Space for Rent: I Failed the Bechdel Test

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And I don’t care.

Or at least I shouldn’t.

After all as explained by this video from Feminist Frequency:

And the helpful folks who commented on this blog post, it is about the system and not the individual movie or book.

And yet….

I don’t know. True, it clearly shows a discriminatory pattern in movies, comics, games and books (at least genre books). The male perspective dominates even when women are the only ones “on screen”. But how do you break this pattern? The simplest answer is to create works that meet the test. And it is a very simple test. To reiterate:

In order to pass, the film or show must meet the following criteria:

  1. it includes at least two women*
    (some make the addendum that the women must be named characters)

  2. who have at least one conversation
  3. about something other than a man or men.*
    the exact interpretation of this can vary; some feel that it’s okay to mention a man or men so long as they’re not the primary subject of the conversation, while others will demand a conversation where men aren’t mentioned at all

I think point #3 is the real rub. Even in stories where the lead is female, as in my current serial(s) the subjects still revolve around men and women relationships with them regardless of whether or not a man is present in the room. The reason that it bugs me is the same reason why it seems you can’t have a travelogue show without a Westerner to translate all this “foreign” culture to the TV audience back home (the Robinson Crusoe principle) and many other situations/tropes where the minority/under represented group is not allowed to speak by itself.

Now, on individual pieces of work, say a stand alone movie or book, I can understand ignoring the test, since shoehorn it in smacks more of tokenism than anything else, but unless your book series or video game is told/experienced exclusively from the first person male perspective, there is no excuse for it. I mean it strains the bounds of credibility that women will a) never have a conversation among each other in over a 100 episodes/three or more books, and b) that conversation has to be exclusively about men (I give it a pass if men are mentioned but not the main focus of the conversation).

It still bugs me though when it comes to my own work. Ignorance may breed competent, but awareness, however superficial tends to grow on you like an bad itch.  At least the test succeeded in that, in nothing else.


4 comments on “Space for Rent: I Failed the Bechdel Test

  1. I always took #3 to mean don’t talk about men as the focus of romance or sex. Like, you could mention that your brother was adopted, but swooning over your latest crush would be a no no.

    I mean, if I’m talking to my coworkers, and I say something like “My (male) boss is really nice, he’s giving me a week off even though he doesn’t have to,” am I talking about a man? I wouldn’t consider it to be so. Perhaps because he’s not the focus of the conversation.

    It’s definitely something good to keep in mind when writing, but throwing women and conversations in that don’t fit or don’t feel natural in the world will likely not end well.


  2. Very interesting. I didn’t even know this test existed. Awesome. I wasn’t able to view the video from work (firewall blocks Youtube) so I checked it out as soon as I got home.


    • Feminist Frequency has some interesting videos, even if I don’t agree with all the salient points. As for the test, I stumbled across it on one of my many journeys through TV Tropes. 😀


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