Search results for bechdel test

I suspect most Soc Images readers will, by now, be familiar with the Bechdel Test — the set of criteria for evaluating whether female characters are included in movies in even minimally non-male-centered ways, made popular by Alison Bechdel of Dykes to Watch Out For. To pass, a movie has to have at least two female characters who have at least one conversation with one another about something other than a man. For a quick overview, see our repost of Anita Sarkeesian discussing the Bechdel Test.

Leah B. let us know that there’s a website, Bechdel Test Movie List, entirely devoted to rating movies based on the criteria (with the stipulation that female characters have to actually be named to count). It consists of a list of movies that have been added and rated by readers; there are currently over 2,000 movies produced between 1900 and 2011 rated on the website. This is, obviously, nowhere near a random sample; as you’d expect, it’s highly weighted toward more recent movies, and of course not everyone agrees on the ratings (you can add a symbol to show you disagree and leave a comment on a movie’s rating page).

That said, the site includes a stats page that is interesting to look through just for a snapshot of the inclusion of women in these movies. Here’s a breakdown of the entire list; green indicates movies that passed all three tests, yellow passed 2, orange passed 1, and red didn’t pass any of the three:

It’s fun to browse through, for entertainment value and a starting place for thinking about the Bechdel Test and pop culture.

This cute two-minute video explains it:

Feminist Frequency, via my friend Ronke O.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I live in Los Angeles where saying that you don’t like movies is tantamount to claiming atheism in a church. But I don’t like movies, generally speaking. In contrast, I quite like TV. Does this seem weird?

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media offers a clue as to why I might lean towards television.  The Institute did a content analysis of 11,927 speaking characters in “family films” (G, PG, and PG-13) and prime-time and children’s TV shows (see it here).  They looked at the presence of female and male characters and the jobs those characters were doing.  In almost every instance, women had greater visibility, and better jobs, on prime-time TV than they did in either movies or children’s shows.


Women are, for example, 39% of characters on prime time, but only 31% of characters on kids’ shows and only 28% in movies.  Casts are twice as likely to be gender-balanced on prime time (45-55% female), compared to movies.   Half of the casts of family films are 75% or more male, compared to only 20% of the casts on TV shows and 39% of children’s shows.



Almost half of all American workers are female, but they hold only 20% of the jobs on the big screen and 25% of the jobs on children’s shows. Again, here prime-time does somewhat better: 34% of the jobs on evening TV are held by women.

The next two tables reveal how men and women are distributed among different kinds of occupations in films and on prime time.  Men are over-represented in almost all cases, but the disproportion in movies is almost always significantly worse than it is on TV.



If you’re one of the people that contributed to Star Trek Into Darkness$70.6 million opening weekend this week, this data might not be surprising.  I didn’t count, but I suspect it falls into the 50% of films that has a cast that is at least 75% male.  It certainly didn’t pass the Bechdel Test; the two female speaking characters, if I remember correctly, never spoke to one another at all, and so they couldn’t have spoken to each other about something other than a man (that’s the test).   (Oh wait, I think one of the twins with tails in bed with Kirk said “hey” when he leapt out to go do something important, so that’s three women with speaking roles).

So, like in lots and lots of films, women in Star Trek were woefully under-represented except as love interests for the two protagonists (Uhura in this movie and Carol, it was foreshadowed, in the next).  I’m used to it, so it doesn’t really stir me up, but that doesn’t mean I have to like movies.  I’ll stick to TV, thank you very much. It’s not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than Hollywood.

Cross-posted at BlogHerPacific Standard, and The Huffington Post.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

“You just have to be cheerful about it and not get upset when you get insulted,” said rocket scientist Yvonne Brill.

She must be chuckling in heaven, because her obituary at the New York Times made the common mistake of making her femaleness and femininity a central part of their retrospective.  After objections, NYT corrected the obit.  Here are the tracked changes, courtesy of NewsDiffs:


At Feministe, Caperton offers a nice discussion of this phenomenon and draws our attention to the Finkbeiner Test, named after journalist Ann Finkbeiner.  Inspired by the Bechdel Test for movies, the Finkbeiner Test is used to judge whether stories about women focus excessively on the fact that they are women.  To pass the test, the story cannot mention:

  • The fact that she’s a woman
  • Her husband’s job
  • Her child care arrangements
  • How she nurtures her underlings
  • How she was taken aback by the competitiveness in her field
  • How she’s such a role model for other women
  • How she’s the “first woman to…”


We’ve documented lots of instances of the men-are-people and women-are-women phenomenon.  It’s no wonder it shows up in obituaries too.  I’m glad that we’re becoming sensitive enough to the issue to notice it and that institutions like the NYT are responsive enough to change the most egregious examples of it.  Next step: prevention.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media has released several research reports detailing gender inequalities in Hollywood, both in front of and behind the camera.

To get a sense of how men and women are portrayed on the large and small screen, researchers analyzed 11,927 speaking parts from three sources: 129 top-grossing family films (rated PG-13 or lower) released from 2006 to 2011, 275 prime-time programs from 2012 (from 10 broadcast and cable channels), and 36 kids’ programs that aired on PBS, Nickelodeon, or Disney in 2011. The analysis indicated that women are underrepresented as characters in speaking roles, as well as narrators:

gender characters

However, gender differences in representation aren’t just about who is on the screen; it matters how they’re depicted, too. Female characters in the sample were more likely to be sexualized, including factors such as sexy clothing, exposed skin, and having their attractiveness specifically referenced by another character:


Men and women were also depicted differently in the workplace. In the sample, few female characters were presented in high-level positions within their occupations:


What about behind the scenes? Researchers associated with the institute looked at the gender breakdown of those employed in behind-the-scenes jobs (writers, directors, producers, etc.) in Hollywood as well. Unsurprisingly, the results indicate that women remain significantly underrepresented in these positions.

According to their analysis of the 250 highest-grossing films in the U.S. in 2012, women held just 18% of these positions. In fact, women’s representation in these behind-the-scenes roles has been basically stagnant for over a decade:


There’s significant variation behind the scenes as well. Women made up a quarter of producers and one in five editors, but only 9% of directors and 2% of cinematographers:


Women hold a larger proportion of behind-the-scenes roles in broadcast television than in the film industry. Looking at a randomly-selected episode of every drama, comedy, or reality show that aired during prime time in the 2011-2012 season, 26% of these roles went to women:


Again we see wide variation in the different behind-the-scenes jobs. Women are much more likely to be producers than directors in the sampled episodes, and only 4% of directors of photography were women. And while the percent of female creators and writers for prime time TV shows jumped in 2011-2012, less than a third of either position was held by women:


For more on representations in Hollywood, see our earlier posts on race and gender in films and Anita Sarkeesian applying the Bechdel test to the 2012 Oscar Best Picture nominees.

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Yesterday I posted the results of an L.A. Times study on the demographics of the Academy voters who decide who receives Oscars. What about the movies they’ll be voting on this year? The always-awesome Anita Sarkeesian, of Feminist Frequency, produced a short video applying the Bechdel test — the simple measure of even minimal representation of women in film — to the 2012 Oscar nominees, as well as a racial version of the Bechdel test that looks at how non-Whites are included. The results are not encouraging:

Course Guide for
(last updated 09/2011)

Developed by Mary Nell Trautner, PhD
University at Buffalo, SUNY


Social Construction of Sex & Gender



Patriarchy / Oppression

Patriarchy as Male Dominated

Patriarchy as Male Identified

Patriarchy as Male Centered


“Doing Gender,” Gender as Performance



White privilege


Childhood Gender Socialization


Gender & Language


Gender & Mass Media


Gender & Work

The Wage Gap


Gender & Sports


Sexuality: Homophobia


Sexuality: Sexual Behavior


Gender & the Body

Physical appearance and beauty work

Obesity and overweight

Gender and Family


Hegemonic Masculinity


Intimate Partner Violence


Sexual Harassment


Forced Sex & Sexual Assault

Anti-Rape Campaigns


Visions for the Future

If you would like to write a Course Guide for Sociological Images, please email us at

This Course Guide is in progress and will be updated as I have time.

Disclaimer: If you’re thinking about writing a course guide.  I totally overdid it on this one!  It doesn’t have to be nearly this extensive.

Course Guide for

(last updated 5/2012)

Developed by Gwen Sharp
Nevada State College

C. Wright Mills and the Sociological Imagination

Intersection of biography and history as illustrated by:

“the capacity for astonishment is made lively again”

Karl Marx/Marxist analysis

Emile Durkheim

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