It began with me inserting a moment of clarity in between the constant fart jokes:
If your female character doesn't exist outside of the prism of your male character's existence, you do not have a "strong woman."
Quite a few male writers had to rush to my somnolent twitter feed to inform me I was wrong (of course I am, I'm just a girl), that all of their characters are strong females because they hit things. Sometimes they hit things really hard. Maybe one's like a B cup, a large B cup of course. And then they drop the bomb, well it passed the Bechdel Test so they're all capable characters, can't accuse me of sexism.
Let us break down the Bechdel test for those who have yet to hear of it.
In order to pass all you need are
- Two named women
- Together in a scene (only one scene necessary)
- Talking about something other than men
The test was supposed to draw attention to the dearth of female characters, instead so many men found it a convenient excuse to prove they can't be accused of sexism.
Throw in a character named Candy talking to another named Mandy about how awesome shoes are then back to the guys actually saving the world. Boom, Bechdel Test passed, this is a totally feminist work with three dimensional women.
I'm not a big fan of playing the reverse game, but imagine the utter shit fits thrown if all you needed to prove you have a fully fleshed out three dimensional male character is that you have
- Two named men
- Together in one scene
- Talking about something that has nothing to do with women
Women have that one scene where the love interest gossips with her best friend, who will probably never be seen again.
I came to realize recently that I despise the always tacked on female character in action movies because she's there for one reason, to polish the main character's penis. Once that's done she's nothing more than an animated set piece, occasionally transformed into a breathing Macguffin. Oh sure, maybe she throws a punch or two, taps a stick lightly against a rat of unusual size, but if you removed the male character she would cease to exist. All her motivation comes down to is making the male protagonist happy (ifyaknowwhatImean nudge nudge); without him around she'd stand blank like a Stepford robot in the kitchen making sad beeping noises waiting for someone to switch her off.
No, passing the Bechdel test does not mean you have a fully culpable, capable, or even somewhat realistic female character. If you're uncertain and concerned you could try asking another woman and, this is the really important part, listening to her. Don't ignore the words flowing out of her mouth and mentally fill in her criticism with diamonds/babies/yogurt/chocolate/pumpkin spice latte and change nothing. We've been doing this woman thing a hell of a lot longer than you. We may just know what the hell we're talking about.
So I say we need to have a second level of the Bechdel test; if you are basing the idea that you cannot be accused of sexism upon this test then you need to pass the second level.
- Have a named female character
- Whose life does not revolve around a male character
- Done. Maybe have some pancakes to celebrate?