“The Bechdel test is used to identify gender bias in fiction. A work passes the test if it features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. Commentators have noted that a great proportion of contemporary works fail to pass this threshold of representing women.
The test was originally conceived for evaluating films, but has since been applied to other media. It is also known as the Bechdel/Wallace test, theBechdel rule, Bechdel’s law, or the Mo Movie Measure.
All these relationships between women, I thought, rapidly recalling the splendid gallery of fictitious women, are too simple. […] And I tried to remember any case in the course of my reading where two women are represented as friends. […] They are now and then mothers and daughters. But almost without exception they are shown in their relation to men. It was strange to think that all the great women of fiction were, until Jane Austen‘s day, not only seen by the other sex, but seen only in relation to the other sex. And how small a part of a woman’s life is that […]
What is now known as the Bechdel test was introduced in Alison Bechdel‘s comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For. In a 1985 strip titled “The Rule”, an unnamed female character says that she only watches a movie if it satisfies the following requirements: (1) It has to have at least two women in it, (2) who talk to each other, (3) about something besides a man. Bechdel credited the idea for the test to a friend and karate training partner, Liz Wallace.
The test has been described as “the standard by which feminist critics judge television, movies, books and other media”, and moved into mainstream criticism in the 2010s. According to Neda Ulaby, the test still resonates because “it articulates something often missing in popular culture: not the number of women we see on screen, but the depth of their stories, and the range of their concerns.”
Several variants of the test have been proposed, e.g., that the two women must be named characters.”