To know whether a movie is feminist, use the Bechdel Test: to be a feminist movie, a movie must have two women talking to each other about something other than a man. At least, that’s the stance many thinkpieces, film reviews, and even a Bechdel Test-themed film festival have taken. If you read any media criticism or are even a little online, you’ve probably heard of the Bechdel Test. But when writer and cartoonist Alison Bechdel mentioned the test in a 1985 strip of her comic Dykes To Watch Out For, she never imagined it would become this widely used.
In a 2015 interview with Fresh Air, Bechdel said she felt “a little bit sheepish about the whole thing,” given that the inciting idea for the cartoon actually came from her friend Liz Wallace, who had told Bechdel she would only watch a given movie if it had two women who discuss something other than a man. In recent years, the test has seeped into the public consciousness: “Somehow young feminist film students found this old cartoon and resurrected it in the Internet era and now it’s this weird thing,” said Bechdel. “People actually use it to analyze films to see whether or not they pass that test. Still . . . surprisingly few films actually pass it.”
Here’s the (funny) cartoon: