Bechdel Test

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Synonyms: Bechdel's Law, Bechdel/Wallace Rule, Dykes to Watch Out For Test, Mo Movie Measure, "Bechdel-Wallace Test"
See also: Misogyny in Fandom; Fuck You, She's Awesome; The Russ Test; Mako Mori Test; Furiosa Test; Sexy Lamp Test; Tauriel Test
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The Bechdel Test (Bechdel-Wallace Test) is a criteria for picking a movie to watch. It was created by Alison Bechdel and Liz Wallace.

The Bechdel Test entered popular culture via Alison Bechdel's comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For, in a 1985 strip titled "The Rule."[1]

It's also known as the Bechdel/Wallace Rule and the Mo Movie Measure, though the latter is a misnomer, as the strip predates Mo's addition to the cast of characters.[2] In 2015, Bechdel stated that she actually would rather it be called "the Bechdel-Wallace test" which gives credit to her friend who came up with the idea.[3]

Though the test is handy as a basic early warning system for films to avoid, it is nevertheless limited. Misogynistic films can still pass the Bechdel test, while far more feminist films will fail if they never have two named female characters talking. For example, Pacific Rim fails the Bechdel test, but it is undeniably feminist. The Mako Mori Test has therefore been suggested as a further measure of feminism in film.

The Test Itself

  1. It has to have at least two named women in it
  2. who talk to each other
  3. about something besides a man.[2]

In Fandom

Partially in response to the Bechdel Test and to show that entertainment producers are still failing at it all too often, in 2010 Livejournal user ivanolix came up with a concept for a spectrum of (points of fail) for gender equity in TV shows. [4]

Some fan fiction authors who use An Archive Of Our Own or AO3 tag their stories "Bechdel Pass" or "Bechdel Test Pass" to indicate a story which passes the test. Others use the tag "Bechdel Fix" to indicate that their story inserts a Bechdel-passing scene into a previously Bechdel-failing canon source. [5]

Other fans have held Bechdel-themed ficathons. One such event, hosted in penny-lane-42's livejournal, [6] garnered 119 commentfics (short stories posted in the comment field of a blog or Livejournal). These were indexed on a related account at the delicious website.[7]

The 2011 Yuletide fan fiction exchange fest include the Misses Clause sub-challenge, which challenged writers to write and tag Yuletide stories passing the Bechdel Test.[8][9]

X-Phile tumblr user EnigamticXs is doing a Bechdel test for each season of The X-Files during her rewatch on her blog

The 1979 Connection to Joanna Russ

According to Leslie Fish in her 1980 essay Feminism (Or the Lack of It) in Trek-Lit, Fish's term The Russ Test was based on either a Joanna Russ quote or reference in the February 1980 issue of "Ms Magazine" which addressed the topic of feminism, of women's relationships with each other as portrayed in popular culture.

The crucial test of feminism in a work is the presence of at least two women who are friendly. Not one, and not two who are rivals. Male works which try (sometimes honestly) to be feminist almost invariable focus of the woman-man couple among male colleagues. The secret of feminism is what happens when women talk to women, advise women, love women. The two may be lovers, friends, friendly strangers, or friendly colleagues, but this is the absolute precondition for (a) feminism or (b) truth." Joanna Russ, quoted in 'MS'. Feb. 1980 issue, pg. 36. [10]

This, however, is not a straight line as Fish displays. The Russ quote that Fish references is actually from an interview in the July 1979 issue of "Sojourner," a Boston feminist publication.

While the connection to Ms Magazine is unclear, Fish isn't the only person to reference the Russ quote with Ms Magazine. In 1993, a writer Annabelle M. Rea, referenced the quote in her paper, "Adoption: A Feminist Motif in George Sand and Simone de Beauvoir?" which had this footnote:

The Joanna Russ quote was reprinted perhaps fifteen or twenty years ago in Ms Magazine from the Boston newspaper, Sojourner. The quote so struck me that I cut the item out, but unfortunately, I did not note the publication dates. Because it was not in an article but rather served as 'filler,' I have no efficient way of tracking it down.

Fish's essay, and a companion essay by Mary Lou Dodge called, Feminism in Trek-Lit (1980 essay), caused much discussion in the letterzine Interstat beginning in March 1980, where it was referred to as The Russ Test. See Interstat #29 and #30, as well as the Leslie Fish essay Feminism (Or the Lack of It) in Trek-Lit.


  1. ^ Ulaby, Neda. The 'Bechdel Rule,' Defining Pop-Culture Character, published on 2 September 2008 at (Accessed 19 October 2008.)
  2. ^ a b Bechdel, Alison. The Rule, published on 16 August 2005 at DTWOF: The Blog. (Accessed 19 October 2008.)
  3. ^ How the Standard for Gender Equality in Culture Became Known as the 'Bechdel Test' - The Atlantic, Archived version
  4. ^ Standards for gender equity in TV shows, Livejournal entry by ivanolix, 18 November 2010, (Accessed 3 April 2011)
  5. ^ Works with Bechdel-related tags at the AO3 295 Bechdel-tagged stories as of April 7, 2011.
  6. ^ penny-lane-42, THE BECHDEL TEST COMMENT FIC-A-THON Posted Oct 10, 2010. Last accessed April 7, 2011.
  7. ^ Bechdel Test's Bookmarks Last accessed April 7, 2011.
  8. ^ "Give us your ignored, your unsung, your stories of women waiting to be told..." While we love all the stories spun during Yuletide, and the writers who spin them, we've also noticed a trend — many fandoms fail the Bechdel Test. The test, on its surface, is simple and three-pronged. But in fic, as in popular media, many stories fail the test, highlighting or hinging on gender bias that exists within canon and a lack of true female representation in fandom as a whole. So we're proposing a challenge within a challenge, similar to Dark Agenda. A challenge where you, dear author, meet the criteria set out in Bechdel’s original test." The Misses Clause Challenge post by freneticloetry in the yuletide LJ comm, 20 Nov 2011. (Accessed 4 Jan 2012)
  9. ^ Works tagged "Misses Clause Challenge" at the AO3 (319 works on 4 Jan 2012)
  10. ^ from Feminism (Or the Lack of It) in Trek-Lit