Bechdel Test 2.0: How to Make Your Fiction Writing More Feminist

According to the good ole’ Oxford Dictionary (and Google):

The Bechdel test a way of evaluating whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a way that is sexist or characterized by gender stereotyping. To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man.

Though primarily applied to films, the Bechdel test is often referred to with literary works. The TLDR version is: Have two women talk about something other than a man.

If you are reading or writing books that at least pass this meager benchmark, congrats. You’re on the right path, you enlightened individual, you.

But in my personal opinion, the Bechdel test isn’t enough to make a book truly groundbreaking in the world of feminism. For example, you could have two women talk about cleaning the floors just once in a book and that would technically pass the Bechdel test. Whomp.

And so, without further ado, I present my own updated version of the Bechdel test, or Bechdel 2.0.

Bechdel 2.0

  1. The work must contain at least two strong female characters who showcase some sort of personal development throughout the story.
  2. At least two female characters in the story must talk about something other than a man which is essential to the plot several times throughout the work.
  3. At least one female character must make a plot-driving choice that is not directly influenced by a man.

It’s not enough to have two women simply talk to each other about anything other than a dude. Ideally, at least some female characters should show strong personal journeys throughout the story. You know, like most normal women experience in their lives.

It’s also not helpful for women in works of fiction to talk about only small things. Let’s have our imaginary heroes talking about real hot-button topics, whether that’s economic inequality in their neighborhood or the king making some crazy rules in their kingdom. And let’s have these conversations be a recurring theme throughout the work, not just a one-off.

Lastly, strong female protagonists should make important choices that are not directly influenced by a man. So a princess choosing to move to another kingdom for a prince doesn’t count. Neither does a hero who only goes out into the world on her own because her father decides to kick her out of the house. Make sense?

I’m not saying that ALL works of fiction should pass this test. I like near meaningless smut as much as the next gal.

But I do think that including more strong female characters in books is something to aim for, and I think the current Bechdel test is a pretty low benchmark to meet. I think we can easily push beyond that as authors and readers.

What do you think of Bechdel 2.0? Have you read any books that fit the bill? Or are you writing a book that fits these parameters? Tell me about it in the comments!

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