October 19, 2017

Catcalling, Smiling, & RBF

brains over blonde RBF
Outfit deets below. Photo by Victoria Johansson Egneby
Half a block from my Santa Monica apartment, right outside my favorite coffee shop (that just so happens to double as a wine bar), there’s a popular hangout area for the local homeless fellows. They see me walk by almost every day, and I guess maybe in their head, they think they know me. Everyone who actually does know me would tell you that I don’t have the common phenomenon known as “Resting Bitch Face” (RBF). Quite the opposite actually; I can’t stop smiling. People used to call me “Smiley” growing up. If you don’t believe me, just check out any “serious face” photo of me… it’s awkward af. So naturally, when we first moved to LA, the local homeless cohort probably found me relatively friendly and smiley. And maybe if they shot me a hello, I’d smile and say hello back. No big deal.

But pretty quickly, our friendly smile routine started to escalate

“Hello” turned into “Smile for me, baby.” Uh, what? I don’t take orders from strangers. Especially ones that have to do with my own body. And I’m CERTAINLY not your “baby.” LOLLL. Ew. In the days following I got “Give me a smile” and “You’re so much prettier when you smile.” You know, all the things women hear on the reg as we walk around. All the comments that make our skin crawl and make us feel unsafe. So (naturally), I started walking by briskly, head down, on my phone with headphones in. I heard some heckling over the sound of my podcast, but I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, and I didn’t care. Then I heard a yell…

“You BITCH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

So now I find myself feeling uncomfortable and violated walking out of my own apartment. My annoyed face is just as expressive as my smile – and I’m not one to hide when I’m annoyed (you see that shit alllll over my face) – which, of course, only makes the heckling worse. So now, more than once, I’ve had to walk around the entire block to avoid the harassment.

If we do smile we’re punished. If we don’t we’re punished.

Not every smile or hello on the street is a creepy catcall, but many are. Sometimes I like to give a smile to brighten someone’s day. But sometimes I give a smile and immediately hate myself afterward. You know the difference. We’re punished for smiling, but we’re also punished when we don’t. Most women I know don’t give the smile in the first place. And that’s perfectly fine. Maybe you don’t feel like engaging, or maybe you’re zoned out thinking about what you want to have for din. Maybe you had an awful day. Or perhaps, like many women, you had a troubling experience after being friendly to a stranger, and you don’t want to put yourself at risk again. Guess what? This doesn’t make you a bitch. It certainly doesn’t warrant someone calling you out for RBF. In fact… your RBF was probably pretty intentional. Like, ya, I was trying to look unapproachable so you wouldn’t approach me… but here you are.

The problem with Resting Bitch Face (RBF)

I’ll be honest, I used to think RBF was a hilarious term. I remember piling onto the couches in my sorority, loling about one of my best friends Devin’s notorious RBF. I’d use RBF myself (it saved me from so many convos I didn’t want to be a part of). I know it’s kinda funny, but here’s the deal. I think we should stop using the term. Men are never told to smile. And if they’re not smiling, we don’t call them a douche or say they have RDF (Resting Douche Face). The root of RBF comes from the misogynistic assumption that women should always be happy and smiley. Women don’t have real feels and thoughts and emotions. Women should smile for others’ enjoyment and entertainment. And if for a moment we don’t smile, we’re a bitch. Women are guilty of this too. Have you ever seen a woman that wasn’t smiling and thought she was a bitch? I have.

No one should ever tell you to smile

You do you boo boo. You NEVER have to engage in unwanted conversation. I don’t care if you’re scowling, head down, with headphones blasting. I don’t care if you look like a little ray of pitch black. You’re not a bitch, society is.

PSA: Women don’t need to be polite to someone who’s making them uncomfortable

It’s your body, it’s your smile, and you do what you want with it. Anyone that tries to tell you differently can goest & fucketh thyself. brains over blonde rbf
PLZ share your smiliest and bitchiest stories in the comments below.  

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