The Bechdel Test in Real Life

For some reason (I’m honestly not sure what brought this on) I’ve been thinking about how the Bechdel test relates to my everyday life. The Bechdel test is a simple way to determine how well women are represented in media, whether that’s in books, films or TV shows. The three rules of the Bechdel test are that 1) there are at least two named women that 2) talk to each other 3) about something other than a man.

Now many forms of media fail the Bechdel test but when you think about your everyday conversations – how can media fail such a simple test?!

Take the last three days for instance.

On Monday I had work with a group of about 40 children (both boys and girls) and I talked to them about the task they were doing (they were building a rollercoaster), I talked to my boss (who is a woman) about the work as well as other job opportunities next week, and I talked to the woman running the event about what she liked me to do. That portion of the day passed the Bechdel test. Later on I met with two friends (one male and one female) and we talked about a number of things including films, music, and the card games we were playing. I think the only time we directly talked about a man was when we talked about Peter Capaldi’s costume as the Doctor. This also passed the Bechdel test.

Now onto Tuesday. Lunchtime on Tuesday was probably something that could quite easily be seen in a book/TV show/film. I met with my best friend (who is also a woman) and over our lunch we talked about a number of things but only one directly related to a man. We talked about Empire’s X-Men: Days of Future Past covers, we talked about my incredibly screwed up sleep pattern, we talked about what we’d done over the weekend, about her work she’d done that day, and what I hoped to do in the library for the next few hours. The only mention of a man was when she told me about her Friday night out with friends (who were all men) in that story we talked about men who are friends, men who are possible partners and also about the annoying type of guys who blame a girl for not liking them back. So in an hour, one part of our conversation was about men therefore passing the Bechdel test. In my opinion that whole lunch conversation could easily be translated into media for some teen show or maybe even a chick-flick.

Finally today (in which I wasn’t that sociable). I had a meeting in which I was the joint chair with another woman and the other people in attendance were seven women and two men. Throughout that whole meeting the only times we may have talked about a man was in relation to the course he was teaching. In relation to time, it was probably less than ten minutes of the hours meeting spent talking about a man, the rest was to do with course content, university, and any good and bad things to do with their course.

So over the last three days I have passed the Bechdel test. Thinking about this in everyday life has made me realise how easy it is to pass the test and how wrong it is that so many forms of media don’t. Yes, during an hour lunch my best friend and I talked about men but we also talked about many other things. Yes, women talk about men, men they fancy, men they hate, men they are friends with, but we do talk about a lot of other things too. Media doesn’t show that, or it doesn’t show it enough. I am sure men talk about women just as much as women talk about men but media doesn’t show that. Men can talk about sports, or work, or films or books in media. Whereas, more often than not, women in media are reduced to just talking about men which is not true and not fair and something’s got to change.

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2 comments

  1. That’s. Really interesting way of looking at the test and a very eye opening one, really. You’re very right, and I’ve always believe it to be so, that’s it’s not difficult to pass the test. When the test only required such a brief encounter between two women, it’s terrible that every piece of literature, fiction and such don’t pass the test.

    I was watching a film the other day and lots of the minor roles were filled with me, when some of the roles would have been perfectly suited to women. I think that’s where there is some issue in film, etc. we focus ‘our’ time on having make characters instead of replacing some of them with women. Why have 4 men and 3 women when you can have 6 men and 1 woman?! That’s how it feels these days.

    Seeing how many things fail the test makes me feel more appreciative of the view of ethnic minorities wanting more exposure, even LGBT groups, if we can’t even get basic equality down what hope is there for everything else?!

    1. Yeah I’ve found that recently with films, so many background characters can be women – even something as simple as the barista in Starbucks cam be played by a woman so you can have that simple interaction count (although we shouldn’t be clutching at straws to pass the Bechdel test)
      Exactly! I remember reading a statisitc somewhere that even in crowd scenes in films men outnumber women 70% to 30% and when the amount of women grows to 40% of the crowd people (both men and women) consider there to be “a lot” of women even though they still don’t make up half – we’re all so used to being marginalised that we don’t really notice any more.

      Oh yeah – if we can’t even get half the population well represented then how are minorites going to have a fighting chance?!

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