The Bechdel Test and It’s Impact on Fiction Writing

Hello Writer Bees,

In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite female creators, Alison Bechdel. But more importantly, the important test she invented and how it impacted the writing world.

Who is Alison Bechdel?

Alison Bechdel is an American cartoonist best known for her 2006 graphic memoir, Fun Home. Originally, she was known for the long-running comic strip. In 2012, she released her second graphic memoir Are You My Mother? Two years later, she became a recipient of the MacArthur “Genius” Award. As a figure in the LGBTQ community, her journey with her sexuality and gender non-conformity is at the heart of her work.

While in college, I read Fun Home and absolutely fell in love with Bechdel’s candor regarding her life. Highly recommend the book, Fun Home is a memoir like no other. And right now, I’m listening to the Fun Home Musical’s soundtrack as I write this post. (Yes, there was a musical!)

What is the Bechdel Test?

Sometimes referred to as the Bechdel Rule, the Bechdel-Wallace Test or the Mo Movie Measure. In short, the Bechdel Test is a test that measures female representation in fiction. And it can be applied to all mediums of fiction: Books, movies and T.V. shows. Now let’s be clear, failing these criteria does not mean it’s a poor representation of fictional women. However, the test does show the active presence of women in fiction, how involved they are in a story. If you are curious about what movies have passed and failed the Bechdel Test, check out bechdeltest.com, a database where users classify if a film meets the Bechdel Test criteria. To pass the test, a piece of fiction should follow this simple list of rules.

Bechdel Test Rules

  • The movie has to have at least two women in it,
  • who talk to each other,
  • about something besides a man
  • Bonus: Two women must be named.

Why is the Bechdel Test important?

While these rules sound easy enough to accomplish, you’d be surprised how many works of fiction fail this test. Underneath these simple guidelines is a deeper meaning. The Bechdel Test draws attention to gender inequality in fiction. Representation matters, writer bees. Women need stop being written off as sideline characters that revolve around the male characters. Women can take on the lead role and have an active presence in a plot. In truth, the Bechdel test raises important questions to all creators. How integral are the female characters in the plot line? Are their story arcs fleshed out and full of depth?

As a lady writer myself, the Bechdel Tests makes me look at my own female characters differently. To be more mindful about how women in any creative work are depicted. Personally, I take this test as a challenge and a standard to strive for.


What are your thoughts on the Bechdel Test? Do you think your work would pass the test? Who are some of your favorite female characters in fiction? Talk to me in the comments. As always, I love to hear from you!

Stay safe and stay creative.

Write with Heart,

Lady Jabberwocky

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3 thoughts on “The Bechdel Test and It’s Impact on Fiction Writing

  1. I’d say Juliette from the Silo/Wool series, Savine dan Glokta from the Age of Madness, Kate from How to Survive Camping, Dani Moonstar & Illyana Rasputina from Marvel Comics (not the New Mutants movie which I found awful) and Selina Meyers from Veep

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a great test. My work most definitely passes 🙂 Favourite characters in fiction (from works which also pass the test would include Alison and Colette from Hilary Mantel’s “Beyond Black”; Sylvie and the female narrator of Marilynne Ropbinson’s “Housekeeping”; and Jane Bowles’ eponymous “Two Serious Ladies”.

    Liked by 1 person

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