1. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Bechdel Test - Short Stories

    Discussion in 'Short Stories' started by The Piper, Jun 11, 2020.

    Hi everyone,

    I'm about to publish my first collection of short stories, and while I was sitting working on a short for the next collection this morning I realised I have a problem, in that I don't think many of them would pass the BT. I know this is a fairly outdated and irrelevant test but I can appreciate it's still considered by many readers to be the standard by which diversity/inclusiveness in regards to female representation is measured.

    The problem is this. It isn't that I've over-represented males etc - over half the stories feature a female protagonist, and while trying not to sound like I've included things for the sake of including them, ethnicities and sexualities are - I think, at least - also represented fairly well. But when every story is only twenty-ish pages long, and most feature two or three characters (the odd exception, of course, butt his is about the standard). As such, there isn't room to whack a scene into every story where two female characters have a chat about stuff - and as far as I'm aware, that's pretty much the test. So while there are plenty of female-led stories, or even entirely-female stories in a couple of cases, not every story would pass the test.

    My question is: does this matter? Opinions of the validity of the test itself put aside for a moment, would my audience criticise the work for not necessarily paying much attention to it, considering the representation is there in other ways, and the format is limiting? Thoughts appreciated, thank you,

    Piper
     
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  2. Dogberry's Watch

    Dogberry's Watch Contributor Contributor

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    I'll say what I've said to others who ask this question: you asking it shows it matters to you. But I think you've already answered your own question, really, because you said you have female leads and other diversity markers.

    My only issue with the tests we have for such things is it oftentimes ruins the authenticity of a conversation if there are two women just having a chat with no reason other than to have a chat. Then it becomes obvious you have done the thing.

    I hope this helps.
     
  3. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    It does, thank you. It's an awkward situation to have to worry about this kind of thing because the test is so specific to a certain situation that just might not crop up in a short story, especially with minimal characters in the first place or a plot that doesn't require much talking, or something, and I don't want to be the guy that creates a character or a situation just to serve that purpose but at the same time... you know. Thanks again, reassuring.
     
  4. Steve Rivers

    Steve Rivers Contributor Contributor

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    Like Doggie said, its good you think about it. But if you base all your writing and ideas on the B test, then you'll also remove something from your work that proponents of that test don't seem to care about - realism.
    We arent two separate species, there are roughly 50% of each gender on the planet. Even in a totally gender-equal societal paradise, you will get men causing problems and influencing events in women's lives, and vice versa.
    Being mindful of it and catching egregiousness is good, letting it dominate your creativity is bad.
     
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  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    As a math guy:

    The Bechdel Test is more intended for patterns than for individual works :)

    If you had 8 stories with 3 characters each, and if you picked characters' genders randomly according to real-life proportions (roughly 50.5% female, 49% male, and 0.5% non-binary), then you would statistically expect that
    • 1 of them would have no female characters
    • 3 of them would have one each
    • 3 of them would have two each, and
    • 1 of them would have three
    The fact that a disproportionate majority of mainstream stories in Western culture skew in the direction of "few, if any, female characters of significant importance" is an indictment against the culture as a whole, but isn't itself enough to condemn any individual story in a vacuum.

    More than anything, the test is about agency:
    • If Adam and Bob are talking to each other about what they're doing to resolve the conflict of the story
    • but if Carla and Deidre only talk to each other about what Adam and Bob are doing to resolve the conflict of the story
    • then Carla and Deidre are more like just set-pieces than actual characters
     
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2020
  6. Friedrich Kugelschreiber

    Friedrich Kugelschreiber marshmallow Contributor

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    It doesn't make sense to apply that test to individual stories, as Simpson said, especially if they're short. How many characters do your stories have anyway? How many scenes? Applying the test to a single story is pointless. By all means apply it to your entire oeuvre. But even then, does it really mean you're sexist? What if your niche is writing stories in the first person about angsty men who have social anxiety and never meet women? It might be artificial to include a scene with two women, or even impossible. A much more meaningful interpretation of the sexism of your work would be case by case.
    I'm all for women's equality, but make the story the priority, and if there's something blatantly sexist then change it.
     
  7. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Ex-Patriot Supporter Contributor

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    I think as long as you have a good selection of female-lead stories there's no issue. The Bechdel test, as I understand it, is more to do with things like rom-coms where all the female characters talk about is the men in their lives. As a related side note, the Vin Diesel testosterone-fest XXX: The Return of Xander Cage passes the Bechdel test. It's something I noticed on my own, but here's a blogger (not endorsing, just something I found in my quick google) who goes into more detail on the film: https://bechdeltest.com/view/7411/xxx:_return_of_xander_cage/
     
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  8. Kalisto

    Kalisto Senior Member

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    Good!
     
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