Sexism behind resting bitch face

Sarah Harris

Resting bitch face: a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to.

That is the No. 1 definition that appears on, a dictionary site for slang terms, that are usually submitted by users.

I have a real problem with this “resting bitch face” syndrome.

It only affects women.

I can’t begin to tell you how many times people confess to me, “I thought you hated me” once we get to know each other, and most of the time, this conversation always refers back to the fact that I have “resting bitch face.”

I don’t smile when I’m walking through the halls or in a meeting or in class or anywhere unless something makes me smile, like any other person.

Can we acknowledge that it would be creepy if I walked around the halls with a small smile on my face? I feel like I have two options; half smile and creep people out or have my regular face on and have people assuming that I’m a bitch.

If I’m not smiling, I’m probably thinking about things that everyone else thinks about. And if that consists of my eyebrows resting, lips sealed, then I shouldn’t be labeled with resting bitch face. It’s just my face.

If a girl is not smiling, or she is just not in a smiley mood, she is then labeled with resting bitch face. Yet when boys aren’t smiling, does anyone ever say they have resting bitch face? Are they instantly tagged with the notion that they are assholes? Is there such thing as resting asshole face?

Why does this term only affect females?

My theory is that since we were young, females have been always told to smile and to look happy. When I was younger and I was frowning, my mom always said if I don’t stop frowning my face would stay that way forever, as if frowning or not smiling is an ugly act, when in actuality, it’s just an expression, like smiling.

Guys never have to worry about looking “bitchy” because no one is asking them to smile.

Deborah Carr — a professor and chair of sociology at Rutgers University — commented on the subject in an NJBIZ article about resting bitch face.

“Men have so many ways that they can behave in the workplace. For women, there are higher expectations — there is a (social) assumption that women should be warm, nurturing, maternal and encouraging. If you have a woman who either looks or appears serious or unfriendly, that might force people to have a negative view of her because she’s not living up to this image.”

Just think about the leaders in the organization that you’re in. If they’re males and they ask you to do something without smiling, do you consider them an asshole? Probably not. They’re just “doing their job.” But if the leader is a female and she asks you to complete a task and she doesn’t say it in a smiley friendly way, do you then think to yourself, ‘She’s such a bitch’? Seriously consider this the next time you converse with your organization leader.

Let’s get rid of this stigma and recognize that it truly is, just her face.