A Bechdel Test for Life.

Hanging out with a couple of my girlfriends the other night, I realized something startling and somewhat disheartening… our conversation was all about men.

Yep, solely revolving around guys. Dating and love and problems and hopes and stories, but all about men and their influences on our lives.

The conversation went on long enough with this male-centric focus, that I started to get uncomfortable. And sad. Here I sat with a couple very smart, creative, interesting women. Could we really have nothing else to talk about? Nothing about us as independent individuals?

Via: alyceparis.com
Via: alyceparis.com

How much of this disappointment is a result of the fact that I am not dating anyone currently? Most likely, a lot. I have nothing to contribute to boy-talk right now. I know when I have a relationship developing or am in one, I sometimes need to talk things out with my girls. And certainly when it is someone exciting and new and I’m in full twitterpated mode, I want to gush on excessively about it.

This isn’t me saying I don’t want to talk about romance with my friends. Love and the optimistic pursuit of it is an important element in life and in female friendships.

I just want to make sure my life doesn’t turn into a live-action version of a Bechdel Test fail.

– – – – – – – –

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the Bechdel Test, it is a way of quickly analyzing how multi-dimensionally women are portrayed in a work of fiction (most commonly movies).

If a story meets the following three simple rules, then it passes:

1. Are there more than two named female characters?

2. Do these two (or more) female characters talk to each other?

3. Do they talk about anything besides men? (Like even one sentence is enough.)

That’s it! And should be simple, right? I mean, think right now about your own close female friends and the conversations you have with them. I am sure they involve talking about romantic love, but they also inevitably talk about things beyond men. Because women are multi-faceted creatures, right? Not one-dimensional characters in search of a husband.

Yet in popular culture films and books and stories, this simple test fails over and over again. Some estimates show that half of current films fail.

And that makes my heart sad.

Some stories that I adore utterly fail this test, even though they have some great female characters. All of the Lord of the Rings, for example, totally fail. Mostly because the women don’t ever get to hang together, but still. You can find more surprising movie fails here.

It is that difficult to develop a minimum of two women into anything beyond man-focused cardboard cut-outs?

(And yes, maybe being called a female chauvinist by that crazy Tindr dude has lit a little bit of a feminist fire under my butt, as well as putting me off dating.)

Some books and movies that pass make me very happy, such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, The Help, The Devil Wears Prada, A League of their Own, Ferris Bueller, and Amelie, but many of these pass only by the skin of their teeth.

Via: flickograhics.com
Via: flickograhics.com

But I’m not intending to make this post all about the inequality of female representation in fiction.

I want to talk about real life.

– – – – – – – –

To my fellow women- You are so much more than just the sum of the people you date.

When I ask what is going on in your world, I want to know about EVERYTHING. Yes, romance is a part of that. But there is more to you, more to us all. I know this because we are all fully-fleshed out characters, and even the boy-crazy have other interests in life. Women are just as interesting and complicated and multi-dimensional as men, no matter what the mass of popular culture, movies, and books subconsciously tell us through repeated Bechdel Test fails.

Yes, I do want to hear about your romantic relationships. I want to talk about mine as well. But I don’t want that to be our dominant subject matter. I want to talk about work. And travel. And food. About art and movies and books and music. I want to talk about goals and dreams. And silly things that happen in the grocery store or in your car. I want to hear about your life, beyond husbands and boyfriends and maybe-boyfriends and such.

I want to hear about YOU. About all of you. And I want to be someone who talks about my life without everything being in relation to a man.

I want my life to pass the Bechdel Test. Don’t you?

And really, this shouldn’t be that much of a challenge. Just don’t let yourself become less than three-dimensional. Keep being an individual with your own interests and activities and life; your own story line. Let romance be a supporting character in your life, not a plot point you sit around and wait for. Your life is not defined by the men in it.

It’s defined by you.


3 thoughts on “A Bechdel Test for Life.

  1. Very nice! You know what’s funny? I have a bisexual and lesbian friend that are my closest friends. My heterosexual friends like those on my facebook totally gush about men. Even conversations with my sister who is very close to me is man based. But your post made me realize that I have this bisexual and lesbian close friends because we talk about so much more than men. Art, music, movies, life and just other things in general. I am not dating anyone right now so it is hard for me to relate to most women. Great post!

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