all day crosses the line between putting ON a face and that BEING your face.