– ELI.docx

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(ELI)At the time when I first had to take a sociology class in high school, I was staunchly anti-feminism, as I felt it was unnecessary in first world countries and primarily focused on encouraging immodesty and considering women to be worth more than men. At that time, my only education on feminism or feminist issues had come from my parents during homeschooling. I clearly remember getting into a heated debate with a classmate whom I considered “the feminist equivalent of a vegan,” (referring to the stereotypical joke, “How do you know if someone is a vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you,”) and I told her I simply could not see any situations in real life where women aren’t being represented without a real reason. She introduced me to the term Bechdel Test, and encouraged me to spend a few weeks watching my usual shows, but counting how many times the female characters spoke to each other about anything other than men. 

As my understanding of feminism and of the world around me has evolved, I have seen an increase in media that passes the Bechdel Test, but have also been surprised to find it is significantly less common than I expected. Additionally, the Bechdel Test only looks at named female characters who discuss something other than men. It does not look at factors of race, sexuality, topics of conversation, or visual presentation. Some argue that although media increasingly passes the test, the quality of that media is lacking and therefore the value of the Bechdel Test does not hold up (How does the Bechdel Test measure up in evaluating film representations of women, 2021). More detailed studies show that women remain underrepresented in media, both behind and before the camera (Smith et. al, 2016). The female characters that are portrayed in trend towards being young and traditionally attractive, reinforcing the “ideal” image as the standard and further raising the standard for the average woman. Additionally, women of color and women belonging to other racial or social minority groups are even less visible, impacting the expectations that society has of women based on how they are shown, and influencing what women consider “normal” in themselves.

How does the Bechdel Test measure up in evaluating film representations of women? (2021, April 19). UWIRE Text, 1.

Smith, S., Choueiti, M., & Pieper, K. (2016). Inclusion or invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on diversity in entertainment. Media, Diversity & Social Change Initiative. USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

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