My whole life, I’ve practically been the poster child for Resting Bitch Face (a term I don’t even like to use, but I’ll get to that).
My mom told me that I was six months old before I ever cracked a grin. I inherited a lot of my dad’s features, and as a result, I look like I’m always frowning. Kids on the school bus used to ask me, as I was sitting quietly in my seat, why I always looked so sad or angry.
I would look at them confused and insist I was neither.
Teachers have told me I look intimidating. Friends have incorrectly assumed I was pissed when I was actually just thinking. Bosses and coworkers have asked me if I’m bored when I’ve actually been perfectly content completing my work.
And of course, there are the gross men who go out of their way to tell me to smile more, creepily offering their input when I’m trying to walk to class, buy my groceries, buy a gym membership, or generally live.
I distinctly remember walking back to my apartment on a cold autumn day, my head bent against the incessant Milwaukee wind when a middle-aged man passed me on the sidewalk and said something along the lines of, “Hey baby, why not smile!”
I wanted to grab the nearest pointy object and stab him to death, because I’ve been hearing disgusting shit like this all my life, but I settled for aggressively screaming, “Fuck you!” at the bastard.
He was clearly taken aback, his eyes popped wide open. As I walked away, I heard him muttering angrily to himself.
The disturbing phenomenon of men – usually middle-aged or older – telling me to smile or joking about my frowning angry-looking face has perpetuated itself dozens of times, with dozens of different responses from myself.
When I was younger, I felt intimidated and often just ignored my harasser’s unwarranted insults.
As I’ve gotten older and bolder, however, I’ve snapped back and stood up for myself. It almost always leaves men perplexed and offended that I dare tell them to go fuck themselves. The irony that they just invaded my privacy and said something completely inappropriate about a feature I can’t change about myself is lost on them.
But yeah, I’m in the wrong for telling them to eat shit.
Can all men who believe they’re entitled to women’s smiling faces go die in a hole? Please and thank you.
Men are wrong, and they usually don’t even know it, for telling women to smile.
This idea that women need to look happy, pleasant, and sweet for men reflects male privilege and men’s obsession with objectifying the female body. It’s literally telling a woman to transform her face into something beautiful to look at because a man believes he deserves her happiness and cooperation. It’s a sign that men assume women exist for them. Telling a woman she needs to smile more, or that she would be so much prettier if she smiled, is just another way men use their power to intimidate and coerce women.
Don’t believe me? Take into consideration the tantrums men often throw when women retaliate after being “innocently” told to smile. Men take it personally when women don’t comply.
To all the stupid men who think it’s okay to tell a woman she needs to smile more often: our bodies, our faces, and our personalities are not here for you.
If your snide comment does get a smile out of a woman, it’s probably because she’s terrified of you and thinks you will hurt her or continue to verbally harass her if she doesn’t do what you say. She’s probably trying to avoid a scene and lessen the risk that you will follow her, call her a bitch, or worse.
Men never tell other random men to smile, so stop telling women what to do with their faces.
If a woman appears to be frowning, upset, or just normal looking, leave her alone and go on with your business.
This is the face I was born with.
I always look like I’m frowning. I can’t help it.
I actually have a naturally nice smile – when I decide to show it. I am not “bitchy” nor do I have a “bitch face” just because my mouth curves downward.
Resting Bitch Face shouldn’t even be a thing, because a women are not required to be amiable, happy, and grinning from ear to ear every second of the day.
It’s perfectly fine to not look constantly enthused in public.