L'Ombre de l'Olivier

The Shadow of the Olive Tree

being the maunderings of an Englishman on the Côte d'Azur

28 July 2008 Blog Home : July 2008 : Permalink

Bechdel's Rule

The always excellent Charlie Stross has a post where he introduces something he calls Bechdel's Law which comes from a cartoon by Alison Bechdel. The rule is you should avoid movies that do not
  1. Have at least 2 women in it
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man (or babies (Charlie's addition) or (my addition) fashion)
There are in fact surprisingly few movies that pass the rule. Charlie also notes that it is a rule that is worth applying to the written word too. He is fairly harsh on his own works noting that some don't pass the test either and has promised to do better in the future. Although I think SF/Fantasy does a pretty good job on the whole with regards to female characters in non-traditional roles he is very far from alone in this failure. I can think of works by Asimov and other acknowledged masters of SF that fail too, although I note that Heinlein mostly passes (though Starship Troopers probably fails).

One author that, from memory, fails rather more than I expected though is Iain M Banks. I'll have to go back and reread but I think both "Player of Games" and "Excession" fail and I suspect Feersum Endjinn does too. Interestingly as I think about it almost all Baen books pass even classic MilSF like Drake's Hammers Slammers.

I'm wondering if any female authors fail. I'm having trouble thinking of one that does but it would not surprise me if (for example) an Andre Norton book would fail.