December 12, 2012


Periodically I share things with my writing group that I think are a great idea to share with people across the board, as it were. So, from us to you: your periodic Bechdel Public Service Announcement.

A quick refresher for those who don't know what I'm talking about - the Bechdel Test came from a 1985 comic strip called "Dykes to Watch Out For," written by one Alison Bechdel. One of the characters in the strip, which is entitled "The Rule," talks about how she only sees a very specific sort of movie, ones in which female nad male actors interact in specific ways. The Rule has been taken and morphed to touch on not just movies but books and media of all kinds. So, on to what was shared in our writing group:

Every once in awhile, I reread what this Bechdel thing means. I desperately want ALL of my work to pass this test, and so it's important to me to remind myself to not fall into the easy tropes and cheap shot stereotypes. Multiple, developed, relevant female characters who advance the story is the goal. Multiple, developed, relevant male characters who advance the plot are also good, even from the periphery.

DEFINED: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.

And, of course, there's the Bechdel Test for Race in Popular Fiction. Does your story have at least two characters of color in it? Do they talk to each other? About anything other than the character from the dominant culture?

Multiple, developed, relevant men and women of all genders, ethnicities, and sexes is what will make your fiction great -- tougher to write at times, with no lazy in-group shorthand, more critically observed, walking the line between inclusiveness and condescension, but with the potential for excellence. And what more can we really ask from our writing but this?

Go forth and write outside of the box, people. Si, si puede.

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