International Women’s Day: What’s the Bechdel Test?


With Women accounting for just under half of the world’s population, it’s insane to find so few represented in the media and escpecially in Cinema. If you have ever watched a movie and wondered: « where all the women at?!« , that movie probably didn’t pass the Bechdel Test

The Bechdel Test takes its name from its creator, American cartoonist Alison Bechdel

Alison Bechdel
Alison Bechdel, American creator of Dykes To Watch Out For

The rules of the Bechdel Test are simple:

1) Does the film feature at least two women?

2) Do they talk to each other at any point during the film?

3) And do they talk about something besides a man?

Thelma and Louise
Thelma and Louise, 1991

The Bechdel Test was born in 1985, in this comic strip from Dykes To Watch Out For:

The Rule
Dykes To Watch Out For, The Rule, Alison Bechdel ,(1985)

The Test highlights gender representation inequality in fiction

This infographic from the BBC (below) shows how little space is made for women in mainstream cinema. For instance, in Titanic (directed by Kathryn Bigelow’s ex-husband James Cameron) Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio share the screen throughout the film. Winslet’s character Rose even outlives Jack played by DiCaprio by almost a century and yet, in Titanic men enjoy more screen and script time.

giphy International Women’s Day: What’s the Bechdel Test?

Men speak most
Men speak most in Best Picture winning film

Why it matters that women are represented equally in film and media

United Nations Woman’s infographics explains it perfectly, here:

As seen, women are consistently underrepresented across virtually all fields. In the realm of news, only 24% of persons heard, read about or seen in the news about, are women. In the Oscars 92 years of existence, only 1 woman (Kathryn Bigelow) was has won the Oscar for best director, compared to 92 men. Regarding the Cannes film festival, in its 72 year history, only 1 woman (Jane Campion) has won the « Palme d’Or » compared to 96 men. Here is to hoping that 2021 will see another woman win the award(s) following the golden globe win of Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland.

The Bechdel Test provides a basis on which to collect quantifiable proof of gender representation inequality in fiction. The data collected has since been used to push for change and for gender equality. 

Kathryn Bigelow Oscar
Kathryn Bigelow is the only woman to have ever won an Oscar for Best Director today