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Beauty

The Underlying Problem with Resting Bitch Face

Resting Bitch Face (RBF). We’ve all heard of it. Urban Dictionary defines RBF as: “a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to.” As a woman, I’ve been told I have RBF, I’ve seen it other ladies as well, and there isn’t any inherent issue with having RBF. It doesn’t make sense to be smiling all the time or look cheery all the time. The issue with RBF is that it’s targeted towards women because as the historically oppressed gender, we’re expected to smile lest we make men uncomfortable.

If you look back at any power dynamic in which one group is being oppressed, you’ll notice a kind of trend. Using the French Revolution, for example, aside from the fact that their socioeconomic class disparity was so problematic, that uprising primarily occurred because the oppressed group (the lower class) was dissatisfied enough to the point of revolt. White people became afraid of black Americans when they found their voice and began to use that to express the injustice they were experiencing and demand change. Men telling women to “just smile” isn’t anything new, and perhaps you’ve wondered why it seems that only men tell women to smile. My point with this is that when women don’t smile, when women visually express dissatisfaction–even if unintentionally–it makes men, the group in power, naturally uncomfortable.

 

Currently, I’ve heard the RBF expression used to describe individuals of any or no gender. It’s used in an inclusive manner to generally name this funny experience of looking like you’re angry or mean when in reality you aren’t giving any attention to your facial expressions. But “bitch” is not a word that was initially used to describe men. That word is used to shame women who are in positions of power and utilize that power. That word is used to shame men or women who shy away from certain conflicts or situations that make them uncomfortable. It’s a word that has never really been used positively for women until we began to use it as a term of affection with each other, and even then it can be hit or miss with how that’s received.

 

So no. I don’t accept the label “RBF” for my face when it rests neutrally. I reject it for all the times I’ve been called a “bitch” for doing my job. I reject it for all the times I’ve walked down a street terrified even though nothing happened. I reject it for all the individuals that have been assumed to be mean or angry or judged instantly because they don’t look happy all the time. Use it how you want, but know that it underwent a long journey for us to joke about it now.

 

Anna Petgrave

Seattle U '21

Anna Petgrave Major: English Creative Writing; Minor: Writing Studies Her Campus @ Seattle University Campus Correspondent and Senior Editor Anna Petgrave is passionate about learning and experiencing the world as much as she can. She has an insatiable itch to travel and connect with new and different people. She hopes one day to be a writer herself, but in the meantime she is chasing her dream of editing. Social justice, compassion, expression, and interpersonal understanding are merely a few of her passions--of which she is finding more and more every day.
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