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Perhaps like me, you have seen women of all ages react to something they see in a strange way.  I have kept close note of this phenomenon recently and almost without exception note that women tend to place their hand over their mouth when scared or shocked, or see something particularly upsetting.  We witnessed this when former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton covered her mouth as she watched Navy Seals execute Osama Ben Laden, although she blamed it on allergies.  We even see this gesture when beauty pageant contestants are crowned.  The question is why do women do this?


According to body language experts it is called the “pacifier gesture”.  It’s like a kid sucking his thumb.  When our hands go up and touch our mouths it is saying to ourselves, “It’s OK, it’s safe”.  It’s like our mother giving us a hug.  It says that we will get through this just fine.

Some experts say that when females witness a terrible accident, hear bad news, or are in disbelief, putting their hands over their mouth is physically expressing that they can’t emotionally take anything else in at that point.  Males seldom make the same gesture, but will place their heads in their hands instead.  This is called a “face palm”.

This female body language gesture may have some roots in the ancient 
Chinese custom which forbade females from showing the insides of their mouths.  It was considered uncouth, thus they covered their mouths with their hand when yawning or eating. Thus, they tended to keep their mouths shut at all times.  I think it might be a good thing to resurrect this custom today.


Although men don’t usually cover their mouth with their hand they may use a softer version of this, as the man in the boardroom who puts his pointy finger over his lips and his hands on this chin.  He is expressing basically the same emotion as the female putting her hand over her mouth.


The body language gesture universally used around the world when we are scared is opening our mouths in an oval shape and raising our eyebrows.  One body language expert explains, “This gesture is in our DNA.  It doesn’t matter if you’re black, white, or Hispanic, from Iraq, Zimbabwe, or Chicago.”


It would seem to me that the had-over-mouth gesture in women is also in their DNA as well.  Make a conscious note of how often you see women do this.  Sometimes they will place both hands over their mouths in a particularly severe moment.  Perhaps this has its roots in the old Chinese adage of the three monkeys’ “hear no evil, “see no evil”, and “speak no evil”, with their hands covering their ears, eyes, and mouth.  Perhaps the ladies are unconsciously saying, “I had better keep my mouth shut at this moment, for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.”  Now, with that I can heartedly agree.







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