"This is Just My Face"

Actress Kristin Stewart has the dubious honor of playing the poster child, but it can happen to anyone, especially women and minorities.

You're just sitting there, having a conversation or minding your own business, when someone tells you to smile. They accuse you of being uninterested, unhappy, even angry.

It's a phenomenon known in pop culture as "resting bitch face," but Patrice Fuller '16 looked into the psychology of the term and the accusation to explain how it really is a microaggression, based on misperceptions and assumptions, and often affecting people who are not members of the dominant culture.

Fuller explained that the phenomenon has its roots in cultural norms. Women in America are not "supposed to" be aggressive or assertive. Rather, they should be happy, warm and caring.

At the same time, other stereotypes apply to a variety of ethnic minorities, most commonly the notion that someone of a non-dominant ethnic group is "angry."

People, then, who exhibit characteristics outside of the norms, get tagged with negative perceptions that have far more to do with the perceiver than the reality.

Fuller has fallen victim to such assumptions, and she advises people to be more aware of the source of their perceptions.

After all, even facial expressions are a matter of individual culture and upbringing. In East Asian cultures, the eyebrow and mouth movements that mean so much in America are meaningless — expressions are conveyed in the eyes.

So before you accuse someone else of having “resting bitch face,” consider if maybe it’s just in your head.

Thursday, April 28, 2016