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Does Your Friendship Pass The Bechdel Test? Check It Out Today!

Posted: November 23, 2017

Apply the Bechdel test for female friendships to your friends, and decide for yourself which of your friends are the ones for keeps. How? Read on to find out.

I came across this incredibly simple test called the Bechdel test. This test was popularized by American cartoonist Alison Bechdel in 1985 and essentially it is a litmus test to assess the representation of women in works of fiction. In order for a work of fiction to pass this test it needs to have:

1) Two female characters
2) Who talk to each other
3) About something other than men.

Sounds simple, right? But the fact of the matter is – there are only a handful of movies that pass this criterion each year, globally. In the Indian context, the number of movies faring well in this test is even lower. Once in a while there are movies that portray women characters who are strong and independent but very rarely do we see an on-screen representation of strong friendships between straight females. (Recent movies like Parched and Pink are a few exceptions though.)

On the contrary movies on “bromance” or men friendship themes (example – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Dil Chahta Hai) are more common and main stream. In these bromance movies, the on-screen friends converse about life, philosophy and share their innermost vulnerabilities. As opposed to “Sex and the City” where most of the conversation between the four independent women living in New York city is about the men in their lives.

If we take a closer look at history, female friendships are rarely celebrated. We are more aware of camaraderie between men like Fidel Castro and Che Guevara, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet or the most loved bromance of recent times Barack Obama and Joe Biden. The stories of famous women in history mostly tends to follow the do-it-alone achievers.

In a culture that undermines and misrepresents the female friendships, it is important that we understand the significance of it and make sure we nurture an inner circle of authentic female friends – the ones who are our soul keepers, the ones we always go back to, the ones who push us to realize our true potential and the ones who hold up the mirror to our souls.

These “Anam Cara” (soul friends in Gaelic) in our lives could come at various life stages. Like for me, one of them was my first boss – we talked work, we travelled – discussed books, movies, ethics and life. Recently we lost her to illness, but there will always be a bit of her essence in my soul.

Beyond the emotional nourishment that these friendships provide, there are also various studies confirming health benefits of close friendship among women. Like a 2006 breast cancer study found that women without close friends were four times as likely to die from the disease as women with 10 or more friends. It’s true that as we progress in adulthood with growing responsibilities demanding most of our energy and time – our friendships take a backseat.

We might all end up being part of many “all women” networks, the ones I may refer to as networks of convenience to manage our multiple roles – like the whatsapp mummy groups that help you keep up with your kid’s homework. These networks of convenience could sometimes become the starting point of a more worthwhile friendship. But in the midst of all these “keep in touch” networks, let’s not forget to nurture female friendships that pass the Bechdel Test for female friendship. Answer these three simple questions.

  1. Do we choose to engage in female relationships that are authentic, mentoring, and that pushes our limit?
  2. Do we prioritize time to talk to them or be with them?
  3. Do we talk about topics beyond our kids and the men in our lives?

Do you have friendships that could pass the Bechdel test mentioned above? If yes make sure you treasure it!      

Image source: a screen grab from the movie Angry Indian Goddesses.

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Sophia is the founder of Soul Cafe, a mom, a travel and life enthusiast. She

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