What’s Sex Got To Do With … Smiling?

According to Urban Dictionary, Chronic Bitch Face is a syndrome suffered by females. It is “when a female has facial features that make her look like a bitch, when she might not be a bitch at all”. As Andrea Dworkin and Catherine MacKinnon point out in Kristen Barber’s Sex and Power, “women come to understand their role within hetero-sex as passive and accommodating” (45). Because of Chronic Bitch Face and heteronormativity, women are asked to “smile” by men.


Comedian Nikki Glasser talks about the bizarreness of this. Although I do not necessarily believe that when asked by a man to smile, it is indicative of rape, I do see Glasser’s point in how this is indicative of male dominance. She states that if another woman were ever to tell her to smile, it would be blatantly weird, and this is because Glasser and this other women are seen as equals. On the other hand, if another man tells a woman to smile, the woman automatically smiles. Not only does the woman automatically smile, but this is also a norm in society. Women don’t tell other women to smile. Men don’t tell other men to smile. Women especially don’t tell men to smile. It’s almost always the man asking a woman to smile. This is largely due to male dominance and male privilege. Pat Califia explains in Barber’s piece, “patriarchy controls women and limits their freedom” (45). Telling a woman to smile is an invasion of privacy. The man is essentially telling the woman that her appearance isn’t good enough and that women should appear to be happy all the time. This ties back into Chronic Bitch Face. If a woman does not look happy, she is automatically assumed to be a bitch.

So, how do we as a society fix this connotation that women whose resting face looks angry are “bitches”?

One thought on “What’s Sex Got To Do With … Smiling?

  1. Unfortunately, I don’t think there is a solution to this so-called “problem.” Resting bitch face syndrome will never go away- unless everyones resting face becomes a smile somehow. Regardless, I think that resting bitch face syndrome first stemmed from an insecure guy who was interested in a girl and she probably wasn’t interested back, therefore he came up with this term to convince himself that all girls are naturally just “bitches.”


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