Writing rants: How to pass the Bechdel Test

 

 

In this blog, I want to talk about the Bechdel Test, a test used to measure gender bias in fiction.

The Test

Does your work of fiction have at least two women in it? Do they talk to each other? Do they talk about something other than a man?

When I was growing up, especially in my university days, I considered myself something of a feminist (I hate the idea of being treated as inferior just because I lack a Y chromosome). I campaigned for equality in the workplace, and I ran the Pro Bono Legal group for Woman’s Aid. Shortly after leaving university I volunteered for a Domestic Violence group that offered legal advice to women in terrible situations. Put simply I noticed there was a problem in our society which affected the way I and others of my gender were treated and I did some small activities which I hoped would help. When I started working full time back in 2010, I stopped.

I still want equality, and as and when the opportunity presents itself, I will do something to help move that day when all are equal a little closer.

But now looking at this test I’m disappointed in myself.

Some of my novels fail the Bechdel Test.

This was completely unintentional (which is what scares me the most), I did not sit down and think, “No women in my book please,” I just wrote the stories as they came to me.
This has prompted me to take a look at all my books.

New Grey Wings Cover

Grey Wings

My main characters are Jason, Aurelius and Mephistopheles. All male, well kind of, Aurelius and Mephistopheles are an angel and a fallen angel so technically they have no gender. There are female characters, and they have names, they also talk about something other than men but not to each other, and they are not main characters, but just walk-ons. There were other female characters, one got to boss the archangel, Michael, about, but they were all cut in the editing process.

Verdict: FAIL.

Amenti

My main characters are Bobtail and Mishka. Mishka is a girl, hooray, and there is another, but I won’t speak of her now as it would spoil the story. There are other female kitties, but they do not speak (because they are usually on the scene as a corpse, again not giving too much away). I cannot even blame editing for this one; there was never more than two speaking female characters.
Verdict: Technically a pass, there are two women characters, they speak to each other towards the end of the book, and they talk about something other than a man. But they hate each other, so even though I pass, I feel like I fail as I adhere to the stereotype that all woman hate each other and will fight to the death.

Ghoul

The main character is Mya, a woman. This one feels a lot like Amenti, there is a female lead, and there are other named and speaking women in the story who talk to Mya, but they are all out to get each other.

Verdict: Another Technical pass, but again feels like a fail.

The Grey House

Hooray, multiple female characters, they all speak (about things other than men), they all have names, and they do not hate each other. Ha Ha!

Verdict: PASS

New My Name is Jessica Cover

My Name Is Jessica

Another victory. We have three females, the lead is one of them. They all talk (about things other than men), they all have names. One of them even saves the freaking world.

Verdict: PASS

Ok, so we have some passes, some fails and some passes that feel like fails. As I said above none of this was done on purpose, at no point did I sit down and make a conscious decision about the genders of my characters, they walk into my head partially formed and already with their gender.

It has bugged me that my subconscious seems to be gender bias, considering my conscious mind most certainly isn’t.

Katie Marie wrote a Book. A big one and a couple of little ones. Check them out!

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