Tuesday, October 25, 2016


Yesterday I attempted a social experiment on Facebook. It's rare that I post anything other than event stuff, pictures/anecdotes about the kids, or plugs for things I'm enjoying watching or listening to. But after a day of stewing I just felt compelled to speak out. And the results were fascinating.

To give the back story, the band played Denver this weekend. As always I was seated on stage when not singing, which is about 2/3 of the time (three hour evening). As often happens there wasn't much room on stage so I was kind of hidden behind a speaker, which makes what happened next all the more ironic.

Monday morning I wake up to an email sent to me and the bandleader cautiously advising that the writer (an older man guessing by his name, Hal - I don't know anyone under 65 who uses this nickname) had some criticism of me that "might sting" so don't read the email if I don't want to hear it. He said when I'm singing I am engaging and lovely, but when sitting on stage I look so bored and depressed that it puts a damper on the whole evening "for the whole audience" (ie the one or two people he bullied into agreeing with him) and that in future he suggests that I get seated somewhere out of view of the audience or off stage.

You know, because a woman's non-smiling, normal resting face is so upsetting to men that they need it to be removed from their existence so they can continue the fantasy that every woman in the room lives to please them and make them feel wanted and comfortable.

At first I took it as a (semi) legit criticism because I have actually been accused of this before...and so has every other singer I've ever mentioned this to. But the BF assured me this was just some old crank and to forget about it. "Fuck that guy" was his exact phrasing, as was my bandleader's when I texted him about it.

But as the day went on and I kept ruminating about it, it occurred to me that this was a uniquely female problem - your appearance, indeed your very essence, being criticized and commented on by men - in particular, men's constant exhortations that we smile more because we'd look so much prettier. And that this guy wasn't just an old crank but a gross chauvinist who felt he just had to put me in my place. For not being open, smiling, and giving the appearance of being sexually available, non-stop for three hours. Before long, I was boiling over with rage.

So I posted on Facebook, with the explanation that yes, I have a Resting Bitch Face, and gee, where do you think that came from? Maybe a lifetime of sexual harassment and intrusion? Did you ever think of that?

Not surprisingly, all of the women got it, but many of the men did not. That no, I did not post this to have everyone say, "but you're so pretty and talented!" nor "ahh screw that guy, why are you getting all worked up over some idiot? Forget about it!" I wanted people - men in particular - to really think about how they see, think about, and treat women. Really, really think about it. Why is a woman not smiling so offensive to you? Why should a fat woman cover her body and act ashamed of herself? Why is there something wrong with a woman who won't wear makeup, or skirts, or heels?

I think I may have reached a couple of people. In which case I did my job. But you know, I've been doing a lot of reading of/listening to Lindy West lately, and she's really inspired me. I feel like I don't want to be silent anymore. Women endure these stupid little aggressions every day of our lives and are so used to it we don't even think about it anymore. But you know what would be awesome? If maybe we mentioned it every time it happened so people would see how ubiquitous it is and how it's time to make a change. Instead of just "fuck that guy".

But really, fuck that guy. The sooner these aging chauvinists (I'm looking at you, Donald Trump) drop dead the better off we'll all be.

I've decided this is my new "sitting on stage face":



  1. Right on! Thanks for a great post.

  2. Here, here.

    Luckily, I never get anything said about smiling. I think I scare them too much. And I will preface my upcoming rant with ... I work in construction.

    But every review I have had has always said something about me being less "brusque" or "need to tone it down". But if I do, every man in the room ignores me. They pay attention if I am yelling and cursing them out. And every new man I meet, I have to prove myself and my credentials... again and again and again. Sigh. Last year, sitting across the table from two men who told me I need to tone it down, I FINALLY after 20 years I asked how many men they had made that same comment to. Stopped them in their tracks. We'll see how this year's review goes. :)

  3. Yes, I totally agree and have been there! I have been accused of looking "like my dog died" while dancing out with friends, for one example.

    I will say that because you are on stage I feel like this isn't as straightforward as the typical "you should smile more" situation. A wonderful grad school professor once told us that when on stage but not permforming (be it speaking, presenting, singing), we should look at the person in the spotlight as though they are the most interesting/talented thing in the room. So we don't have to smile, necessarily, but we do owe them the respect of our polite attention. There's a chance that's not what Hal meant, but maybe...