Resting B!@*h Face, should be called Safety Face. We need to see it for what it is and categorise it correctly. This is the outcome of observations I have made after working in hospitality for four years. Because everyone does a version of this, especially women.
In the current discussion on women in the workplace, I wish to add my five cents. In my working environment, I have watched on as fellow workers force themselves to be polite. At the same time, I watch customers act in the most impolite and outlandishly aggressive ways.
The worst often occur to young women who have not learned to wear the visual and verbal tones required. They are not hardened up to the abuse that will come their way. When it does occur it eventually brings them to tears.
Crying on the Telephone
I can tell you a tale which I was a part of. Between the customer ordering over the phone, and myself delivering to the customer a mistake was made. Food was either not packed or not prepared at all.
Arriving back from the delivery the young woman who was taking phone orders that night was crying. I was given the food to deliver and told to be quick about it. The customer accepted the remainder of his order (chips and a coke) and I returned to the store.
That same customer had abused the young woman for a mistake she did not make. Meanwhile, I was only greeted gruffly. He abused her over chips and a drink, said nothing to me. It was my first experience of the double standard expected of hospitality workers and customers. One that in my experience inflicts its venom on women more than men.
How do women survive this treatment? The woman who was on the phone that night does not work hospitality anymore. Those who have survived their share of abuse, both male and female have defensive tactics to ward off the abuse.
For some, it is a polite sing song voice. Others use a curt tone suggesting you better not cause any trouble. It runs the gamut from the Australian standard “How ya goin’!” and the monosyllabic “yeah mate.”. All with differing physical and vocal attributes to suggest familiarity, apathy, neutrality, right up to vailed aggression.
While for some women the sing song voice is the default. Eventually most gain a variant of resting b!@*h face. Of course, this does not occur to just those working in hospitality. Because we have all seen and used resting b!@*h face in one form or another.
For a while, I thought about where and when I use similar tactics. I would like to think that I am not alone here in analysing the use of safety faces. We use them every day. It is just that some safety faces are there for reasons other than everyday social interaction.
Safety Face Survival
Women use the blank, neutral, sneer, and scowl facial modes as a default because it works. They dissuade and negate certain types of people. You know the type. Those who think a smile means more than a smile. The kind who think a little poke and a nudge will end up in the right direction.
A safety face is something you gain as you grow up. An extra defense in social survival, especially when confronted with certain people and how they expect the interaction to go. How we respond to these advances is vital to a safe conclusion.
It is good to struggle over how to remove misogyny, racism, and other forms of oppressive behaviours. Yet there are little parts of our social world that we also need to acknowledge. Changing resting b!@*h face to safety face in my opinion is one of them. Not just because of the slur on women it so easily insinuates, but the assumption that only women or those who are not in control or powerful need to use it.
Phillip Hall has been too long in Melbourne to see AFL in the same light as those back in Fremantle. East Fremantle born and bred, he would love to see the Dockers back in the eight. But would settle for just beating West Coast twice a year.