A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl

RBG and the Bechdel Test

September 21, 2020 Megan O'Russell Season 1 Episode 44
A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
RBG and the Bechdel Test
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A Book and A Dream: An author’s adventure in writing, reading, and being an epic fangirl
RBG and the Bechdel Test
Sep 21, 2020 Season 1 Episode 44
Megan O'Russell

How many women belong in power? How much independence should female characters be granted?

In this week's episode of A Book and a Dream, Megan O'Russell explains the three rules behind the Bechdel Test and discusses why it's so difficult to find books and movies that can pass.

To learn more about the Bechdel Test, visit https://dykestowatchoutfor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/The-Rule-cleaned-up.jpg

Show Notes Transcript

How many women belong in power? How much independence should female characters be granted?

In this week's episode of A Book and a Dream, Megan O'Russell explains the three rules behind the Bechdel Test and discusses why it's so difficult to find books and movies that can pass.

To learn more about the Bechdel Test, visit https://dykestowatchoutfor.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/The-Rule-cleaned-up.jpg

A Book and A Dream Episode 44

Megan: [00:00:02] In her honor, we are going to talk about women in fiction and in a very special way because, you know, women belong in every room where decisions are being made.

 

Announcement: [00:00:16] Welcome to A Book and a Dream with Megan O'Russell: an author's adventure and writing, reading and being an epic fangirl.

 

Megan: [00:00:27] Hello, and welcome to episode forty four of A Book and a Dream. Now, the United States lost an amazing woman this week. If you're not from the United States or you just don't know what I'm talking about. Take a moment and look up the notorious R.B.G. Now, this is not a political podcast. I'm not going to go there. But in her honor, we are going to talk about women in fiction and in a very special way, because, you know, women belong in every room where decisions are being made. So let's take a look at that with the Bechdel test.

 

Megan: [00:00:57] Now, if you don't know what the Bechdel test is, don't feel bad. I didn't even know what the test was until I was already down my road towards publication and being an author. Now, what the test is, it was created by Alison Bechdel in a comic strip that I will not name, but there is a link to it. I'm not going to say the name because technically I could get pinged for hate speech by Google. I didn't name it. Don't get mad at me if you don't like the name, but there is a link to it.

 

Megan: [00:01:23] Read the comic. It's great. Now, Alison Bechdel is a famous American cartoonist who also is the writer of her graphic memoir Fun Home, which became an award winning Broadway show, fun fact. Now the Bechdel test cartoon is talking about two women going to the movies and what movies they can see that also have two women in them. The Bechdel test is pretty simple, but the first time I heard about it was when I was talking about one of my many publishers that shut down along the way. When I was talking about submitting to them, I was told by someone, they're really great, but they're only going to take books that pass the Bechdel test. And so I really quick put the name into Google, and I was like a feminism test? There is no way The Tethering can pass a feminism test. It's a young adult fantasy novel. It's a boy and a girl. There's like evil men and there's good women. And women are strong, but not like feminism strong. There is no way.

 

Megan: [00:02:19] Until I actually looked at the Bechdel test. Do you want to know what's required? It's three things. It's very easy. There must be two female characters. In some versions, the characters are supposed to have names. The two female characters must have a conversation. And three, the conversation must not be about a man. Now, you look at those three easy rules and you're like, well, clearly, like, every book passes the Bechdel test, every movie passes the Bechdel test. No, they don't. It's actually amazing how many books and movies don't pass the Bechdel test. And it's not necessarily that people don't want to have women in their books. It's just the situations that we cast them in. We cast them as the love interest.

 

Megan: [00:03:06] Well, if their whole point of being in the book is to be the love interest, then, yeah, they're going to spend their time talking about men. So it's where we position women in the books before we put them in a conversation.

 

Megan: [00:03:19] So I was looking at The Tethering and technically it does pass the Bechdel test because of a scene that our female protagonist isn't actually in, but it passes. So I managed to get the publication contract, which didn't end well. But that's a different story. But it's amazing how hard it can be if you're like, I'm going to take the Bechdel test seriously, you can't start with putting in a random conversation.

 

Megan: [00:03:42] Let's say that you are writing a book and you're like, I'm going to make sure that this really passes the Bechdel test. It's going to be super feminist. Well, you can't stop the plot to have a conversation about bagels because you want to make sure you have two females having a conversation. You can't have two random women walking down the hall and be like, "hi, Lisa." "Hi, Sue." "Wow. Did you get enough coffee? It's great to see you" and move on, because as an author, that's not your job. Everything has to propel the plot forward, which means we need to put women in power positions, which is how The Tethering accidentally passed the Bechdel test.

 

Megan: [00:04:21] So how are you going to put women into positions of power? How are you going to make sure that you station the point of view of your book so that women have those opportunities to have the conversations? In The Tale of Bryant Adams, it was hard for me, because it all comes from Bryant's point of view. So since we're only seeing things where Bryant is actively in the room, positioning things so that there is a conversation between two women that doesn't refer to him but he's just so happened to be there hanging out on the wall, I really had to think about how I wanted to station my females in the cast and how I wanted to have him come into that conversations that it wasn't about bagels just so I could pass the Bechdel test. Now, as I've gotten farther along my author journey and realized more and more how to position my female chess pieces so that they can naturally have these conversations without having to have men eavesdrop or do other weird and creepy things, I've gotten better at doing it and also better at realizing that, you know, people like sex workers can be super empowered.

 

Megan: [00:05:24] Hashtag Ena of Ilbrea. Important people in important positions, so it's my challenge to all of you authors out there to look at your books, look at where you're putting your women in power positions. They belong in the rooms where decisions are being made. So let's put them there. It may be a fantasy in some places, but it doesn't have to be a fantasy in your book. Put them in the room. And for my readers, look at your favorite book. Does it pass the Bechdel test? Does your favorite author have any books that pass the Bechdel test? Why?

 

Megan: [00:05:58] Is it because you're reading, you know, the fiction where it's always the men who are having important conversations, and the women's job is just to rehash what the men have already done or clean up their messes? What is their position in that world? And then maybe take a look around at some authors who do pass the test, because one of the ways that we can influence the next generation to have women in positionS of power who are there to make sure that the next generation does even better and even better and even better until, you know, there are nine women in an important room that encourage those authors by investing in their work and by reading their books. And that is my completely nonpolitical statement on the passing of the Notorious R.B.G. See you next time.