An article in the New York Post has noted a rise in women seeking plastic surgery to “fix” their so-called “resting bitch face”. This is a women-only affliction, where, even when wearing a neutral expression, you appear perpetually standoffish. In reality, it refers to any time that a woman’s facial expression is set in anything less than a smile.
According to one doctor quoted in the piece, the number of requests for the procedure has more than doubled in the past year. This isn’t exactly shocking – women are made to feel bad about just about everything in terms of their appearance – but to me, it seems many of these women are getting rid of something that is actually a great asset.
Meeting the world with a ‘resting bitch face’ may not be what society demands, but it protects you against unsolicited male attention in public
In a world where simply being a woman is considered an invitation for unsolicited comments and unwarranted conversation from complete strangers, looking unfriendly is useful armour. It can, at times, be the only barrier between a woman and unwanted small talk in public transportation, or a bar. Or on a run. Or on the street. Or a public bench. Or even while in the middle of a conversation with someone else. Heckling and catcalling are rife – should we not at least be allowed to look less than pleased about it?
But that would grossly overestimate the amount of emotional intelligence and shame some men have. Because, like anything else, looking grim-faced can be, in and of itself, an invitation. If I had a quid for each of the times I have heard: “Smile, love, it might never happen” shouted at me across the street, I might have the money to rid myself of my own “resting bitch face”. When men say this, it never seems to occur to them that whatever the “it” in question is, it has probably already happened – one look at the world around you should be enough to realise there is often little to smile about. Yet Victoria Beckham’s signature scowl and Kristen Stewart’s tendency to mean-mug have merely culminated in more column inches requesting they turn that frown upside down or, at least, into something that is slightly less offputting.
What all this tells us is that women must be amiable and approachable by default. Even when we’re not interacting, we must be poised and primed to do so. Tellingly, there is no “resting grumpy bastard face” equivalent for men – people are far less concerned about faces they don’t deem public property.