Posted in Features

Telling women they have ‘resting bitch face’ highlights modern double standards

I smile for me, not for you.

RBF
Image Credits: Valerie Cheng

School pictures were never fun for me.

Like I was a part of some clichéd bit on TV, it seemed like I was unable to smile for the camera. For the longest time, I was constantly being asked to kick my neutral — almost angry-looking — expression to the curb in favour of a smile.

“Don’t you want to look cute, sweetheart?” they would ask. But what they failed to consider was that my best attempt at a smile would leave them just as dissatisfied.

That’s because I have resting bitch face (RBF).

Apparently, though, I’m not alone. There are a lot of women, and I do mean a lot, who also suffer from RBF. So whenever we’re not smiling, we look upset or unimpressed. And apparently, that’s what bitches look like.

But men don’t experience this same kind of jarring judgement when it comes to their facial expressions, which I find both fascinating and discriminatory. Should women have to be smiley creatures all the time? Are we not allowed to feel anything less than happy all day, every day?

“Fake it ‘til you make it,” a photographer once said to me. But it just caused me to knit my eyebrows together even more, because I really didn’t see the need to “fake it.” I just wanted to be myself.

I will not apologize for my resting face

Aside from school photos (which I have improved on over time), my RBF was a defining factor in my ability to make friends; more specifically, my approachability.

Case in point: back in high school, there was a guy I liked in my senior year. Unlike me, he was always smiling, and there were times where I wanted to use my RBF as an excuse for him to teach me how to smile more naturally. But no matter what I talked to him about (sports, cars, food, TV — the works), he always seemed anxious, like he was looking for the nearest escape route whenever I drew near to him. I noticed that with other girls he was much more flirty and seemed more at ease.

Back then, I had convinced myself that he simply didn’t like me because I had glasses. As it turned out, there was much more to it.       

His friend later told me I had this “bitchy look” all the time, and, I quote, “it scared him just a little” because “he wasn’t sure if I would eventually bitch at him all the time.” Please. I’m a harmless 5’2” girl who can barely kick anything down.

But as much as that stung, I will not apologize for my resting face. It’s called ‘resting’ face for a reason — as in I need to rest my facial muscles. Smiling all the time is hard work, my friends. So I guess I won’t ever be able to work for Chuck E. Cheese’s or the Disney Store, because I just can’t smile all day.

As much as I get upset at the fact that people judge me simply by the look on my face, the truth is that I do the same all the time. So often we judge others based on their looks, what they wear, and what their face expresses — and we use that as an excuse to not get to know people.

This isn’t to say that I never smile; in fact, it is quite the opposite. The amount that I smile or don’t does not correlate to the type of person I am. Besides that, friendship requires looking beyond the exterior of a person and taking a leap of faith. So if you want to get to know someone, get off your social-construct horse and say hi.

I can’t change the fact that my resting face looks the way that it does, nor will I apologize for it. All the same, what I can do is respect people, regardless of what they look like and what their resting face looks like. And who knows, maybe people will take me more seriously if I look serious all the time.

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