10 reasons why ‘resting bitch face’ isn’t a crime

Your discomfort with my face is your problem – not mine

Resting face or resting bitch face (RBF) is a neutral facial expression often interpreted as anger or discontent. What’s more, it’s a gendered term wielded against women to cause injury and shame. But what if there are worse things than being a leisurely, unbothered bitch?

Women without a constant smile plastered to their faces are not the sign of a cultural crisis. A hate-fuelled, white supremacist insurrection is probably something we need to worry about more. From the lethargic static of the zoom university tutorial to the sidewalk, RBF is condemned as wrong. Why must innocent resting face bitches be burnt at the stake of social expectations?

It’s unnecessary. This is why RBF is okay and even normal. 

Women don’t owe you smiles 24/7

Before women get to seek their individual comfort, they have to anticipate the comfort of others. In 2021, one in three women taking off face masks in public face arrests from the RBF police. These victims face will queues of old men and nosy women crawling up to them and telling them to smile. “Cheer up luv” is presumptious, unsolicited advice, not a command. That’s on you if you assume you understand my emotions from my face alone. Back up!

It’s okay for women to be angry, tired or indifferent

As human beings, it’s bizarre that social norms often seek to limit women to specific emotions. Be happy! Be sad! But never stern, serious, angry or indifferent.

Women are supposed to feel a lot, but only with two emotions. Stress and fatigue are not the only factors that could cause RBF, but it’s okay for people to feel those things.

Cheerfulness is not a measure of female worth and identity. We are more than our faces and smiles.

Criticizing my resting face is ableist

Facial expressions don’t always match emotions. When you throw in a disability, this becomes even more true. Social norms pressure neurodiverse people to camouflage and suppress any non-normative behaviours.

No one should be shamed for how their brains impact their external behaviour. But sadly, ableist people even shame young girls like Greta Thunberg for their neutral faces and monotone voices out of their control.

Regulated facial expressions take energy. Anti-RBF demands can therefore be exhausting for those who already expend energy adapting their behaviour towards a sense of  “normal”. Also, it’s extremely awkward if you tell me “cheer up love,” and I’m actualy feeling happy. It’s not my duty to perform my happiness for you.

Don’t judge someone on their face and not their character

Really and truly, actions speak louder than smiles. It’s one thing to launch a projection of someone’s facial expression. But it’s another things entirely to understand what it is like to be on the receiving end of such critique.

Via @gretathunberg on Instagram

Actually talk to me before you label me as cold or unfriendly

Everyone has their strengths. For instance, some wear all of their emotions on their face, some express it in their voice. But for some of us, our words themselves are the biggest tool we have for communicating our thoughts and opinions.

Niceness is used as a weapon to humiliate women

Women don’t have to be interested in this idea of performative niceness. Some women pride themselves on being cute and cheerful. That’s great, I’m happy for you. But when women use RBF to try and put down other women, then it’s a problem.

Via @toxicpositivitymemes on Instagram

If you were secure in your kindness and sociable behaviour, it wouldn’t depend on the reactions of others. Too often other women use RBF to punish other women that are not as outwardly extroverted and smiley as them.

Instead of spending energy rationalising their behaviour, maybe you should choose to take your smileyness where it is appreciated.

Politeness is a double standard across genders

Politeness is used to shackle women into a position where they are easy to silence and control. The suspicion of rudeness or impoliteness is a tool many use to distract from women speaking up about things people want to ignore.

Women are not obliged to conform to limiting expectations of what kindness is.

You may think I’m untrustworthy but think again

Some of the most dangerous people happen to be smiley, sloppy-happy charismatic. Maybe for your temporary discomfort there is a lack of malice and duplicity that should be appreciated.

Some people with RBF are just as straightforward and neutral as their face suggests. Or maybe we just don’t show our emotions in ways that are easily anticipated. And that’s okay!

Most people are more concerned about how the emotions they read on the RBFer affect them, than they are about the person’s wellbeing. Maybe we’d do better as a society if direct honesty was valued more than contorted smiles. 

Animals have RBF and they lead simpler lives than humans

Everyone hates on cats, the RBFers of the animal kingdom. But look how simple their lives are! A belly rub here, a stretch there, and free food. I hope cats don’t get at each other for RBF. That would add unnecessary stress to their simple lives. I can only hope that they mind their business and count their whiskers.

Via @shibaglobal on Instagram

Your discomfort around me is your problem -not mine

This is the crux of resting bitch face – it’s not the facial expression itself that’s the problem but how it makes other people feel. In effect, you must deal with your internal anxieties of being received in the world.

Ultimately, RBF is not a crime. The definition itself rests on an assumption that the person is a “bitch”. Such an assumption can be debated and weighed to decide whether it’s true of false. However, if you choose to make RBF your problem then you must interrogate why you feel the way you do instead of shaming the person.

Most of the time the person’s actions are unintentional and harmless. This makes it unproductive to demonise RBF – it’s often a neutral, unconscious behaviour. There’s a time and place for expressive grinning, but we must not shame those who fall outside our expectations of what being pleasant means.

If you are willing to criticise my face, be prepared when I show you that your opinion on my neutral behaviour is none of my concern. The moral crisis of RBF is about you, not me. People exist before social expectations of respectability, not the other way round.

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