It is a very simple tool that is extremely useful for analyzing the shows and movies that you watch. If you haven’t heard of it, the Bechdel Test is a simple test used to determine the true roles of women in movies or t.v. shows. The test involves three simple steps:
1.) Is there more than one named female character?
2.) Do at least two of the female characters talk to each other?
3.) Do they talk to each other about something other than a man or a relationship?
In case you want to see the Youtube video of where this idea came from:
Now, to the main point of my post. Recently, I attended the St. Charles Vocal Music Jazz Festival in St. Charles, Illinois. While I was there, I noticed a great deal of the female choir members were wearing very sparkly dresses, tight skirts, or sky-high heels. But more than that, the choirs and the songs they sang often failed the Bechdel test. Most of them did pass the first rule (as all the choirs had more than one female), but the females never had a soli section (that’s where the females sing without the men) that was about something other than love. On the contrary, many of the jazz choirs had male soli sections that discussed masculinity or the joy of singing, or something much more philosophical than love or love-making.
I know this is kind of an odd comparison, and one I made on the fly. Yet perhaps it also represents the possibility that the Bechdel test can apply to more than movies and t.v. shows. Other forms of media, such as music, also mis- or under-represent women in certain ways. Besides the jazz style in particular, other forms of music certainly do this to women. Take, as a very general example, rap music. Sure, there are rappers (like Tupac) who make meaningful music. But how many rap videos do you really think there are that actually pass the Bechdel test? And how many of these videos have a substantial number of views/downloads/purchases? I don’t really have the time to do a statistics check on that, but I’m sure the number isn’t all too pretty.
So next time you are sitting around bored with nothing to do, try and find some other activities or concepts that fail the Bechdel test. It probably won’t be difficult. But, more importantly, think of what failing the Bechdel test means — mis- or under-representing women.