Science proves the qualities determining what we all recognise as "rest bitch face" has no gender bias. Yet women get blamed for having it more than men. So we call bullshit on the patriarchy! And this time, science is on our side.
By
Shami Sivasubramanian

Source:
The Feed
4 Feb 2016 - 10:37 AM  UPDATED 4 Feb 2016 - 4:26 PM

Resting Bitch Face, or RBF, is a condition plaguing several people across the globe.

And by people, we mean women. Women who don't have a toothy grin plastered to their faces 24/7. 

The symptoms of RBF presents themselves as faux-paralysis over one's face, where one's neutral expression appears to be hostile, stiff, and unapproachable.

But a scientific study has revealed something rather interesting - the traits that determine RBF have no gender bias. So men and women both exhibit RBF in equal measure, and equally often.

To discover the source of RBF, Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, behavioural researchers with international research and innovation firm Noldus Information Technology, used state-of-the-art facial recognition to analyse celebrity resting bitch faces along with a series of neutral facial expressions. 

The software they used is called FaceReader and is unique to Noldus, which has the ability to recognise specific facial expressions by mapping 500 predetermined data points on any face. The system then runs this facial mapping through its catalogue of more than 10,000 images of human faces to assess for an expression. FaceReader can analyse faces through a live camera, video footage, and in still photography.

However the experiment didn't really find out what caused RBF. Instead the results just stated the obvious: people with RBF have expressions that show contempt, which is honestly what any garden variety psychologist or anyone who's watched the first season of Lie to Me (How good was that show, though?!) could tell you.

But one thing Rogers and Macbeth did discover is that their results noted equal instances of RBF in men and women. There was no gender bias in the software. Men are just as likely to have, and do have, RBF as much as women.

But more often than not, women are the ones accused of not smiling enough. 

In terms of gender role, roles that are bending and changing and breaking everyday, women are expected to appear happier. Smiley-er. 

Just look at what we call it - resting bitch face. Bitch is a sexist, female-directed insult, and for that to be associated with a cold facial expression, especially one that is worn by all sexes, points to how unfairly we treat the fairer sex. 

Take a look at the people the media frequently calls outs for having resting bitch face - Victoria Beckham, Anna Kendrick, Emma Roberts, and of course the reigning queen of RBF, Kristen Stewart.

Yes, Kanye West is often called out for his stoney grimace, but he definitely doesn't face (no pun intended) the level of scrutiny these women do.

Once again, we turn to science to explain why this happens. Studies show women tend to find men who don't smile more attractive than men who do. It's one of those caveman instincts. So, like, if a guy doesn't smile, he's more likely to be serious and focused on saving you and your babies from a giant wooly mammoth.

But men, however, find women who smile more attractive than those who don't. (The study makes no comment on same-sex attraction.)

So when Kanye has RBF he's hot. But when K-Stew has RBF she's a bitch. Aaaalrighty then.

Fortunately, all hope is not lost!

Many of our natural instincts and biologically predermined tendencies were the result of habits developed over time (Charles Darwin called it evolution, go figure). But these "habits" are influenced by culture and context. And just like any habit can be acquired, a habit can be broken, too.

We need to look at sexism (and racism, homophobia, ageism, and all the bad -isms really) like bad habits our society have gotten into. The thing is these habits are so deeply ingrained into our collective conscience, it's going to take some hard work to reframe our group psyche. 

But we have made some head way. We're more conscious of sexism, and the negative impact it has on all of us. And the more we talk about, the more conscious we are of our actions, the better we can train ourselves out of this bad habit.

So the next time you're affronted by a person whose lips sit like a negative parabola, by all means ask them if they are OK, but when they tell you they're fine - leave them the fuck alone.