Female Characters: The Bechdel Test

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The Bechdel test is named after 80s lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel and originate from her comic ‘Dykes to Watch Out For’ in 1985. This test is an assessment of the value of a woman’s presence through film. Though the test is for films and its portrayal of women the Bechdel test can be used to help you develop a strong female character in your writing. The Bechdel test involves three simple questions. These include:

1.      Are there two or more women in it that have names?

2.      Do they talk to each other?

3.      Do they talk to each other about something other than a man?

Now I wonder, how many stories on Wattpad would actually pass this test. Countless times I have read romantic stories and the fixation, continual fixation on the protagonists love interest is demoralising and slightly disturbing. Females don’t only think about males, that’s the simple part of the message. Make your female have a hobby, and another female character she can talk to about said hobby. The hobby is also easy, music for example.

If you want to make your female character dependent, then I guess that’s okay to. The trick here is to still create a strong character, she must have some good character traits, because people aren’t always black or white, dependent or independent, everyone is grey.

I see the Bechdel test failing in a lot of romance stories. ‘Wait a minute Agatha,’ I hear you say, ‘it’s a romance story, and the protagonist has to think about the male.’ I agree with you there, however it is not a requirement for her to think of him all the time. If that behaviour was displayed in real life it would be like Edward Cullen for girls, its borderline psychotic. Sure you can make your character crazy about a guy, but not too crazy, unless she’s a stalker. Anyway a prime example of someone who I think is a good romance character is Cher from Clueless. Yeah she is boy crazy, but her hobbies of fashion and playing matchmaker and her interactions with the other female characters means she somehow passes the Bechdel test. The character also has flaws, she’s not perfect, and too many characters on here are perfect. A more detailed analysis on her may be found later in this book when I get to prime examples.

So in conclusion my opinion stands to reason, characters, even dependent ones should pass, or at least pass to some degree, the Bechdel test. Wattpaders you are writing a book, films, due to shortness, are limited in character development, however you are not. So please think more into your characters, especially female romantic ones. You may find inside each character is a spectrum or emotion, flaws and huge achievements. 

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