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2013-05-15: Bechdel Test
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Valerie



Joined: 02 Apr 2013
Posts: 263

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Arthain wrote:
My biggest issue with the Bechdel Test is that I don't believe in absolutes. I never will


*snickers* Sorry, sorry.
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Arthain



Joined: 09 Feb 2013
Posts: 96

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Valerie wrote:
Arthain wrote:
My biggest issue with the Bechdel Test is that I don't believe in absolutes. I never will


*snickers* Sorry, sorry.


Thank you. I'm not perfect and I make mistakes just like everyone else. I've gone back and corrected it.
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Onimaru



Joined: 16 Apr 2013
Posts: 178

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 3:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, it is certainly true that it's not an absolute standard, and nor should it be, it's a handy way to keep things like that in check if you're trying to write characters well, should be right up there with the Spell Check Razz

As for how I've come to try and better my writing of females, well all characters in general, is that when I tell a story is to make each major character as developed as any other. If I took out every other major character could I still tell the story with the one I leave behind? If yes, it's a good established character, one with depth and purpose to being a part of the story. If not, I've failed that character and what I'm hoping to represent them as, and will do my best to rectify it to make it a more enjoyable character overall, both to write for and, god forbid, if anyone reads it they enjoy the character.
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Geareye



Joined: 21 Mar 2013
Posts: 275

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 5:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Onimaru wrote:

If I took out every other major character could I still tell the story with the one I leave behind? If yes, it's a good established character, one with depth and purpose to being a part of the story. If not, I've failed that character and what I'm hoping to represent them as, and will do my best to rectify it to make it a more enjoyable character overall, both to write for and, god forbid, if anyone reads it they enjoy the character.


I like it as a method. It has some flaws, like it's not applicable to cases when a character acts as a plot-catalyst at some point, therefore the story couldn't progress without them -without that meaning that the other major ones are flat-, but generally speaking it makes sense.
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Rune



Joined: 08 Oct 2011
Posts: 1046

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

For the love. Arthain, I left a very, very useful and awesome link to a video that pretty much addresses every nitpicky whine about the Bechdel test that you've come up with before you even whined them. Go. Watch. Come back educated. It's not even that long. Here, I'll leave it again so you don't even have to click back two pages: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLF6sAAMb4s

No, the Bechdel test is not a litmus test to determine the Patriarchy levels of any one individual film. A piece can technically pass the Bechdel and still be a piece of objectifying drivel. (As Slick so aptly demonstrated.)

There can be films that fail the Bechdel entirely that still portray actual, whole, female characters. (Or at least one, though watch out for the trap of the Minority Feisty there. You can Google that.)

But if you -don't- have female characters talking to each other like human beings, you still might want to check very carefully what the reasons why are, because there are a crapload more lousy reasons for a piece to fall into that trap than there are good ones. (And having no good reason is a lousy and a lazy reason. Fix it.) Most of the stories that fail the Bechdel test do so for crap reasons, and their failure is an indication of flawed, harmful, stereotyped, or just a plain lack of thinking when it comes to the presence and behavior of female characters.

The trends that make the Bechdel a concern in the first place are the problem. (There is no white-cis-male-Bechdel because there is no trend of problems to measure with it.) As Onimaru put it: female characters that only exist as a backboard to how your male characters interact with (and I'll add, or view,) women. As many others have put it, women that are only included because the story has to have a specifically female character, like a hetero love interest, (or is just included for the sake of eye candy,) rather than including whole characters that also happen to be female. Of particular concern, especially for critics of entertainment for children and youth, is the lack of real female friendships portrayed.

So, how we doing on these trends?

The Bechdel is an absolute bare-ass minimum assessment. As Slick pointed out, it's not that hard to pass. You do not get a feminism diploma for pulling off a single Bechdel-friendly conversation, just like you do not get a gold star for having a pulse.

And entertainment trends still tend to fail abysmally. Female characters are still not getting a real fair shake or nearly enough non-stereotyped representation, (and it's depressingly even worse in kid's media. Way to train up the next generation, guys! Fucking Patriarchy.)
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infested



Joined: 24 Mar 2009
Posts: 136

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 5:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm relatively new to the Bechdel test, but I do agree with many people here in saying that contriving to add interactions between females does not necessarily add to the quality of a work. I also agree that a work can pass the Bechdel test while still unfortunately portraying women as "flat" characters. Actually, I think it can even make sense for an individual work to be primarily about men. But I don't think that's the point of the Bechdel test.

I think Anita Sarkeesian, the author of this video (and the video that Rune linked to earlier), says it quite well: the Bechdel test is NOT a measure of the quality of any particular work, but the utility of the Bechdel test is to highlight a systemic under-representation of women in fiction.

As I understand, the utility of the Bechdel test is in highlighting a problem not with ONE individual movie, but with movies in general. Given its very simple criteria, you would expect that a lot of movies would pass this test (as Slick says, "I could do that! Easy!" - and it's true, this seems too easy).
But surprisingly few of them do, and although this says nothing about the quality of these movies, this DOES illustrate that there is a general tendency to write stories about men, and suggests that female characters, when they are portrayed, are portrayed predominantly in relation to men.

To quote the concluding remarks of the video: "When there are as many stories that center around women as there are on men, then we won't have much use for the Bechdel test any more. But sadly, that still seems a long way away."
Please be sure to watch the video - the author offers some very insightful discussion on the utility of the test and its application to other settings. =)

EDIT: Please scroll up to see Rune's post before mine. =) I think Rune does a better job of discussing the issues than I do. Still keeping this around for the link to the other video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PH8JuizIXw8
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Rune



Joined: 08 Oct 2011
Posts: 1046

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 5:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks, and don't for a moment think that your comments were superfluous. This can't be said enough, or by enough voices, and yours wasn't out of place or lacking at all. Thanks also for including that other link. Sarkeesian is da bomb, and I think just about everyone should watch the entirety of Feminist Frequency.
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Dogen



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 10713
Location: Bellingham, WA

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm going to repeat this, just because it seems like it's the point over which many people stumble.

The Bechdel test doesn't require that women never talk about men, only that they at some point talk about something else. Think about that. A two hour-ish movie, with more than one female character, and those two or more women never talk about anything other than men.

Sure, that could happen logically once in a while. Now go watch the Sarkeesian video linked like five times on this page and see how many fail it. It's ridiculous. Now tell me how having women talk about something else - even sexist drivel like their hair, losing weight, and what a bitch each other is - will somehow be "flatter" than whole swarms of movies in which women only talk about one thing.
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Dro



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3854

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 6:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Rune wrote:

And entertainment trends still tend to fail abysmally. Female characters are still not getting a real fair shake or nearly enough non-stereotyped representation, (and it's depressingly even worse in kid's media. Way to train up the next generation, guys! Fucking Patriarchy.)


Not to derail, but I would love to hear about books, particularly series that have non-stereotyped representations of girls, suitable for reading by 10 year old, and are good books. Some that I've read over the years that are at least OK:
Fairy Realm series.
A small proportion of Redwall (Mariel, Pearls of Lutria, Triss)
Series of Unfortunate Events
A Secret Garden
Little House on the Prairie (plenty of gender stereotyping, of course)
Some of the Pern Dragon books
Wrinkle in Time
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aboutwhistles



Joined: 28 Oct 2012
Posts: 140

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dro:

The Dear America diaries are fantastic! They were my favorites growing up, you learn a lot about history, they're appropriate for kids without treating them like they're stupid. Which, as a kid, was my problem with a lot of "children's literature". There was a related series by the same people called the Royal Diaries that had the diaries of various royals as adolescents. They're mostly from a girl's perspective, although there are some from the perspective of boys as well.
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Rune



Joined: 08 Oct 2011
Posts: 1046

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dro, this website is a fabulous resource dedicated to just that kind of question: http://www.amightygirl.com/
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Felgraf



Joined: 10 Jul 2012
Posts: 718

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Dro wrote:
Rune wrote:

And entertainment trends still tend to fail abysmally. Female characters are still not getting a real fair shake or nearly enough non-stereotyped representation, (and it's depressingly even worse in kid's media. Way to train up the next generation, guys! Fucking Patriarchy.)


Not to derail, but I would love to hear about books, particularly series that have non-stereotyped representations of girls, suitable for reading by 10 year old, and are good books. Some that I've read over the years that are at least OK:
Fairy Realm series.
A small proportion of Redwall (Mariel, Pearls of Lutria, Triss)
Series of Unfortunate Events
A Secret Garden
Little House on the Prairie (plenty of gender stereotyping, of course)
Some of the Pern Dragon books
Wrinkle in Time


It has been... oh dear god, probably a decade and a half since I read them, so my memory may be failing me, BUT!

I'm fairly certain http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dealing_with_Dragons and other books in the Enchanted Forest Chronicles would be a good choice.

Basic premise: Girl (Cimeron) is supposed to be a 'princess', but most of the things she's supposed to learn BORE (Sewing! Proper tabel manners! How to sit and look pretty and giggle!) She cajoles the castle staff to teach her things that interest her on the side (Fencing, Latin, cooking-a skill a princess is NOT supposed to have, that's what servants are for!)

It gets to the point that when she realizes her parents are about to marry her to an insufferable prince to a neighboring kingdom, she... uh...
.. Basically tracks down a dragon/group of dragons and *volunteers* to be 'kidnapped' by the dragon Kazul. Because dragons are SUPPOSED to have captured princess, duh. (.. This is sort-of-true in universe. The world setting is an interesting mix of "Fantasy tropes! SUBVERTED FANTASY TROPES!")

Anyways she's given the job of organizing her library (And occasionally cooking dessert, mostly because she's apparently wicked good at it). While occasional driving/sending away knights who show up insistent on rescuing her. To the point that she puts a sign up hoping to deter them.

(BEGIN SOME SPOILERS.)

Later in the book Kazul must compete for the title of King of Dragons, there's a subplot where Kazul is poisoned and wizards murdered the previous King.

It's revealed at the end that Kazul is a female dragon, and that King of Dragons is a title, and does not depend upon gender (and I seem to recall the dragons are really, really confused that King is a gendered term to humans. Along the lines of '... Wait so rule is partially based on, uh, gender? .. That's.. really dumb.')

Subsequent books introduce other characters, including the King of the Enchanted forest (Who, like Cimeron is a rather... non-tradional kingly sort). ... He and Cimeron do not initially hit it off, mainly because she thinks, well, "GODAMNIT ANOTHER PRINCE, REALLY". He also uses his magic sword to unclog her drain.
Any, she thinks he's there to try to slay Kazul, when he's there to *meet* with her about important diplomatic buisiness and I really don't remember much more than that.

While the second book does introduce a love interest (King of the Enchanted forest), the relationship actually does seem to evolve.. rather organically? I think? I was twelve when I read it, it's been a long, long time.[/url]
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Rune



Joined: 08 Oct 2011
Posts: 1046

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I also have to plug these in particular: http://www.goodreads.com/series/96852-discworld---tiffany-aching
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aboutwhistles



Joined: 28 Oct 2012
Posts: 140

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You said 'appropriate' and I know the Dear Americas are, but I also have some more suggestions that I read as a ten year old that not all parents would agree with, because my parents figured if I wanted to read something, I was probably ready for it. Ie, I read the Clan of the Cave Bear series in middle school and when I was about halfway through the fourth book my dad came to my room to say 'er, I just remembered, there's kind of a lot of sex in those books, so if you, er, have any questions..' and my reaction was basically 'YES I KNOW THERE IS SEX THANK YOU PLEASE LEAVE NOW'.

Anyhow more books I loved as a small thing with good female characters:
Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry
Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
I, Coriander by Sally Gardner
a whole lot of books about Queen Elizabeth I
Matilda by Roald Dahl is clearly a classic
Juniper, Wise Child, and Colman, all by Monica Furlong
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
A Stolen Life by Jane Louise Curry
Witch Child by Celia Rees
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife's Apprentice, both by Karen Kushman
The Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell
The Ransom of Mercy Carter by Caroline Cooney
Esperanza Rising by Pam Muños Ryan
Doomed Queen Anne by Carolyn Meyer, the whole series is good
Girl in a Cage by Jane Yolen
the Girls of Many Lands series is great, especially Leyla: the Black Tulip
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
Walks Alone by Brian Burks
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier
The American Girls series, Kit, Abby, Samantha, all of them, although that might be a bit young for a 10 year old
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia Maclachlan

oh man I'm on a whole lot of nostalgia right now. and I've remembered some books I really loved that I can't remember the titles for and now it's gonna bother me until I figure it out.

Hope these recommendations are helpful! Smile
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Dro



Joined: 10 Jul 2006
Posts: 3854

PostPosted: Wed May 15, 2013 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks all! Some I knew about, and some we've read, but some good suggestions to work through as well.
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