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The Bechdel Test
What is it?
The Bechdel Test, also known as the Bechdel rule or Bechdel’s law, is a test devised in the mid 1980’s by cartoonist Alison Bechdel (creator of Dykes to Watch Out For) to identify gender bias in fiction.
This test has been applied most often to movies, but it can be used to gauge all works of fiction.
To administer the Bechdel Test, simply answer these questions about the work:
- Are there at least two women? (That have a significant role with lines, names, etc.)
- Do these women talk to each other?
- Is their conversation about something other than a man?
The idea is that if the answer to all three of these is not a resounding “yes!”, then the work of fiction has failed to adequately represent women.
“Passing or failing the test is not an ironclad guarantee of well-rounded, feminist, characterisation but it is indicative of the problems of token women characters.” (x) The test attempts to identify works of fiction in which women are given the same treatment as men. Are there exceptions to the test that cannot hope to pass based on reasons that are not at all sexist? Yes! Does that mean this test is invalid? I certainly don’t think so.
Why is this test worth knowing?
You tell me. Is it worth representing women as something other than mute, friendless rewards for men after those men have done enough violence the the “bad guys”? If so, then you may want to ask yourself the Bechdel Test’s three most basic questions about your characters as you write your stories.
Links related to the Bechdel Test:
- Bechdel Test Movie List
- Useful Notes: The Bechdel Test
- The Smurfette Principle
- Dykes to Watch Out For’s comic strip outlining the Bechdel Test
- Colin Stokes: How Movies Teach Manhood
- Wikipedia: The Bechdel Test
- Geek Feminism Wiki: Bechdel test
- 10 Famous Films That Surprisingly Fail The Bechdel Test
- The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies