In cartoonist Alison Bechdel’s comic strip, “Dykes to Watch Out For,” a character voiced an idea that would later become the Bechdel test. The Bechdel test can be applied to any work of fiction — though it is most commonly used to analyze films — to uncover gender biases.

 

To pass the Bechdel test, a work of fiction has to have a minimum of two women who talk to each other about something besides a man. While passing or failing the test cannot determine the presence or absence of feminist characterization in individual fictional works, it reveals disturbing trends in mass media — a shocking number of films fail the test.

 

"Pulp Fiction" is one among many films that fail the Bechdel test. (wikipedia.org)

“Pulp Fiction” is one among many films that fail the Bechdel test. (wikipedia.org)

At first, Bechdel was hesitant about her idea accruing so much popularity, but she recently shared an embracing of the idea in a blog post, claiming, “I’ve been trying to embrace the phenomenon. After all, the test is about something I have dedicated my career to: the representation of women who are subjects and not objects.”

 

Bechdel is not alone in embracing the test: last year, Sweden began rating movies based on gender, using the Bechdel test as a gauge, to push for fair gender representation and equality. Director of Bio Rio, a trendy Stockholm art-house cinema, Ellen Tejle stated, “the goal is to see more female stories and perspectives on cinema screens.”

 

“The Social Network,” “Pulp Fiction,” and the “Lord of the Rings” movies all fail the Bechdel test. While the test can’t help to develop a strong feminist analysis of a film, it will hopefully incite larger conversations to spark a more fair representation of individuals — regardless of gender identification — across media.

 

Do you think that the three questions asked by the Bechdel test are enough to reveal gender representation? Let me know below in the comments or on Twitter @ryanlawlessness