There’s a thing, or a fake thing that turned into a real thing, or not a real thing but a fake thing that people shouted at women for having anyway, that is called Bitchy Resting Face.
it wasn’t coined until – amazingly – May of this year. Needless to say, it instantly grabbed the media’s attention. Truly, a titbit with such potential for female anxiety and self-loathing is like an iron filing to the media’s magnet. The term emerged in a public safety announcement video – and we’ll get back to this video in just a tick – in which several women discuss the terrible problem that afflicts so many of their gender: Bitchy Resting Face. “They might not be bitches at all – they might just have faces that look bitchy,” one of the films several narrators clucks sympathetically.
Uh huh. I’ve had that my whole life. I’ve actually explained to people on occasion that I’m not as horrible as I look. I am very horrible, admittedly, but not as horrible as I look.
The weirdest thing is the BRF does not actually exist: the video that coined the term was made by comedian Taylor Orci and is a joke, as some of you might have guessed from the very name BRF. Yet this has not stopped plastic surgeons eagerly offering cures for this non-existent problem. In this sense, BRF is the new cankles. Hail the new cankles! Someone wheel out the gilded easel and announce its arrival!
It’s the kind of joke that needs a Dan Cardamon, I think.
There’s another issue here: the original video doesn’t just talk about BRF. It addresses Resting Asshole Face, the male equivalent of BRF. Needless to say, that has not garnered anywhere near the amount of comment that BRF has. As far as I’m aware, Jon Hamm has not appeared on US talkshows apologising for his Resting Asshole Face as Anna Paquin did for her BRF. Nor has the RAF (with apologies to the Royal Air Force) featured in the Mail Online’s sidebar of shame whereas BRF has already become almost as much of a regular feature there as drool-splattered photos of 14-year-old girls looking “grown up for their years”. To be fair, RAF is made up. But then, so is BRF.
I know this one! I totally know it. It’s because men are supposed to look like that, and women aren’t. Men who look like that just look strong and reserved and maybe intimidating. Women who look like that look like evil witches kill them kill them kill them.
The reason BRF has attracted so much more attention than RAF is not just because it’s more instinctive for the media to mock women’s bodies – although there is that – but because, clearly, the former underlines the expectations on women. To be an acceptable woman is to be feminine and that means being compliant and smiley. It doesn’t matter how many Anne-Marie Slaughters or Sheryl Sandbergs out there tell women to be more aggressive, the current public image of businesswomen in this country is one who bakes cupcakes and who injects Botox, two things that would presumably help sort out any woman’s BRF.
All BRF means, really, is “not at that moment smiling”. And how dare a woman not do that all the time, right? Cheer up, love it might never happen! Female characters in books, movies and on TV are meant to be likeable and, as nymag.com points out this week, if they’re not, the problem is usually explained away as a medical problem (such as Homeland’s Carrie being bipolar.) If they’re simply difficult, grumpy or selfish in the way male characters are, they provoke outrage and astonishment in the way male characters never do (hello, Lena Dunham.).
Precisely. They even get men, total strangers, shouting at them on the street for not smiling. Really: they do. We do. I do. Remember that? Two years ago? That guy was seriously pissed off by the audacity of my walking past his house with a bitchy witchy resting face.