Resting Bitch Face (RBF), or Bitchy Resting Face, is a thing. We’ve all been bombarded with the images of women, and it is 95% women and 5% Kanye, who typify RBF – Victoria Beckham, Kristen Stewart, even our very own QE2 herself (Happy 90th Birthday, Lizzie!) And, it’s not just popular culture that has adopted this phenomenon; academics have jumped on the bandwagon too. Believe it or not, US scientists have recently developed software that can scan your face and tell you whether or not you have RBF… *side eyes*
I can’t lie; when RBF first came into popular parlance, I sniggered at the memes along with the masses. But now, the sniggers have turned into half-hearted smiley-sighs. Has the joke been drawn out for too long?
Setting the scene slightly, my situation is kind of unusual in that people generally say that I am very smiley. So, I guess, when I’m not smiling, it must be reasonable to assume that I am harbouring murderous intentions about something or someone, right? So, I get the helpful suggestions about ‘fixing my face’ and I get asked ‘what’s wrong with you today?’, to which I give a half-smile (to get them off my back) and reply that nothing is wrong. Because, 9 times out of 10, nothing is wrong.
Anyway, Scenario 1 goes like this (back in the day when I was employed): I’m sitting there, minding my own business, when suddenly a colleague says, “what was THAT look for?!”, to which I reply, totally honestly, “what look?”. Colleague guffaws at my apparent, bold-faced display of attitude and proceeds to begin mumbling something about resting bitch face, and I’m left scratching my head, trying to fathom what the hell he’s on about.
Scenario 2 goes like this: After having demonstrated a mediocre level of assertiveness, i.e. explaining that I need my stapler back from someone who borrowed it a week ago, same colleague says, “gosh! you can be a bit scary, you know?”
So, first I’m a bitch for just looking the way I look, then I’m scary for asking for the return of something that I kindly lent someone to use? Scary? Asking for my stapler back makes me a bit scary? Seriously, what does that even mean? I’m not a movie baddie. I didn’t threaten you with the kitchen knife I carry in my sock. So, why do people feel that they have the right to say things like this?
I have pondered on this for a while and have thought that maybe I’m being overly sensitive and that I should lighten up. I’ve also tried to reclaim the word and turn it on its head e.g. RBF = independent, and scary = empowered. But the more I think about it, the more wound up I get. The insinuation that unless you are walking around smiling to yourself like some kind of mindless idiot you are a bitch, or that if you assert yourself slightly to get what is rightfully yours you are scary is simply ridiculous. And if you happen to be a black female? Well, then you might as well just flip over a table while you’re standing there just – looking. Your behaviour will probably be labelled as aggressive anyway, so save yourself some hassle and hand yourself in down the local cop shop.
As far as I’m concerned, if someone finds me scary, that’s on them – not me. I don’t aim to upset or intimidate anyone and my face is my face. It’s starts with an assumption and an RBF joke, but where does it end? In the workplace, so-called RBF in an employee could lead to that employee being unfairly labelled as a trouble-maker. At the school gates, so-called RBF on a mum could lead to that mum being socially excluded and deemed ‘unapproachable’. To normalise the labelling of RBF is to normalise prejudice and, in the extreme, bullying. It’s just not nice.
As an aside, here are a few things that I might be:
- Up for banter
- Guilty of exaggeration
- Capable of real low down, grime-filled, filthy looks.
So, there we have it. Pah! Scary doesn’t even feature.
What do you think? Am I blowing it out of proportion? Have you ever taken exception to being labelled as a bitch? Or is it just banter?