Monday, August 5, 2013

Does My Vagina American Fail the Bechdel Test?

The Perils of Percival from Blythe Woolston on Vimeo.

(I've posted this video before, but it just makes me so damn happy. Good on you, teen me, and your brilliant friends.)

The Bechdel Test* is a diagnostic, three simple questions used to make a quick assessment of the gender bias of a work of art.

1) It has to have at least two women in it

2) who talk to each other

3) about something besides a man

So, do my books pass the Bechdel Test?

FREAK OBSERVER: Loa and Esther talk about the planet Jupiter, which they see very differently. Loa also talks to counselors, teachers, and her mom.

CATCH & RELEASE: Polly and her mom have a few small exchanges. Most conversations are with Odd in D'Elegance though.

BLACK HELICOPTERS: TheoAnne, Daverleen, and Teal all talk to Valley. So does Ava, while bathing Valley as she prepares for her suicide mission. Valley lives among men, and only men, for most of her short life.

1910: There are many conversations between women in this one...about swimming, voting, vibrators, and Halley's Comet among other things.

So my books pass, although with some low scores. Which is a little weird because I consider myself fiercely feminist.

I think the more interesting matter is the sorts of things that are the topics of conversation in all the books. It matters, I think, what Odd has to say about his mother and his sister and his Gramma Dot. It matters that Polly identifies herself as a Vagina American and thinks about the rights of Muslim women to wear the niqab. It matters that Valley becomes Valkyrie, and that she isn't the only female suicide bomber in the world.

The Bechdel Test is a good place to start a conversation about conversation, the things we say to each other, how we value those ideas, and what it means if we don't, actually, value that other voice at all. Because, honestly, the real world should pass the Bechdel Test.

*You can read more about the Bechdel Test and Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace, the minds who thought of it on Wikipedia.

Post a Comment