The Bechdel Test is a test of films. For a film to pass the test it must pass the following three criteria:
- It has to have at least two [named] women in it.
- Who talk to each other.
- About something other than a man.
The reason I’ve had this test on my mind is because I was watching this interesting TED Talk video entitled, How Movies Teach Manhood, by Colin Stokes.
In it we’re given a couple of interesting statistics.
- Of the top 100 movies in 2011, 11 of them had female protagonists.
- 1 in 5 women in the US have been sexually assaulted.
The reason that the Mr Stokes mentions these two statistics together is because he wants to ask questions about the role of film in teaching boys about what makes a man, and, as he states, in reference to the ‘1 in 5’ stat:
“When I hear that statistic one of the things I think of is, that’s a lot of sexual assailants.
Who are these guys? What are they learning? What are they failing to learn?
Are they absorbing the story that a male hero’s job is to defeat the villain with violence, and then collect the reward, which is a women who has no friends and doesn’t speak? “
It’s an interesting talk, and an interesting comment about the way that men and women are portrayed in film, and what that teaches children about the opposite sex, and how they should see one another and think about one another.
This week I also read this post from a teacher in the US, entitled, The Day I Taught How Not to Rape. It’s stunning to read her talk about the shock from some of the male students in her class as they tried to get their heads around this new (to them) concept of the fact that a women’s clothing choice is never permission to rape her, and yet, there’s a part of me that’s not surprised.
In the TED talk video Mr Stokes makes a few comments about Disney princesses and the fact that they’re great, but that since they’re films that are aimed at girls, he still sees a problem:
“They are doing a phenomenal job of teaching girls how to defend against the patriarchy, but they are not necessarily teaching boys how they’re supposed to defend against the patriarchy.”
He makes a good point, because it’s all very well teaching girls that they can be strong and fight back and make their own choices, but if you don’t teach the boys that the girls are more than just a prize to be won at the end of a battle, then when the boys grow up to be stronger than the women, then all the good intentions and girl power in the world aren’t going to do her an awful lot of good.
It certainly makes me think a bit more about the films I watch, and why I like them, and whether they’d pass the Bechdel Test. How about you? How many of your favourite movies would pass?
In summary: thinking about films.