Since today is International Women’s Day I thought it would be a good time to finally write this discussion post that’s been in my head for awhile.
I recently learned about this thing called The Bechdel Test. I can’t remember who had mentioned it or where (my guess is Twitter – my guess is always Twitter) but I do remember immediately being curious about it. It’s most often used for movies but essentially what the test comes down to is three simple questions.
1) Are there at least two [named] women?
2) Do they talk to one another?
3) And do they talk to one another about something besides a man?
You would think this would be relatively easy to accomplish but I was shocked by just how many movies failed this test. I think the thing that really got me was how many movies in IMDB’s top 250 failed The Bechdel Test. These are the movies that everyone watches! There’s a great website that catalogues movies and their level of success at passing this test. That website also links to a lot of great websites and articles about the test.
So apparently the movies suck at representing women but what about books? What would it look like if I were to apply this test to books? So I thought I would take a look at some of the books I’ve read so far in 2013 and see if they pass or fail the test.
*Just to be clear – if a book fails the test I am in no way saying it is horrible and you shouldn’t read it. I just want to look at the trend of how women are portrayed as a whole.*
The Cadet of Tildor
There are multiple female characters. They talk to each other. And have more than one conversation that isn’t about a man.
There are multiple women characters and they do talk to one another. But their conversations always come back to the men in the story.
There are multiple women characters. But I don’t think they speak to one another and if they do it is most certainly about Nick.
City of a Thousand Dolls
This book has A LOT of female characters and they all talk to one another on a regular basis about a variety of subjects. (Yay!)
I think only a few minor female characters are named, none of them speak to one another.
Fail (I think?)
There are multiple female characters (though the others are quite minor) and they do talk to one another but I think all of their conversations are about the men in the story. Please correct me if I have forgotten something!
The Office of Mercy
Pass (with reservations)
There are multiple females characters and they do talk to one another about things other than the men BUT those conversations are pretty infrequent and quite short.
There are two female characters and they talk to one another. But their conversations revolve around R and Julie’s father.
There are two named females characters but they don’t interact one on one.
Strands of Bronze and Gold
There are multiple female characters. But all of their conversations are about Bernard.
So based on my own reading this year, it seems like books aren’t doing much better than movies. I’m curious about why this is the case and what leads people (whether consciously or subconsciously) to focus more on the male characters? Or alternatively limit the female character?
I’m curious to know if others have had a different experience with the recent reads. Maybe it’s just the type of books I’m picking up.
What books have you read recently that have either passed or failed The Bechdel Test?