Feminist Sundays

Feminist Sundays: The Bechdel Test

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Feminist Sundays is a weekly meme created at Books and Reviews. The aim is simply to have a place and a time to talk about feminism and women’s issues. This is a place of tolerance, creativity, discussion, criticism and praise. Remember to keep in mind that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, although healthy discussion is encouraged.

O from Behold the Stars recently tweeted me about The Bechdel Test which I had studied along feminist film theory, but it is not as used and as well-known as I thought. So, I am devoting this Feminist Sunday to the test and how important it is for feminism to take it into consideration.

So, The Bechdel test basically posts the following two questions to a work of art to see if it is gender biased:

1. Are there two women featured?

2. Do they talk to each other?

3. Do they talk about something other than a man?

Although the test seems quite simple and the first reaction is always a laugh, it is unbelievable the amount of art productions – especially mainstream ones – that fail the test. Take for example any Hollywood film you have recently seen and you will be amazed. Also, people do no take these kind of issues seriously, so, let’s just ask the questions another way: let’s ask them about men in works of art. Again, another laugh because it is, for most people, ridiculous to think that men could have isolated roles on a film and, whenever they talked, it was about a woman.

I really hope you find this little glimpse into such a simple a powerful tool. Once I learned about it myself, I found it difficult to watch films like I did before. Sure, I had always had the little feminist inside me not enjoying certain films, but I lacked the vocabulary and the tools to articulate my discontent. This test was one powerful tool and I really hope this post has not ruined mainstream films for you! 🙂



  • naomifrisby

    Great post. Perhaps The Bechdel Test should put people off Hollywood films then we’d be seeing equality on screen and hopefully, mirrored more often in real life.

    • Elena

      I hope so. Although it takes the joy out of aproximately 70% of your going-to-the-movies experiences. I still remember watching Oblivion (what is it about Cruise and sexism?) and The Hobbit and just being so angry I’d rather look at the popcorn.

        • naomifrisby

          Sandra Bullock = whiny/panicky woman, can’t cope on her own, needs a man to rescue her (several times). And I don’t buy the ‘it was her first time in space’ argument. She’d been trained; she has a PhD; she was up there fitting her own invention.

        • Elena

          I was kind of uncomfortable with Clooney coming back to save her, but having a woman as the only main character on a movie nowadays is not easy (neither profitable seem to think the studios). So, I was happy about that.

    • Elena

      I had no idea! Good for them. In Spain wew have just suffered a return to a 1985 law regulating abortion… We’re far from tacking sexism. Thanks for participating again! You’re amazing!

    • Elena

      I know, it is so simple yet people don’t seems to ask themselves such questions! Thanks again por participating. Your support means a lot.

    • Elena

      It really shows how internalised sexism is. I haven’t heard of the film you mention, but I’ll check it. Thank you very much for joining us 🙂

  • amanda

    I think it was actually my brother that first told me about this! (He had a bunch of female friends at university.) It’s one of those odd things: we think that living in the 21st century, things have reached a point where, at least in Western countries, women have it pretty good, but then we stop and look at the culture around us and realize that some things are still off-kilter. I remember this summer seeing an entertainment critic post about how of the 500+ movie times at her local theaters (that counts Summer Blockbuster shown on 4 screens 5 times a day as 20 showings) only a very small handful were movies about women or girls. (Found the link: – it’s actually 25 out of 617 showings that were about women. Ouch.)

    • Elena

      I know and there is this idea that a movie with a main female character won’t sell or won’t be good which is totally lame, sad and enfuriating. Also, there is this idea of women going with their male relatives/significant others to watch “normal” movies, but not the other way round, because apparently, if there is a woman at the center it no longer is a normal movie, it is a chick flick.

  • Alice

    I apply this to everything I watch now and it can get depressing. It made me check my writing while I struggled through a bit of NaNo, frustratingly it is a subtly ingrained concept that women’s lives revolve around men. I like it when films pass that you never think would, I came across a funny one recently, but I can’t remember what it’s called!

  • o

    It’s scary that I never realised how bad things were until I did this test. You’re right, it’s a powerful tool indeed.

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