What is the Bechdel Test, Anyway?

In 1985, Alison Bechdel published an installment in her comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In it, two women discuss seeing a movie together, to which one woman says she only sees a movie if it satisfies three rules:

  1. It has two women,
  2. Who have a conversation,
  3. About something other than men.

She then says that the last movie she was able to see under these restrictions was Alien, which premiered in 1979, six years prior to the comic strip. While this strip was published as a tongue-in-cheek observation of the entertainment we consume, the Bechdel (BEK-dell) test has gained popularity in recent years as a legitimate trial of not only women's representation in movies, but also what roles they assume in fiction and how much of the story is based around something other than the men in their lives. As time has gone on, several amendments to the original rules have been added, such as:

  1. The women must be named characters.
  2. The conversation must last for at least a minute.
  3. Conversations about romance or children almost always also implicate men, so these conversations also do not pass.

There is some debate about that last rule; some say that a conversation about a male client or patient is different from "Isn't being married and having 2.5 children the PERFECT life?"

These rules sound very simple, and that's because they are. They offer no moral or ethical input. It does not matter what "kind" of male the women are talking about, whether it's their romantic interest, relative, or coworker. Nor does it matter what subject the women discuss, even if it is blatantly misogynistic. The conversation the two women have at the beginning of "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot passes the test. "Oh my God, Becky, look at her butt!" Instead, it asks us, are we able to produce (and consume) media that portrays women who are able to have their own stories, separate from the stories of men?

Next time you are reading a book, watching a movie or a TV show, try to apply these rules. See how much of your entertainment is devoid of men. The results will probably surprise you.

                                                                                                         (Source: Wikipedia)