Have You Heard of the Bechdel Test?

Have you heard of the Bechdel Test? It measures just how women-friendly mainstream films and fiction really are using a simple 3 question criteria.

Alison Bechdel is an American cartoonist whose graphic memoir Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (this is an excellent memoir, by the way) was adapted as a musical and won a Tony Award for Best Musical in 2015. She is also a 2014 recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Award.

A smart and talented woman, for sure.

But some might argue that she is best known for the Bechdel Test (also called the Bechdel-Wallace test), an indicator of gender bias in film and fiction. This test asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. (Sometimes the requirement is added that the two women be named.)

Sounds simple, right?

Here’s the shocking part. According to the media industry press, in 2013 only 15% of the top 100 films released had a female protagonist. By June 2014, the numbers had only slightly improved. (For some equally shocking statistics on literary fiction, check out the VIDA Count.)

So what’s so hard about a film or other fiction passing these 3 simple criteria?

1: It must have at least two female characters (and both have names)

2: They must talk to each other. 

3: They must talk to each other about something other than a man.