Quick! Grab your phone, open your camera, and take a picture. Unless your lips are curled in a gentle smile and your eyes twinkle like a Disney princess rolling on molly, you probably have "resting bitch face." (Disclaimer: only a medical doctor can diagnose resting bitch face.).
Resting bitch face, or "RBF" as it is known in the medical community, is the term for a face that is not smiling. You've doubtless been made aware of RBF through Facebook, Twitter, or any other platform of social media. This serious condition seems to affect females disproportionately to males, and the celebrity poster child (meme child?) for "resting bitch face" is Miss Scarlett O'Hara.
Except, whoops! That's not Scarlett O'Hara — that's the late, great Vivien Leigh, playing Scarlett O'Hara, in the role that earned her an Academy Award. Aaaand what's wrong with using this picture to demonstrate "resting bitch face"?
The problem is, her face isn't resting. It's acting. Therefore, it cannot definitionally be considered an example of "resting bitch face." While we're at it, why is Leigh's scowling face the one we all associate with RBF, as opposed to, say, Bruce Willis grimacing in Die Hard? Or Arnold Schwarzenegger scowling as The Terminator? Would it KILL you to smile, Arnold? They're all acting, they're all pulling "bitchy" faces, yet it is Leigh who has the archetypal "bitch face." Might this be because women's faces are policed for pleasantness in a way that men's faces aren't? Hmm...
So what the hell is "resting bitch face," then? Let's break it down:
"Resting." What is a "resting" face ("bae caught me sleeping lol")? I'm asking because, personally, I don't think my face is ever at rest, unless I'm actually, factually ASLEEP. My conscious face changes to reflect my thoughts, whether I'm reacting to the smell of fishy garbage on the street, or remembering how great the sex was last night, or ruminating on the horrifying prospect of a Trump presidency. Maybe I suck at what Lady Gaga calls "Poker Face," but isn't that how faces are?
The idea that I have a "resting" face sounds to me like I'm a computer, and my "resting" face is the screensaver that turns on when I'm inactive for too long and AW SHIT! Is this why strange men are always telling me to smile? They're jiggling my mouse to keep me from going into "sleep mode." Well, gee! Thanks, guys!
Next up, "bitch." Call me old-fashioned, but back in my day, if a woman was to be called a bitch, she had to earn that title by doing something legitimately bitchy. Like telling the shy, uncoordinated introvert that the class heartthrob wants to dance with her, and goading her into approaching him in front of the whole sixth-grade Halloween Dance. Y'all bitches know what you did. That was some bitchy shit.
But if we agree to the concept of "resting bitch face," what does that mean? That a woman is a "bitch" for doing absolutely nothing. Nothing more than resting. Grab those cheeks and spread 'em into a SMILE! You don't want to be a bitch, do you? Never "rest." Constant vigilance. That's the way to have a face!
Which brings us to the final word of the phrase: "face!" Is it your responsibility, as a face-haver to make your face pleasing to all others at all times? Of course not.
I see you frowning in the back — you're mad because you like having RBF! You're a strong, empowered woman who takes back the "bitch." You aren't afraid of the B-word — in fact, you OWN it! Perhaps on a novelty t-shirt, even! You're a bad bitch, and nobody's gonna tell you what to do with your face, right?
Absolutely, and I would say, my point exactly. My final objection to RBF is that it takes the word "bitch" away from those who embrace it. If you can be deemed a bitch for looking a certain way unconsciously, it disempowers you from being a bitch consciously. I'm objecting to your choice to be a bitch when you want to be; I take umbrage at being perceived as bitchy when you aren't even trying to be. RBF waters down what it means to be a bitch, and if you're reclaiming bitch as empowering, that should PISS YOU OFF. Bitch, I'm fighting for y'all bitches to be the bitchiest bitch in Bitchonia, if you wanna be. I'm Pro-Your-Choice-to-Be-a-Bitch, bitch.
But what about when you don't want to be a bitch? I say, it's 2016, and there ought to be more options for women's faces by now. How about resting "pensive" face? What happened to "silently praying for the subway to hurry up because I have to poop" face? Surely you've seen people with resting "trustworthy enough to ask for directions" face. What if we just want to rock our "headbanging to Smashing Pumpkins because despite all my rage I'm still just a rat in a cage" face?
Distilling the whole wide range of women's facial expressions into two columns, "bitch" and "not-bitch," undermines our range of emotions as a full and nuanced human beings.
In closing, if I'm making a bitch face (which I certainly do), it's for a goddamn reason. When I pull a face like Vivien Leigh, you better duck quick, cuz Imma throw a vase at your mantel. But, at the same time, I want to be able to relax my zygomaticaus major without making a major deal over it.
And I won't stop bitching about "resting bitch face" until it's put to rest.