Odds are if you’re a woman and you are not smiling, you’ve been diagnosed with a commonly-known condition called “Resting Bitch Face”. To be quite honest, I didn’t know what that expression meant until I saw for myself when being introduced to other women either professionally or socially. They didn’t appear happy or friendly, but rather annoyed or upset. Key word is “APPEAR”. So, if they look it, doesn’t necessarily mean they feel it. It is clear that RBF is a term directed primarily at women who are caught not smiling and are therefore assumed to be unhappy when really they are in a neutral state of mind. As far as I know, there is no known equivalent for the male gender, which is why the expression itself is inherently sexist.
However the tides may be turning a little as men can also be judged similarly. Comedian Sebastian Maniscalco mentions the dreaded affliction as commented upon by his wife:
“She thinks I have a mean resting face. Like when I am not smiling or talking it looks like I could murder your family.” – Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Season 7, Episode 5.
It’s a clever, humorous take but let’s face it, the sting of criticism is most keenly felt by women as the expectation is that we are to put on a happy face constantly.
Besides the fact that we are critiqued for what we wear or how we behave, it now has come to a point that we must worry about what others think of our non-smiling, seemingly unapproachable vibe. It has an upside, I suppose, for all the single women who don’t want to be ogled at or “picked up” by overzealous dudes at a bar or club! Quite the disarming glare can keep anyone at bay. As a mom, my “death stare” is apparently not one to be messed with, according to my kids. So there’s that.
Given that we are not perfect humans, we must have at some point in our lives given somebody somewhere the impression that we are p**sed off, plus it is human nature to project our own unhappiness unto others. I clearly remember having been told in one particular instance that I looked upset when in fact I wasn’t. I also clearly remember feeling hurt by that assumption since I consider myself to be someone who is kind-hearted and pleasant to be around. It was nothing more than a futile attempt to discredit me based on jealousy. My response? “I’m not mad. It’s just my RBF.” Needless to say, the reactions were exactly as I had intended: surprised looks and utter confusion. (They clearly never heard of RBF and I wasn’t about to explain it). Claudia for the win!
So what’s really at the heart of the problem is that society has dictated there is always something to fix in order to be prettier, more engaging, less annoyed and more attainable, when it’s really not necessary. When a man look serious, it is not an unusual thing nor is it alarming.
If you’re down (no pun intended) for a few laughs, check out the Buzzfeed link below which lists 17 more accurate names for RBF. My personal favorite is: Resting “Smiling All the Time is for Beauty Queens, and Last I Checked, I Wasn’t Trying Out for a Pageant” Face.
Can we make 2020 the banner year to put this insulting expression behind us?? After all, who the hell wants to smile all day long and quite frankly, who does? When you’re at the grocery store and you see that lady who “looks upset”? …maybe she really is and wants to be left alone. Oh and that girl you see on the bus who “looks annoyed”?…maybe she really isn’t and is actually living her best life.
So before you tell someone to turn their frown upside down, take a good look in the mirror because you may not be as approachable as you think.