Resting Pit Face
Posted at 04:07PM - Comments: (25)
So, there’s an expression that was coined in 2013, and which is defined by Wikipedia as “a term for a facial expression (or lack thereof) which unintentionally appears angry, annoyed, or irritated.” More to the point, it’s usually used to describe a woman who looks annoyed, and is sometimes shortened to its initials, “RBF.” You can guess what the “B” is for. It rhymes (more or less) with the headline.
The thing is, the usual defense against being accused of having or making a Resting B**** Face is, “It’s just my FACE! I’m not doing anything!” In other words, sometimes people (often women) are accused of looking irritated, but, in fact, they may be completely un-irritated, just spacing out. It’s just their face.
I’m talking about this because it popped into my head the other day that I now have a dog who has the canine equivalent of RBF. We’re going to have to call it “resting pit face” – the face of a pit bull (or any bully breed with a blocky head) who is actually quite relaxed but expressionless. It’s the face of a pit-mix who is neither happy, anxious, tired, interested, affectionate, mad, or expressing any other emotion. It’s just a dog with a neutral expression who nonetheless strikes people as looking scary, aggressive, irritated, or “mean.”
Look at my pit/Lab-mix, Woody. This is him just sitting there, thinking nothing. Does he look scary to you? He looks scary to some people. But it’s just RPF. This is just his face. He’s exuding zero emotion. He’s not annoyed. But he (and thousands of other bully-breed dogs with RPF) get instantly judged as potential threats based on their physiognomy – what their heads and faces look like.
When I take Woody places, I see people see him and do a double take. He gets an extra look. People are cautious about RPF.
It’s true that when Woody puts a happy expression on, no one thinks he’s a threat. His happy face is super happy; his lips turn up and his ears go loosely back, his eyes get squinty and soft, and his whole body wiggles and smiles. But it’s too bad that he (and the thousands of pit-mixes in shelters) have to sort of act like fools like this in order for people to get that they are nice dogs.
Some day Woody will grow up; I wouldn’t expect that as an adult dog that he will still be so wiggly and goofy every time he meets a new person. If he’s calm and well-behaved as an adult – if he’s doing everything I would expect my fuzz-faced mutt, Otto, to do when he meets a new human, that is, sitting politely and calmly – will people think he’s mean?