living with chronic neutral face

Living with Chronic Bitch Face by Kris Atomic

Something I have really started to notice recently is whenever post a candid picture of Gwen with a neutral expression on her face, someone always has to make a comment about her mood based on her appearance. “She’s so grumpy!” “She must be tired/need a nap/have just woken up.” “Why is she so serious?” But like…. THAT’S JUST HER REGULAR FACE. THAT’S WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE. She’s not mad or sleepy or cranky (if she was you’d know because she’d probably be yelling), she’s just existing in the world as a girl.


I say “girl” specifically because something I HAVEN’T noticed are these kind of comments directed at little boys. Obviously I don’t post pics of any little boys because I’m not a mom to any, BUT I have been looking after little boys professionally for close to a decade. I literally can’t ever remember anyone saying something about their mood in the same way (unless they are actively throwing a fit) and I get the same remarks about Gwen’s emotional state from acquaintances and strangers in public as I do on pictures. I’ve also seen similar comments on photos of other children with neutral expressions, saying they look “sad” or “miserable,” and it’s ALWAYS little girls. Who knows, maybe this DOES happen with little boys, but the fact that people go around telling women to smile but not men kind of makes me think it doesn’t, or at least it isn’t as common.

Stop Telling Women to Smile by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh

So I’m curious: the people making these remarks: do you go around in your daily life with a maniacal grin plastered on your face 24 hours a day? Do you always look super cheerful no matter what you are doing: walking down the street, reading or watching tv, concentrating on a task, sitting quietly doing nothing? Do you never just allow your face to relax? If you do (of course you do; everyone does) does it bother you when people tell you to “smile” or “cheer up”? Can you live? Can Gwen? Why is it that little girls are supposed to look happy all the time? Is it because our society values women & girls only for their appearance, as decoration, as objects? Can we not start putting these expectations on children before they are even out of diapers? Can we stop telling girls to smile?

7 Replies to “living with chronic neutral face”

  1. No, I’ve never heard such comments about my two sons. Not once. The only comparison I have is that my youngest son is very pale and, due to the shape of his eyes, you could see purple-y veins underneath, giving him a “black eye” appearance. People commented on that all the time, and I eventually started replying, “No, those are just his eyes.”

    I’ve never thought she looked “serious” or “grumpy.” I’ve thought she looks like a little girl. I find this discussion very interesting, and I’ve shared your on my blog’s FB page in hopes of sparking even more discussion.

    Thank you for writing this post, Tanie.

    1. I was kind of hoping you’d weigh in, with your two boys. One thing I find especially interesting is that some of the people who’ve assumed she was grumpy are friends of mine who have themselves expressed annoyance or anger at being told to smile. THIS THING GOES VERY DEEP.

  2. Me and my girls have more of a “resting I am moderately pleased face” so I haven’t personally experienced this but I think it’s definitely true that girls are expected to be more smiley. I have the problem of weird posed / maniacal grin photos of them now at ages 5 and almost 3, haha.

  3. YEEESSSS. As a person afflicted with RBF I wholeheartedly approve of this message and want to shout it from the rooftops. Women, in particular, are always expected to be smiley, kind-natured, caretakers, blah blah blah – it all falls under the same bucket. This is why women who negotiate hard are then disrespected by their respective bosses. We are not supposed to have negative emotions. FUCK SOCIETY AND ITS MOMMY COMPLEX. Ugh.

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