Bechdel testing my own writing

Hello everyone! Hope you’re enjoying the season. I’m not, by the way, I prefer it warm and sunny.

So, I know I said that I would continue the story about Fitch and the not-very-talkative dead. Thing is – the story kind got out of hand. I’m currently at 30,000 words and have also rewritten the earlier stuff I posted here. Bottom line: you can probably (hopefully!) expect a fantasy novel at the end of this year, but for the time being Fitch won’t be returning to my blog. I’m sorry.

So when I thought about what I should write about in my next post, my Twitter feed was filled with more articles on the Bechdel Test. And I thought: hey, why not test my own writing, see how sexist I can be. Self-centric, and I don’t know the result as I’m typing these words.

Bechdel testing my own writing

I’m sure you know the Bechdel test. It’s an oldie-but-goldie and is revived at least once a year during Christmas to judge last year’s box-office offering. It is based on a comic strip by Alison Bechdel and names the three requirements for a movie/TV series/comic/story to be women-friendly:

  1. It has to have at least two women in it,
  2. who talk to each other,
  3. about something besides a man.

Some sites add that the characters have to have names, but the original comic strip was ambiguous in that regard.

So here are the results for my own short stories from latest to oldest (as posted on this blog):

We don’t talk anymore (Pt. 3): FAILED. It has two female characters, but they only exchange one line and it is kind of about the male lead.

We don’t talk anymore (Pt. 2): FAILED. Reason as above

We don’t talk anymore (Pt. 1): FAILED. No female character at all.

Family Business: PASSED.

Night at the museum: DEPENDS. I didn’t use personal pronouns. In my mind, both Red and Cherry are women (or cyborgs), but on the page it remains ambiguous.

Twinkle, twinkle: FAILED. Told in first person with no dialogue.

Technical difficulties: FAILED. It’s a monologue.

The Hexacon report: DEPENDS. It’s unclear whether Chev and/or Perce are female (or do have any gender at all). I admit that I didn’t consider that while writing.

Never giving up: FAILED. The narrator is a woman (I think), but she doesn’t talk to another woman. Although I’d like to point out that a woman is elected as the next US president.

Research conferences for the unacquainted: DEPENDS. It’s unclear whether the faun LuLuLey is female. Although I guess since this is a story about academia, it would make sense for him to be a male.

Appointment with a twin: PASSED.

All that glitters: FAILED. None of the characters have names and/or genders, but since it’s a glam rock band, it’s safe to assume that they’re all male.

Blue red green: PASSED.

The lucky ones: FAILED. Only one female character.

Monday nights: FAILED. There is a second female character, but all she ever gets to say is the name of the other woman.

Add to that six pieces of fan fiction which all FAILED because the centered on male characters (Jack and Ianto from Torchwood, Thomas from Downton Abbey). Although they were all LGBT, so it’s not quite mainstream.

The tally:




Okay, I knew I wasn’t a totally feminist writer, but this result shocks me. I thought I was making an effort to be inclusive and to have many female leads, but actually, I’m even worse than Doctor Who (RTD or Moffat)! And I even fail if I take out the six pieces of fan fiction!

A silver lining is that some pieces failed because they are told from a male first person perspective. It’s really hard to write a good conversation between two named females in which the narrator isn’t involved, but which he witnesses (I’m currently struggling with this in my novel).

In sum, I think there’s still hope for me out there. One long story that is stored in my desk until I figure out what to do with it actually has an almost completely female cast (and the males are pretty much all stupid jerks).

Btw, Wikipedia further lists the Russo test for representation of LGBT people (I’d fare better in that regard, I think, mostly due to my fan fiction) and the Mako Mori test which focuses on whether the female character gets her own important story line (I might also fare better in this regard).


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