By Sarah Copeland
There is a common trend throughout my Race, Gender, and the Media course and that is the representation of women in media. This topic definitely gives me a lot to write about. There are so many facets in which females are misrepresented or underrepresented and not many people realize this. For example the Bechdel Test.
I was recently out at dinner with a couple of my closest girl friends. One of which is a strong feminist. When the conversation seemed to die, I brought up the Bechdel Test that I had learned of in my class. That one friend knew of it and, like myself, had strong opinions of the test and anything that failed the test. However, my other friends needed an explanation:
The Bechdel Test states: for a given work of fiction to pass the test, the work must 1) have at least two women in it, who 2) talk to each other, about 3) something other than a man (Garber 2015). ( If you would like further history/background to this test, view this article.)
After my explanation, I proceeded to pull up the list of movies that pass and fail the Bechdel Test.
One friend, however, questioned the purpose of this test. The rest of us were shocked, but she honestly was questioning the point. Why is it important, she asked, why does it matter and is this not just another feminist complaint? So, I’ll answer that here and now and hope that these questions satisfy anyone with the same query.
To be straightforward, this test is a basic system that measures the gender equality in any fictional work may it be a film, a show, a book, or etc. (Garber 2015). Furthermore, it calls attention to the fact that an abundance of female characters in films is not substantial. They fall short in comparison to the male characters also in the same film and are often portrayed as “one-dimensional and male-dependent” (Waletzko 2015).
The only problem is, just because fiction works pass this test does not ensure that it shows true gender equality. The article, “Why the Bechdel Test Fails Feminism” does a great job of pointing out why this is true, specifically using Disney movies to prove it. It is a very well-written article and worth the full read.
All in all, this test is a great way to discuss the failures of most films. It is important, though, to realize that just because a film passes the test, does not mean that the female characters are vital in any way. So, though it shows a certain measure of the value of a film, the Bechdel Test is not an accurate assessment of gender equality. But it is a good start.