What is the Bechdel–Wallace test?

For each of the book reviews I’ve done this year, I’ve judged said books on a number of criteria, including whether or not they pass the  Bechdel-Wallace. It’s come to my attention that many people aren’t familiar with this test, so I thought I’d take a moment to explain it.

The criteria for the Bechdel-Wallace test

There are there criteria required to pass the Bechdel-Wallance test:

  1. Are there at least two women?
  2. Do they talk to each other?
  3. Do they talk to each other about anything other than a man?

The history of the Bechdel-Wallace test

Alison Bechdel, author and comic strip creator, first included this test in her 1985 comic strip Dyes to Watch Out For, and the test was applied then – and is typically applied now – to movies.

I find it equally useful in parsing books as well, though it can be more complicated. For example, if the book is written in the first-person, and the narrator is a man, it’s difficult for the author to include two women having a conversation at all, especially if it doesn’t involve the man whose eyes we’re observing them through. When that specific situation arises, I will generally give it an N/A and judge it on other criteria more specific to that case.

Of course, it’s also entirely possible for a book / movie / etc. to pass this test and still be sexist as hell and have empty female characters. But once you learn about this test, you’ll be shocked / annoyed by how often you watch a TV show or movie, or read a book, and discover that the women never, ever talk to each other. It’s nuts!

2 thoughts on “What is the Bechdel–Wallace test?

  1. Where does the annomyous type come from in this example? (I know you are talking about LINQ, but your example does not align well with their examples of anonymous type usages).

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