Does the Bechdel Test Measure Sexism?

To pass the Bechdel test, you have to pass three rules. And they’re really easy rules.

  1. Are there at least 2 female characters with names?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk to each other about ANYTHING OTHER than men?


You would be surprised by how many movies, books, comics, etc., fail this test.

NOW, just because a movie passes the Bechdel test does NOT mean it isn’t misogynistic. In fact, a lot of the movies that DO pass the test have extreme sexist undertones.

That’s because the Bechdel test doesn’t test sexism. It shows you just how much of the entertainment arena is dedicated to men. Catered to the male audience. But – it feels unfair to write that. I don’t think that’s honestly accurate.

It isn’t the ‘male audience’ that wants this. Have any screen writers asked the male population if they’d like to see some strong women take the lead role in movies? Men that don’t happen to be misogynists? Because there are men who are NOT sexist. A lot of them. Has anyone asked them? I sure as hell know no one has asked any women and taken their answers to heart.




I read an article written by a woman who was in the filmmaking business and quit. Because of the misogyny holding her and her creativity back.

She was great at writing scripts. Hollywood only had one problem with her. She had multiple women in her scripts who talked about things other than other men. And they told her she needed to stop.

When she asked why, this was their response.

“The audience doesn’t want to listen to a bunch of women talking about whatever it is women talk about.”

Even if what these women are saying moves the story forward? And they gave her some vague non-answer, answer. They went so far as to tell her:

“By having women talk to each other about something other than men, I was “losing the audience.”


Seriously? She left the business. I think I would have blown someone up on my way out. Or skinned them alive. Grrrrr.

She concluded her experience in Hollywood thusly:

“I concluded Hollywood was dominated by perpetual pre-adolescent boys making the movies they wanted to see, and using the “target audience” – a construct based on partial truths and twisted math – to perpetuate their own desires. Having never grown up, they still saw women the way Peter Pan saw Wendy: a fascinating Other to be captured, treasured and stuffed into a gilded cage. Where we didn’t talk. To each other. About anything other than men.”


I love her article because it proves that movie making peoples are ignoring their audience. And then blaming them.


It reminds me of the myriad of opinions from authors and agents alike floating about lately, regarding the way books written by women are changed to be more ‘romancy’ and ‘girly’, complete with softer than needed covers.

Because men don’t want to read about women main characters, right?

HA HA! I introduce you to Chuck Wendig, for starters.

But seriously – poll after poll shows that men and women alike do not care what gender the main character is. Only that they are good characters.

That’s actually one of my biggest fears as a female writer. One, that I will end up with a horrid cover. And Two, that my publisher/editor/whoever will want me to add more romance elements, as a lot of them are lately if you happen to be a female.

No thanks. My anatomy shouldn’t dictate what story I tell.




So, come on now. Get real.

Sexism/Misogyny = bigot, ignorant, bullheaded men and women who don’t want to change. For absolutely no reason. (Because yes, there are women who believe women are less than human or come second to men. Insane, right?)



Writers – does your novel pass the Bechdel test?

How many movies and books can you think of that do or do not pass the Bechdel test?



Filed under The Odd Bit

11 responses to “Does the Bechdel Test Measure Sexism?

  1. Pingback: The Amazing Spider-Man and the Man of Steel | DaphneShadows

  2. love this conversation. although it saddens me that the screenwriter in question quit instead of pursuing other avenues, like independent filmmaking. you have to make the art that moves you and screw what others think. you WILL find an audience for it. the best movies have been those that have broken the molds, those stupid formulas.

  3. My book passes. To be honest, it wasn’t something I thought about though. As you know, I always pictured my main character as a Japanese woman and it just so happens I’ve got just as many women characters as men. I do think it’s important to have women in places of power within the story too. In the book I’m writing now, I have two different women in places of power and that’s not including the main character. I can’t really say too much without giving part of the plot away.

    I love it when you talk about your fear of people in publishing possibly wanting a stronger romantic element from your story. This is something I’ve thought about with my own book because I have a female main character. Will readers expect certain things (like romance) from her because she’s a woman? I think you make a great point. How many of us think the same thing of male characters? We probably don’t think of romance at all (and probably not in certain genres) when it comes to male characters. When we can stop thinking in terms like women driven books need some sort of romantic element, I think publishing will be a better place. I personally don’t care what sex the main character is in the books I read. The only thing I care about is whether the book is well written or not.

    • Exactly! I couldn’t have said it better myself. I was happy to find that mine passed too.
      But I find that I sometimes wonder if the equal ratio of female-male characters in my story is realistic. Seriously? I find the EQUALITY questionable? It kind of scares me how I almost let the constant theory that men should be more prevalent rule me. Kinda freaked me out when I thought about it and read up on the Bechdel test.
      I think I’m going to get uber creepy for a few weeks and take stock of how many men and women I see in groups and where and write it down. I need to show myself how stupid it was of me to think males are more prevalent in situations like my novel.
      *shakes head at self*

      Yeah, I really am worried about that. I’ll have to make that known before anything moves forward with agents or anything. I’m not mushing it up, not for anyone and sure as hell not for money.
      I don’t think you should worry. Mitsuko is freaking awesome. I think her story is perfect without the romance-ness. I just think, what would Dean Koontz do?, lol.

  4. Excellent points, Daphne! I really sense your passion about this (important!) topic, which made it that much more enjoyable to read.

  5. In reply to your question, Daphne, yes, my books do pass the Bechdel test. And it’s not something that I do consciously, simply a manifestation of the lead and secondary female characters.

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