The Problem With “Resting Bitch Face”

I recently read this blog post about the recent surfacing of the phrase “Resting Bitch Face,” or “RBF,” which is used to describe people whose faces naturally fall into intimidating and cold expressions when they are relaxed.

I say this describes “people” who are hard faced however what I really should have said is it describes women who are hard faced. Despite its widespread use I am yet to hear this expression used to describe a man.

I am constantly told I have RBF. When my face is relaxed I look irritated and unapproachable and those closest to me are not afraid to tell me so. Although I am a feminist, I hadn’t given much thought to the inherent sexism and double standards of the phrase before reading the aforementioned article. But now it seems glaringly obvious.

Firstly, let’s take the name “Resting Bitch Face”. Resting bastard face could have worked equally as well yet we opted for bitch face. Bitch.

I’m sure we are all aware by now that “bitch” is a negative term that tends to only be used to describe women, indicating that the phenomenon of RBF can also be linked specifically to women.

Can men get RBF? I guess not. I mean when a man’s natural expression makes him appear moody and intimidating this makes him more appealing to us, (think brooding and mysterious Heathcliffe or Rochester). People don’t assume he’s not a nice person. But me? I get asked whose murder I’m plotting.

One time over the recent festive period sticks out in my mind. It was Christmas Eve and I was lazing in front of the TV with some friends engrossed in whatever junk I was watching and digging into a massive tub of Ben and Jerry’s. Now it is rare I have this kind of downtime so I was absolutely in my element and the happiest I had ever probably been in a while. However, this internal joy clearly wasn’t reflected on my face as a few minutes into shovelling Peanut Butter Cup into my mouth my girlfriend told me I looked like a serial killer.

So, I may look unhappy when I’m caught off guard but seriously, I am not a Disney princess. I do not need to smile all the fricking time.

My point is that men do not have to smile all the time. They do not get asked if they are okay 10 million times a day. They do not get asked who just died. They do not get random people telling them it might not ever happen, or to smile.

Why are we expected to look physically appealing and attractive at all times? This is not something expected of men. Men are simply allowed to get on with their day. Men are not simply reduced to their physical appearance and treated like a little doll here to look nice.

The more I think about it, the more RBF seems to be yet another way to single out those women who do not conform to the feminine ideal that patriarchal society has constructed.


Image by Urban Dictionary.


One thought on “The Problem With “Resting Bitch Face”

  1. I don’t know about our faces but men can sure be bastards all right… Ruins it for those who were born with parents! And yes! For the most part, men treat women like sex objects and that’s a fact! It’s not ’til we get a wrinckle on us, that we truly see woman as something more. Even then, it’s only in hopes of having someone to serve us with wine and grapes! Maybe, just before we die, we utter out one: ‘I love you…’ There are couples, but they are rare… Most of us are spies…


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