For those of us whose faces don’t fall into a natural cheerful position, constantly smiling can be hard work. As Katy Waldman at Slate points out, non-natural smiling is what social scientist Arlie Hochschild calls “emotion labor,” the work of managing other people’s feelings with your affect. Girls are socialized to do it from the earliest age, Waldman notes–parents smile more at baby girls than baby boys, and girls as young as 5 are more likely than boys to cover disappointment with a socially-sanctioned fake smile.
BRF, I’ve discovered, has its advantages. I’ve traveled the world solo, and very rarely been bothered. While female friends with more friendly, open faces report the standard street harassment — cat calls, men badgering them for dates, butt pinching- – I float along in my own bitch-face bubble.