Recently, Sweden began utilizing the Bechdel test to analyze its movies. Invented by queer cartoonist Allison Bechdel, the Bechdel test asks three questions of a movie:
1) Are there two named female characters?
2) Do they talk to each other?
3) ...About something other than a man?
Now, a few weeks ago I read an article in the Washington Post (I couldn’t find it online, sorry!) relating this information and criticizing it by mentioning that there are plenty of “feminist” movies that wouldn’t pass the test and plenty of degrading ones that would (most “chick flicks” come to mind- besides men, shopping and weight are favorite topics amongst today’s bimbos).
So, to Washington Post reporter, I have to say this. The Bechdel test is not a feminism sensor, but it does have a feminist message. Firstly, it reminds us to look for where the women are. Feminism is the fundamental act of asking where and who “the women” are. This evaluation only determines if there is a minimal female presence in a film, not if those women are intelligent, respected or complex individuals. However, when audiences see how few mainstream films really pass this test, I’m guessing that some hard questions will arise.
The root of this problem is not only what’s happening in the world and on the screen, but rather, who is behind the camera. Call it the glass ceiling, call it the downfall of working mothers, call it personal choice, but it is undeniable that fewer women are telling the stories we read and watch and hear. While a female director is not a cure all (trust me, women can spout internalized sexism as much as the next bigot misogynist), the more stories we consume that are created by women, the more likely it will be to have a female protagonist, or focus on women’s lives and struggles.
So yeah, thanks for reading and I promise to post more! Thanksgivvukah and the JOFA conference should be coming your way soon!