“You should really smile more.”
“Maybe if she looked more pleasant, people would want to talk to her.”
“She looks like such a bitch. I mean, just look at her facial expression.”
The Use Of RBF
You’re on a Zoom call for work. Everyone is listening to your boss talk through a presentation about last month’s sales and you take a few thoughtful notes here and there. In the middle of his presentation, you hear your boss say your name. Your eyes dart up from your work and you give your attention. “Hey,” he says, “How about a smile, huh?”
The term “resting bitch face” (aka RBF) is typically used to describe someone whose natural facial expression gives off the implication that they are unhappy. Whether it be work, school, or everyday life, RBF frequently seems to wriggle its way into casual conversation. However, have you noticed people tend to disproportionately throw the label at women who are simply not smiling 24/7? This differential use of the term RBF in regards to gender demonstrates many of the double standards that exist today.
The use of RBF reveals what society expects from women: to look desirable. AA woman must prioritize how she looks so that she can feel equal. Walking down the street? If you’re not smiling, the creepy guy at the corner will tell you to. Working at your desk? Better do it with a pretty smile on or else you might get called a bitch. These realities that women are told to just “accept” or “get over” prevent any hope of future equality. These comments must end. It is time to acknowledge everyday sexism so that we can shrink the large-scale inequalities that impact women every day.
Since the increase of the use of “RBF” in our everyday language rise of RBF, people have argued that the same pressure women have to look appealing in public exists for men too. When people wonder if RBF goes both ways, the defensive term “asshole face” often arises. However, Google Trends provides that RBF is much more popular when comparing the two.
The fact that men do not share these pressures is a testament to the inequalities that exist in everyday life. How can fights for equal pay and abortion rights prevail if women are still being treated differently than men?
Another instance where women’s appearances are held to a higher standard is through makeup. A study conducted by Harvard psychology professor, Nancy Etcoff, exposes that makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence and her trustworthiness”. If a boss bases evaluations off an employee’s appearance, there is less focus paid to productivity. If putting on mascara in the mornings means the difference between getting a great evaluation as opposed to a good one, we might inadvertently put mascara on. These subconscious tendencies reinforce the idea that women must look a certain way in order to advance socially.
Appearance in the workplace is important, no doubt. People should consider proper attire and professionalism at work. However, inequalities present when a woman must focus strenuously on her appearance while a man does not experience this same pressure.
Labeling a woman “bitch” for focusing, working, walking down the street, or literally just existing, reveals a sexist mindset that has raged in society for hundreds of years. If a man has an RBF, he’s serious and professional. If a woman does, she’s a bitch and should fix it.
So, next time RBF rolls into your mind when you see a woman working, try NOT telling her to smile. She’s probably busy and can’t be bothered with your sexist comment to begin with.