Have you ever written something and wondered if the female representation was complex enough? Yes? Great job! No? Well you should. Here’s one way how. The Bechdel test was invented by the American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in her comic strip “Dykes to Watch Out For” in 1985. The rules include this: your script must include two female characters, they must talk to each other, and it must be about something other than a man. The two females needing names is sometimes also added. While these requirements are pretty bare bones, you would be shocked at how many movies do not pass it. Here are a few for your dining enjoyment: The Social Network, Avatar, the Original Star Wars trilogy, the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, (500) Days of Summer, The Avengers, and Citizen Cane (just to mention a few).
Surprisingly, the genre of movie that passes this test the most is horror movies. This is probably due to the fact that they are too busy discussing survival or running for their lives for the screen-writer to even include sexism in their script. And while this test should be used by both men and women, women will probably need it less since they think about women and their issues more often. Men can leave half of the entire population out, and not even notice it. I watched Tropic Thunder with a man once and there was not one single female character in that entire movie. Not one line spoken by a woman. This was his favorite movie and he never noticed it until I mentioned it. So, it can be easy to get lost in your thoughts and not think in a larger sense.
So, while you’re writing your piece you should start by thinking of this test. However, you shouldn’t stop there. This is perhaps the lowest bar to writing something gender inclusive. Your female characters should be three dimensional, complex, and definitely have names. They should not be immediately described by how pretty or hot or skinny or fat they are (just to use some words I have seen used time and time again). The women should be just like the men, whole and complete human beings.