True or false: My teenage sons love when I point out gender inequality or lack of diversity in movies to them, especially when I pause the DVD to do so.
False. They don’t love that. They roll their eyes and say, “Ugh, Mom, we get it.”
But as long as they’re in my home, I will make use of these teachable moments. As a mother of two white males, it’s my job to make sure they recognize what they might otherwise fail to see.
But I’m not here to get all preachy. I’ll save that for my sons. Instead I wanted to tell you about the Bechdel Test. Maybe you already know about it. After all, I’m a laggard. But I didn’t know the term until my social media bud, Audrey Kalman, mentioned it to me in a tweet. (Thanks, Audrey!)
The Bechdel test is an indicator of gender inequality. No, it is not scientific or precise, and the creators of it, Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace, do not claim it to be. In fact, it originated in Bechdel’s comic strip, where one of her female characters mentions she’ll only see a movie if it meets the following criteria:*
- The film has at least two women in it.
- The two women talk to each other.
- They talk to each other about something other than a man.
You can click the link above to read more about it or you can visit bechdeltest.com for a list of movies that have weathered the test.
Pass Or Fail?
This concept got me thinking: does my fiction pass the test? As a woman I surely hope so. But just in case, I did a mental run-through.
- First book: check. In The Seneca Scourge, Dr. Sydney McKnight talks to other women. Mostly about a lethal flu bug that turns patients’ lungs into goo.
- Second book: check. My public health nurse talks to other women in her quest to take on the food industry.
- Third book: che…um…uh-oh, wait a sec. My main character is a male medical student, and the story is told through his point-of-view. Do any of my minor female characters talk to each other about something other than men? Considering I don’t write romance, the chance is pretty high.
A quick brain scan of my first draft tells me yes, my female characters talk to each other, but not in lengthy dialogue. Given everything filters through my protagonist’s point-of-view, he must be present in the scene, and scenes work best when dialogue is limited to two people at a time. But I’m pretty sure I managed to pass the test.
I’ll let you know after I finish the second draft.
Do movies and books you enjoy pass the Bechdel Test? Writers, how about the stories you write?
*Information taken from Wikipedia. Now we need a quick screening test for diversity in fiction. But that’s a whole other blog post.
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