According to Jezebel, one of the leading feminist publications seen by the Western World, has covered the fact that the Oxford Dictionary has added the term “bitch face” to its dictionary. Because when my boyfriend and I play Scrabble and we can play all modern Romantic language and anything recognized by the Oxford Dictionary, I guess now we can play ‘bitch face!” It’s just another thing we can add to the words I can rack up in Scrabble to win on a Friday night, right?
Well, the word “bitch face” was defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “(Typically with reference to a woman) A scowling facial expression, especially as the natural cast of a person’s features.” In short, the Oxford Dictionary, which is basically my Scrabble Bible, now believes that some women look naturally bitchy. Furthermore, they believe that there should be some overarching word for this. So by the truest definition, those of us with this horrid “bitch face” all look like dogs when we’re not smiling and waving for the boys. But dogs are beautiful and are a man’s best friend, right?
Here’s the problem with the entire idea that “bitch face” is being recognized by the Oxford Dictionary: it says that women who are not trying hard enough to please some sort of outside party and therefore exercising facial muscles look naturally mean and this is bad. That I need to be pretty and nice looking for some reason that no one really seems to want to explain to me. Why? Because well, no one wants to be called a bitch; it’s not a very nice word at the end of the day. It’s a term that can mean many things: mean, rude, stupid, weak, etc. So, this really is the legitimization of the idea that we women who do have to work a little bit harder to look cheery, like I do, really need to focus on “smiling because you look so much nicer that way.”
There is absolutely nothing wrong with looking like a nice person. There’s nothing wrong with my midwest, small town charm coming out when I smile and say hello to someone as they pass me on an empty street. There’s nothing wrong with being a woman, or even a person that is naturally inclined to be very friendly and move to be kind to other human beings. However, at the end of the day, I do not live and breathe to be nice to you and I am not required to look like a kind human being. My dream is to take a drill, a Bovie Tip, and my education to cut open your child’s skull and fix their bleeding aneurysm because I want to be a pediatric neurosurgeon. As much as I know everyone may want a nice surgeon, in the end, I think you want one that is competent in the event that you must choose between the two. The same goes for any field; if anyone is handling anything of any value to you, you, as a rational human being, prefer competency to kindness. You don’t like it if the IT guy is rude as he is helping you fix your computer, but you can get past that if you have a paper due in the morning and haven’t finished. So why does what a woman’s face look like at all, or even if she looks hard and cold, even matter?
The manifestation of this word being recognized by a dictionary so important as the Oxford Dictionary shows tells more about our cultural practices than the dictionary. People who added this word believe that this behavior is okay when at the end of the day it isn’t. Sure, I suppose you could tell me, “You’re not fighting for men. You’re not a real feminist! What about the word ‘manspreading?’” Well, think about it: the only people who open their legs like that are men and if they would stop the behavior, you could probably get a seat on the subway. Besides, men and women alike can look naturally mean but, “bitch face” looks particularly, if not solely, at women. A little prejudice against men to close their legs would help you get a seat on the subway after you have worked an 8 hour night shift all you want is the sweet taste of your pillow. A little prejudice against women for having “bitch face” could cause someone to go to their manager and say that a woman who isn’t smiling may be creating a hostile work environment and cause her to be reprimanded for not exercising her facial muscles in a particular way. And really, when did that kind of thing become okay?
We need to talk about the type of problems that exist in our societies. That is definitely a given. These problems need to be fixed. In order to discuss something, we do need to give names and labels to the types of behaviors we see and want to see more of and even those we hate and want to disappear altogether. But at the end of the day, we are moving backwards as we continue to create, and allow the creation of, misogynistic words. Did Oxford Dictionary forget that it’s 2015?
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