Active Bitch Face and Me

Sunday after Marine Corps Marathon. Happy, for all the things runners alway profess to be grateful for? No, its raining, and too early, and a 5K. ABF


Resting bitch face is real. The “science” has now declared it so. The articles give many examples of celebrity women, who are often photographed with a look of dissatisfaction, which is declared “neutral” and quite disquieting to the public at large, because in the age of media we need the smiling faces to reassure us that the paragons are all good with the state of the world, so that we can remain engaged and entertained. The man they use as an example happens to be Yeezy, and I find that to be apropos to the topic at hand, because of the intersection of race and gender. They look unhappy in situations where they should presumably be content. The “science” is faulty. Why? Because people lie.

No the WOD sucks, it really does! I love my cross fit people but I don't want to do it. ABF
No the WOD sucks, it really does! I love my cross fit people but I don’t want to do it. ABF

So, if my pictures are run through a computer programmed to detect emotions, and I state that my face just rests with a look of boredom, or dissatisfaction, or seriousness when I should have a neutral face—that is oxymoronically defined as having slight upturn of the mouth, which is a slight smile—then the computer diagnoses me with RBF. Scientifically sound right? Absolutely not, because I’ve repeatedly lied my ass off hundreds of times when asked about what my face was communicating. No computer can register what I’m thinking in any given moment when the camera flashes.

You know it's been a hell of a day if I'm with Steve Rogers and not smiling! ABF
You know it’s been a hell of a day if I’m with Steve Rogers and not smiling! ABF


What if, like everything about us, our facial expressions are complicated? Human evolution says we relied body language and non-verbal indicators before we developed language. A picture is said to be worth a thousand words, so why do we use three useless ones to describe a state of being that can be as complicated as we are? The need to condense the range of what goes on non-verbally with women is disturbing to me. If anything, we should be unpacking extensively what these faces are saying to us.


Kristen Stewart, chances are you haven’t eaten in decades, you probably workout to the point of exhaustion, 99% probability that you’re career is over before you can say Botox—or that nonsense you just recently spewed, and you don’t have anything interesting to say or do in the movies you are featured in. Yeah, I’d have that look on my face too.


Queen Elizabeth, yeah she’s the queen of a defunct monarchy and lives in England…nuff said.


Kanye , literally sings about how unhappy he can be.


What if leagues of RBF sufferers are just lying? Or are unaware, that their true emotions are showing?
As women we are socialized to smile, even when we are bored, unhappy, unsatisfied, or terrified. If we get caught out not smiling it’s so very easy to discount what we are truly feeling as Resting Bitch Face. Because that’s what we do, and lying about our true emotions is unfortunately very necessary to our success, and sometimes to our survival as women. So I don’t blame you for lying about it. I just wish we didn’t have to.


The danger of chalking those unhappy faces to RBF is just another list in a litany of things women do to appease. The consequences are dire. In the workplace, RBF can get you fired, passed over for promotion, or not hired in the first place.


Further, if a woman can get killed for actively refusing a man’s advances (R.I.P. Mary Spears and countless nameless others), how many survivors are out there blaming themselves, or worse, getting blamed for the violence committed against them, because of the look on their faces? I hear it all of the time, “I should’ve smiled. If I had, he wouldn’t have raped me.” Or from a perpetrator, “I hit her because of the look on her face!” Because of these realities, I am going to stop denying the shade I’m throwing.


RBF being a new “scientific” thing can and will be used against women. In the court of public opinion–this matters economically to most women when it shouldn’t–and in all likelihood a real courtroom. “Not so serious, it’s just an internet thing!” you say. Ask a social worker, lawyer, your friend who was raped. You’d be shocked how the seemingly innocuous has real world consequences; and the excuses people will use to make an already intolerable situation, worse.

Me, I’ll just say I’ve got Active Bitch Face. I’m the worst actress in the world. So “that look “ is probably communicating exactly what I’m feeling. Note: It’s precisely what I’m feeling in that particular moment, it can change in an instant. Anyone who runs with me knows this. I feel it’s so very important to own the darker side of my existence.

I hurt. ABF
I hurt. ABF and SE

I have to my detriment.


My ABF (Active Bitch Face–sometimes, but not always interchangeable with Angry Black Female. I noted FLOTUS and scores of other black women are not part of this discussion because we not be complex like that) has gotten me fired, and passed over for promotion, and not hired at all, and got me kicked to the curb in a veteran’s organization, and used against me during trial and, and, and…

I’m experimenting with the idea that ABF can be a force for good. My 40th birthday brought out the super “zero f*cks” version of me. I’ll keep you updated as to whether this works out.

ABF because!
ABF because!

Most importantly, I own my ABF for my mental health.

If I don’t own it, I’ll go crazy(ier.)


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