Hibou magazine is a student run journalistic outlet aiming to hold intellectualism at AUP accountable and to voice our critiques of and goals for the AUP community.

Putting the Resting Bitch to Sleep

Putting the Resting Bitch to Sleep

The term “Resting Bitch Face” first appeared in 2013. It has been closely linked to pop culture and made its debut in a YouTube video on the internet. As the name suggests, the Resting “Bitch” Face is more commonly associated with women than men. The Oxford English Dictionary defines “Resting Bitch” as follows:

bitch face  n. slang (derogatory and often offensive) (typically with reference to a woman) a sullen or scowling facial expression; (also in resting bitch face, abbreviated rbf) such an expression considered the natural or habitual cast of a person's features in repose. Often (and earliest) used as a general term of abuse.


The root of the word comes from the Old Norse word “bikkja” most commonly used as a troublesome woman, whereas in modern Norwegian “bikkja” means dog (of either sex). In the English language today, the word bitch can be referred to a female dog or an unpleasant woman. It is commonly linked to a woman’s facial expression. Therefore, the term is called resting “bitch” face as the word “bitch” is most commonly used to describe an unpleasant woman in modern English.

The behavioral researchers, Jason Rogers and Abbe Macbeth, with the help of the international research firm Noldus Information Technology, decided to examine the Resting Bitch Face. They created a “Face Reader” that examines people's emotions and an expression based on eight basic human emotions: happiness, sadness, anger, fear, surprise, disgust, contempt, and “neutral.” What they found out is that the “Resting Bitch Face” is, in fact, real. When a person has a cold seeming facial expression, people are more likely to perceive them as “bitchy.” They are more likely to pay attention to their facial expression rather than what they actually say.

What was even more shocking was the fact that the “Resting Bitch Face” is equally common in men and women, although people associate the expression with women.

The misogynist undertone that lingers in the term is, therefore, more closely related to a societal issue underlined by the expectation that women are expected to smile more than men.

Hibou sat down with four students in their 20’s, two boys and two girls, and asked them a single question. What is the resting bitch face to you?

“To me it’s just the frowning face you do when you don’t think. It’s just your neutral face. And oftentimes your neutral face is something that people take badly but your unaware that your of the angry face that your presenting to the world.”
“Resting bitch face refers to the scowling expression when you get a stupid question from someone.”
“It’s two things: It can be on purpose and I think, even though I don’t want to say just women, that most of the time women use this when they dont like someone, but 85% of me wants to say that it’s not on purpose at all; it’s just a neutral expression that you do unthinkingly and you just can’t help it. I think most of the time it’s a lot more of that than anything else.”
“I believe that the resting bitch face is a construct of humanity, as often times those who possess also possess strong convictions/opinions. When women are pensive often this can be construed as a bitch face. Since for time immemorial women’s opinions have been not valued the RBF is applied to ‘put them in their place,’ perhaps. This, of course is a sexist term, loaded with these connotations and history.”

The resting bitch face is a social construct, forged by the patriarchy and given wings by the public. It all boils down to the societal pressure on women to “smile more.” Women with ideas and opinions are, of course, intolerable.

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