Testing the Bechdel Test

I had the misfortune of hearing someone refer to the Bechdel test, and despite my misgivings, asking what it was.

“Basically, a work passes if:
1) It has at least two female characters.
2) They speak to each other at least once.
3) It is about something other than about men.”

Such is the test for purity of sexual thought and lack of bias against women in the story. What is the test for racial purity in the story? Two non-Christian non-White must appear together in a scene and talk about something unrelated to Western Civilization and its concerns?

I ask because I remember reading a reviewer once who judged one of my stories as one that did not pass the racial purity test.

This was not because of the race of any of the characters, by the way. The main character was explicitly said to be a Mestizo, that is, an English-Spanish hybrid with some Red Indian blood thrown in, what is now called a ‘Hispanic’ albeit as best I understand the Ahnenpass rules of racial purity used by Democrats, Hispanics do not count as Caucasians, even though they are from Europe, and neither do Persians count of Caucasians, even if they live in the Caucasus Mountains.

So in the story there were no Anglo-saxons at all (all the characters with speaking roles were Mestizo, Hindu, Dravidian, Iberian, Coptic, Tibetan, or an artificial biofact, but this was insufficient race diversity to sate that particular mavin of correct race thought) but I was denounced as a racist. Since I am a Christian and a pro-Constitution pro-limited government free market type, the reviewer in that instance decided that any from Texas two of four centuries from now has to be a White Man, despite that the text said otherwise, and therefore I am a racist.

That experience shows that ideological purity tests have an innate flaw. Any joker dishonest enough and partisan enough to judge a book not on its merits but on its race-purity is also dishonest enough to lie about the test results if the results allow a Christian to pass.

We are the bad guys in the Leftwing worldview, and it is childishly simple worldview, one where the bad guy cannot be an antihero with some redeeming characteristics: all  we conservatives are utterly vile and cruel and bigoted without exception, or the else the Leftwing worldview is unworkable.

In this case, sex is being treated like race, so if the story does not have enough characters of the right sex behaving according to this new stereotype of female behavior, it flunks, and the writer has committed thoughtcrime.

Let us quickly see what passes the test of Lefty Ideological Race Purity, or Sex Purity, as they case may be. Of the Great Books of Western Literature:

  • ILIAD: I do not believe any two of the female characters discuss anything together. It is a war story. Hera and Aphrodite do appear in a scene together, but they discuss how to seduce Zeus, so this does not pass.
  • ODYSSEY: Unless there is a scene with Nausicaa and her maids or Penelope and her maids, no, I do not think the women ever discuss anything outside of what the menfolk are doing.
  • AESCHYLUS: Agamemnon, Libation Bearers, Eumenides, Prometheus Bound. Hmm. Hard to remember. Prometheus Bound I know does not have any two people with speaking roles onstage at any one time, because it is always Prometheus speaking to someone. The women speak in chorus in Eumenides and Libation Bearers, but I am not sure if this counts. Clytemnestra and Cassandra do not appear on stage together in Agamemnon, if memory serves, but I am not sure about that.
  • SOPHOCLES: Oedipus Rex, Oedipus at Colonus, Antigone, Philoctetes, Ajax. Again, my memory is weak. I believe there is a scene in Antigone where she is being begged by her sister not to attempt to bury the dead brother. I assume this does not count as talking about a man.
  • HEBREW BIBLE: Well, some of these books are history and poetry or prophecy rather than literature, but I cannot recall any scenes off the top of my head where one woman is talking to another about anything.
  • VIRGIL: Aeneid. Hmm. Is there a scene where Dido talks with her maids about anything? What about Camilla?
  • DANTE: Divine Comedy. Nope. Virgil talks to Dante and Dante talks to ghosts or to Beatrice, but there is no scene where Dante overhears womenfolk talking about anything to each other. There are scenes offstage where Beatrice command another divine lady to descend from heaven and help Dante on his ascent.
  • CHAUCER: Canterbury Tales. Here I cannot answer. I simply do not remember all the scenes well enough.
  • RABELAIS: Gargantua and Pantagruel. I think it is mostly male characters here.
  • SHAKESPEARE: Richard II, Henry IV, The Tempest, As You Like It, Hamlet, Othello, Macbeth, King Lear, and Sonnets. Ah, now we are in a richer area. I am pretty sure Hamlet and Othello flunk the test, but, again, someone more literate than I must answer. In MacBeth the three Weird Sisters speak to each other in witchcrafty rhymes about the fall of kings. So it passes as feminist-friendly.
  • BACH: St. Matthew Passion. Christ comforts the righteous women of Jerusalem, and the wife of Pilate warns him not to meddle with the just man, but I do not think women talk to each other.
  • CERVANTES: Don Quixote. Another one where there are several minor tales inside the main narrative which I simply do not recall. Dulcinea speaks to Quixote to be sure, but does she have a scene onstage talking to another woman about something other than a man?
  • MILTON: Paradise Lost. The only two female characters are Eve and Sin, and they do not speak to each other.
  • LA FONTAINE: Fables. Memory fails. I simply don’t recall his stories.
  • RACINE: Phaedre. Well, there must be some scene a Phaedre where women appear together, but chances are they are talking about Hippolyte or Theseus.
  • SWIFT: Gulliver’s Travels. No soap. Gulliver speaks with Glumdalclitch, and with the Queen of Brobdignag, but he does not report them speaking to each other. No female Lilliputians are mentioned, nor any Laputans, Glubdrubdibians, or Balnibarbians given a name, nor is there any dialog between the mares among the Houyhnhnms.
  • MOLIERE: Tartuffe. I think the maid speaks with the mistress of the house. I don’t recall if they are talking about men, but they probably are, since men are causing all the problems in the story.
  • JANE AUSTEN: Pride and Prejudice. Men and marriage prospects is all they talk about here, despite a plethora of scenes involving the Bennet mother and sisters, or Miss Bennet paying social calls on other women of quality.
  • TWAIN: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Nope, unless there is a scene with Becky Thatcher and Tom Sawyer’s Mother I am forgetting. Boys on a raft with an escaping slave and two (male) con artists, as I recall.
  • GOETHE: Faust. Magician talking with a demon. Helen of Troy has no speaking part.
  • WAGNER: Das Rheingold. I think there is a scene where Idunn, goddess of love and beauty, calls out to Fricka for help, and there is clearly a scene where the three mermaids talk to each other about guarding the gold. So it passes as feminist-friendly.
  • DOSTOEVSKI: Brothers Karamazov. Here again memory fails me. I remember lots of scenes with the brothers.
  • TOLSTOY: War and Peace. There are lots of female characters here, among the most realistic in all literature. They talk about men.
  • MELVILLE: Moby Dick. The book takes place on a Whaler, so there is no female character whatsoever. How this is a sign of gender bias is beyond me.
  • CONRAD: Heart of Darkness. Likewise, no female characters in the story that I recall.

What a clear and useful test this is! So far, out of twoscore of the greatest works of fiction of all time, we have two scenes in two works that clearly make the cut: the three witches appearing together cackling over evil witchy things; and the three cute and airheaded Rhine Maidens appearing together singing over their task which they later ignore because they are too busy tormenting a dwarf with their sexual allure; these both pass the test for being non-gender-biased, on the grounds that sirens and witches are not at all simplistic yet rather negative stereotypes for women, but are completely realistic and well rounded portrayals. (Okay, I will stop now, my sarcasm circuit is overheating.)

Is that enough? This test requires one to jettison over nine-tenths of all great Western literature from consideration on the grounds that everyone (except, apparently for Bechdel) is ‘gender-biased.’

So either all of Western civilization is totally and absolutely despicable, or else the test is total and absolute crap. I understand there are people petty enough and angry enough (and obsessively narcissistic enough) to want to keep the test in order to abandon civilization. That is what Political Correctness is.

The test is bogus, because it assigns the only possible reason for not putting female characters in primary speaking roles is bias against women.

The idea that little boys like stories about Pirates or submarines where men have adventures and go exploring whereas girls like love stories where women talk about love, and ergo the idea that there could be an innocent motive for writing such books is, by the innate testing bias of the test, discounted.

PRIDE AND PREJUDICE as well as TREASURE ISLAND and TWENTY THOUSAND LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA as well as LORD OF THE RINGS would fail this test, whereas A HORSE AND HIS BOY (Aravis talks to  Lasaraleen as well as to Hwin, and not about boys) would pass it. It this bias present in Robert Louis Stephenson and Jules Verne and Jane Austin and Tolkien yet somehow absent in C.S. Lewis?

It is the kind of test a petulant bigot would insist upon, who cannot imagine liking a story if the hero is not of his race and sex and class.

This is not a test to detect bias; it is a test to promote bias.

I am really sorry I asked what this was. I should have trusted my instincts which warned me it was some Politically Correct bullshit from someone who hates women or hates being a woman or both. Anyone who takes such tastes seriously condemns himself to endless wrath or endless despair.

45 Comments

  1. Comment by Janie Mercer:

    The book of Ruth begins promisingly enough. One woman choosing not to abandon her mother-in-law and accompanies her through great hardships. But it does end up centering on men, as Ruth marries Boaz honorably rather than seduce him as her mother-in-law suggested. But as it does turn out to be all about (honorable) marriage, I suppose it would lose points there:

    Ruth to Naomi:
    “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the LORD do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me. (Ruth 1:16-17, KJV)

    • Comment by Suburbanbanshee:

      Usually when one woman in the Bible is conversing with another, it’s not good news. Like Sarah kicking Hagar out of the caravan, or Rachel and Leah using their sons as go-betweens because they didn’t want to talk face to face to each other. So yeah, Ruth and Naomi are a good exception.

  2. Comment by bel riose:

    Just a couple of comments:

    Firstly, I think the test was meant to be a mere thought experiment to draw attention about gender bias in modern films. Even its creator when first introduced the concept was clearly sarcastic about its limitations and I have never once read or heard about it in any other context.

    Secondly, a mestizo is not an “English-Spanish hybrid” but it rather refers to a person born from an European father and a native American mother (or vice versa). People with Spanish and English nationalities – they are not ethnicities -, are typically white and always European. A mestizo would be Spanish-native American or English-native American, not English-Spanish.

    • Comment by The OFloinn:

      So what happens in Rassenwissenschaft if an Anglo-Spanish Creole marries an Amerind?

      • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

        A rich, old, white MAN loses his wings!

      • Comment by bel riose:

        In the Spanish colonial empire the offspring of a criollo and an Amerind certainly would be considered a mestizo although I am not sure how would be the take of the Rassenwissenschaft on the matter. Spanish people and mediterraneans in general, even if born and raised in Madrid, barely made it to the middle ranks of racial purity.

        • Comment by Mary:

          They were pretty far down, though no competition to the inhuman Slav.

          • Comment by bel riose:

            The redeeming factor for Spaniards was Hitler’s admiration of the Reconquest and the War of Independence against Napoleon — but but it would be hard to find a region in the world with less racial purity: Iberians first, then Phoenicians, Romans, Visigoths, Arabs and Berber…

            • Comment by Mary:

              Mixing races as such was not the problem. Official Nazi textbooks openly admitted that there were no pure races, that Germany was a mix of about six. The question was whether the races in question were closely enough related to breed harmoniously. Alien blood would produce a disharmonious situation, the child torn between two racial types. At the simplest level, on the same principle, there were those in the United States that argued that this sort of far-fetched breeding produced dental problems: children were getting the large mouth gene from one parent and the tooth gene from the other, or vice versa, with the result that teeth were too small to fill up the mouth, or jammed together too tightly.

              Of course, whether those related races were good or bad was another issue entirely in the racial ideology.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Did you not read what I wrote? The character has some Red Indian blood in him, what you erroneously call ‘native American’. I also mention that he was half Mexican because the Ahnenpass rules of modern Liberalism count this, for some reason not clear to me, as being non-White.

      • Comment by bel riose:

        I misunderstood then — my apologies.

        Why is native American erroneus?

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Because the word ‘native’ means someone born in America, and so that would make me a native American, whereas a Sioux born in England would not be. The word Indian has been used for over 400 years to refer to the aboriginal peoples of North and South America. If you want to differentiate between them and the natives of India, you can say American Indian, or Red Indian.

          It is incorrect because it is a language change adopted and promoted by the Politically Correct for their sinister purposes of mind control, and I find it personally offensive when someone tries to control my mind. By using their terminology, you help normalize their attempt, you encourage them, and you make them seem less like freaks.

          • Comment by DaveSomething:

            “Indian” always chafed me, since it arose from a geographical error. Why not “Aboriginal Americans” or some such, I wonder.

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              Does ‘Caucasians’ chaff you? I am not from the Caucasus.

              • Comment by DaveSomething:

                A little bit, yeah. Slightly less, for no good reason. I prefer “white”.

                Do you agree that “Aboriginal Americans” is a better term than “Indian” or “Red Indian” or the hated “Native American”?

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Better in what sense? I think that the Leftists who pretend to be outraged or offended on behalf of Red Indians by pretending that the phrase ‘Red Indian’ is an insult to them and by pretending they have a right to be offended on their behalf are lying. I think it is an outrageous lie.

                  • Comment by DaveSomething:

                    Better in the sense of more true. I could care less what the hypothetical Leftists say. “Native American” is a poor name, for the reasons you describe. I maintain that “Indian” is a poor name. We ought not needlessly propagate a fifteenth century geographical error. “Aboriginal American” seems to solve both problems.

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      But the problem is imaginary. The number of people who will think of Dravidians rather than Sioux when someone says ‘Red Indian’ or “American Indian’ is zero. There is no ambiguity whatsoever. The number of people who will think you are referring to an Australian tribesman who migrated to America when you say ‘American Aborigine’ is high. It is ambiguous. It is also novel. If the next generation speaks a different vocabulary from their grandfathers, they will not be able to comprehend our grandfather’s writings.

                      So it creates problems and it solves no problems.

                  • Comment by DaveSomething:

                    I am convinced. Thanks!

  3. Comment by deiseach:

    Ah, Mr Wright, the Bechdel Test is flawed if it’s proscriptive, but it was never meant to be so.

    It’s the bare minimum of “are there women in this story whose own stories don’t revolve around men, whose only purpose is to be there in relation to men, who serve no function other than to be sex objects and motives of revenge?” I’m sure your own mother, not to mention your wife, loves you dearly and you are the core of her existence, but does she spend every waking minute talking and thinking about you, to the exclusion of all else?

    It’s perfectly feasible to have a scene in a movie where the hero’s mother and the hero’s girlfriend talk about him – that’s natural. But if all we see is (1) there are only two women in this movie, even though it’s set in the present day world as we know it (2) they only appear in relation to the hero, to talk about him exclusively, so we can learn about His Tragic Background when Fluffy, his boyhood pet, was run over by the villain’s tricycle and this started their life-long enmity – then, you know, maybe even a scene where Mom and Girlfriend talk about “Hey, you like knitting patterns too? I’m working on these socks right now – what stitches do you use to turn the heel?” might flesh them out a bit?

    Let’s take, as an example, the latest instalment in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, “Star Trek Into Darkness”.

    There are only two named women characters in the entire film. There are background female crew and extras in crowd scenes, but it’s overwhelmingly male cast (even though women constitute something around 50% of the population).

    These two women never speak to each other even once. Not even a “Hello, Lieutenant Uhura, I’m the new Science Officer.” They don’t even fail the Bechdel threshold of having a conversation about a man: they’re the two main lead female characters and they interact less than Scotty and his comedy alien sidekick Keenser.

    What the film does manage to fit in is (a) a gratuitous scene of one of these actresses in her underwear, for no discernible reason other than, as admitted in interviews afterwards, appealing to the assumed target demographic for movie skiffy (young straight males) and (b) a really nasty little jibe about Christine Chapel, a legacy character from the original series who the fans have been clamouring to see in reboot, and presumably since the new creative team are annoyed about the fans making this request, they take this opportunity to stick two fingers up to us about Christine by making her the butt of a joke. Immediately before the underwear scene, just to rub our noses in it.

    Many of we female fans of SF and/or Star Trek are less than gruntled about this, regardless of political/religious/social views.

    And to put something on the credit side of the balance, a film that is getting great approval for a race-centred version of the Bechdel Test is “Pacific Rim”: a movie about giant robots punching monsters in the face, it also has Mako Mori (Japanese lead female character) and Stacker Pentecost (Black British lead male character) in a foster father-daughter relationship founded upon respect and filial piety (as seen here), and Mako’s story is not primarily about romance or subordinated to the story arc of Raleigh Beckett, (white American lead male character).

    Japanese heroine and American hero get to pilot giant robot, use chainsword to chop monster into pieces, and help save the day (after heroic sacrifice of British lead and Australian support characters).

    Guillermo del Toro is doing women in SF monster movies right :-)

    • Comment by Raphael:

      I’ve always taken the Bechdel test as a not-very-serious litmus test for pop-culture fare. I haven’t heard of its being used to censor classic literature. I can understand where it’s coming from, but I don’t find it particularly useful. Let’s consider two recent male-oriented movies: John Carter and Pacific Rim.

      Pacific Rim fails the gender test because it has only one female character with a speaking part. Let’s look at that character. She’s quite feminine. We see her empathy, her concern for what people are thinking and feeling, her willing respect for her father-figure, her little red shoe. There’s nothing macho about her. But we also see her as a character whose arc is not about romance, who overcomes her weakness, masters herself, fights bravely, more than supports her partner, and avenges her parents’ deaths. She is honorable. She is competent. She is necessary to the fight. She’s the one that slays the dragon; and because of the “drift” conceit, the male protagonist has no accomplishment of which she is not an integral part, other than his act of chivalry at the end. And yet Pacific Rim fails the test. You know, maybe it’s not perfect. It’s obviously meant to appeal to men, although I have to say that my wife simply loves it. But I’ve seen a lot worse, too.

      Case in point: John Carter, a movie I utterly despise for a multitude of reasons. Does it pass the test? I confess that I can’t recall whether Dejah Thoris has the requisite conversation with Sola or Sarkoja. When we look at the short-shorts-wearing, sword-wielding princess, though, I think it’s obvious that it shouldn’t pass any useful test. The filmmakers made Dejah Thoris the discoverer of the Ninth Ray (see! chicks can do pseudophysics, too!) and a macho master swordsperson (see! chicks can disembowel their enemies, too!), but these are just add-ons that don’t really affect the plot. And the writers also made her criminally selfish and perfidious. She runs away from home and violates the terms of her office as princess (whose benefits she’s enjoyed her entire life) rather than conclude a peace-making alliance by marrying a dude she doesn’t like (whereas in the book her journey was a scientific expedition), and she lies repeatedly to John Carter to get him to do whatever it is she wants him to do. So, the movie may or may not pass the Bechdel test, but either way it clearly reflects a profound misunderstanding of the goals of feminism.

    • Comment by Robert Mitchell Jr:

      Alas, “are there women in this story whose own stories don’t revolve around men, whose only purpose is to be there in relation to men, who serve no function other than to be sex objects and motives of revenge?” fails, for men are not required for that to still be a problem. See “Dykes to watch out for”, by the creator of the test in question. Second, your knitting example runs into the problem of Chekhov’s gun. How do you propose to fix that?

    • Comment by Joseph M:

      At first, I had to laugh at the concept of calling out a story in the Star Trek universe for its failure to live up to feminist ideals, as Rodenberry couldn’t wait to get his female characters as close to naked as TV would allow, and had them trying to seduce Kirk within about 10 seconds of appearing on screen. “Strong” women were ones trying to do something in addition to seducing Kirk. I used to laugh – maybe I’m the only one? – at Gene’s women, unrealistic even by TV and Space Opera standards, as they went about their military-style jobs in miniskirts and go-go boots.

      But then, I remembered the awful truth: That Rodenberry really was a feminist icon – the sort who copulate freely, who, as men in positions of power who can make or break the careers of women, are none the less presumed to have only consensual sex with 18 years olds with dreams of being famous. Like Hugh Hefner. Because he talks a PC game. That he wanted to make Number 1 a woman, and the mean old networks wouldn’t let him, forgives all.

      So, weirdly, his Universe is in fact the one that should be held to the highest PC feminist standards. If anything should be excoriated for failing the Bechdel Test, it is Star Trek. And, in the tradition that guilt knows no generational bounds, that I, for example, am responsible for enslaving the blacks and killing the Indians – Rodenberry should be exhumed and his corpse stoned for the sins of Into Darkness.

      Hey, *somebody* ought to be stoned for that movie.

    • Comment by Mary:

      Huh? Of course it’s proscriptive. You describe it yourself as the “bare minimum.” That’s a proscription right there: if it doesn’t have this, it flunks.

      As for its calling to flesh out characters — not all stories benefit from such fleshing out. Making your bit characters too lively is a good way to ensure that your story loses focus.

    • Comment by Crude:

      “I’m sure your own mother, not to mention your wife, loves you dearly and you are the core of her existence, but does she spend every waking minute talking and thinking about you, to the exclusion of all else?”

      But it’s not ‘every waking minute’. It’s ‘the minutes that happen to be reported to the viewer’. I think something’s gone wrong with your standard – if in fact it is a standard – if you’re insisting that some conversation, any conversation, be shoehorned into the movie/show/book that just is not about a male character. A male character who is the lead figure in the story no less.

      What story is going to be improved by making sure two female characters work in a discussion about waffles?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I’m sure your own mother, not to mention your wife, loves you dearly and you are the core of her existence, but does she spend every waking minute talking and thinking about you, to the exclusion of all else?

      My wife does, because I am very annoying.

  4. Comment by wlinden:

    Dulcinea does not have a scene onstage at all. Her only appearance is through Sancho’s second-hand account.

  5. Comment by Lisieux:

    ‘Othello’ has a very pathetic (in the original sense) scene where Desdemona is preparing for bed, and talking to Emilia, her attendant. However, since they’re talking about Othello – the audience, though not Desdemona, knows that he’s intending to kill her – the scene still presumably fails the test. Silly, sexist Shakespeare, eh?

  6. Comment by Luke P.:

    A theater in Sweden doesn’t think the Bechdel Test is just a “thought experiment” (& How useful is a thought experiment if it can’t be usefully applied? Why does it exist ?):

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/06/swedish-cinemas-bechdel-test-films-gender-bias

    The Bechdel test is in fact used by many individuals online as more than an experiment, but, curiously, it’s never applied to films like MILK or BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, it’s cited only when there’s a suspicion that a film might attract a lot of hetero white guys who couldn’t be trusted to apologize for existing without some prodding.

  7. Comment by Republican Swag:

    I agree with your assessment of the Test. In none of my works, all four of them, is there a major female character who changes the outcome of the story.

    Some plots and stories simply do not take well to female characters, Mr. Wright.

  8. Comment by Xena Catolica:

    I, too, only recently heard of the Bechdel Test. What I find most annoying about its use is that it’s an attempt by liberals to politicize another area of my life which is None of Their Business. My food choices–meat or no meat, local or imported? The manufacture of my clothes? The advertising of my pasta? And so on ad nauseum.

    It never crossed my mind until reading Tor.com to even consider the sex of the SF writers I read. In the formation of my taste, it’s just not there. I’m informed that that is merely blind privileging of the status quo–apparently I’m not allowed to resist my private reading choices being given a political meaning. In no way is the autonomous exercise of my taste–my criteria for what I allow inside me head–respected as worthy of autonomy. And that is indeed, as you say, PC bullshit, the more damning because in that discussion, the quality of the prose did not once get mentioned.

    I’m a woman, and the books I read in the last year were almost all good books, and that’s all that matters. Good stories in good prose that moved me, none of which depend on the sex of the author, but his or her skill. Most of them were written by men and I’m unconvinced that’s a problem.

    I often enjoy stories with male protagonists, too. The PC crowd objects that I’ve been colonized/brainwashed into sympathizing with a male protagonist. I think it’s easy to see the reader’s position as either explicitly looking for a role model or otherwise closely identifying with the protagonist, but I don’t normally read that way. Apparently a lot of people do. The kicker in dealing with the PCniks is that I’m Not supposed to sympathize with a male protagonist, but it’s also necessary to have lots of non-heterosexual orientation confusion/drama/importance/affirmation because it will rid readers like me of my ‘heteronormative bias’ by sympathizing with *those* characters.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      I am puzzled as to the PC theory of reader identification. I also hate it as I hate the gates of Hell, but in addition to hating it, I admit it puzzles me. When I read about the Virgin in the Gospel of Luke hearing the strange and awful greeting of the seraph Gabriel, am I not supposed to be moved and inspired by her reaction Ecce Ancilla Domini because I am a man and she is a woman? I am not supposed to empathize? Then when I read of the death of Our Lord on the cross, and I hear His horrifying dying words,
      Why has thou forsaken me? am I not supposed to feel for Him because He is a Jew and I am a gentile? Am I supposed to dislike Commander Sisko of DEEP SPACE NINE because he is Negro and I am Caucasian, but I am supposed to be able to identify with and empathize with Captain Picard because he is bald and I am bald? When Little Nell is dying, I am supposed to be indifferent, because she is a little girl and I am an old man? When Red Ronja or Jirel of Jorey or Clarissa MacDougle is doing some feat of derring-do, am I supposed to be cold because they are all redheads but I am darkhaired?

      Ah, but I forgot the famous double standard of the Left. One rule applies to White Christians — we are supposed to love and admire heroes from other races and cultures — and another rule applies to the designated victims, mascots, and clients of Leftism — they are supposed to be given only examples from their own races and cultures to admire. I am allowed to watch and like a samurai movie, but no Japanese should be allowed to watch a Cowboy movie, because that would be cultural imperialism.

      Who in the world thinks I am this shallow? My favorite characters of all time include Spock of Vulan and Frodo of Bag-End, neither of whom are members of my race or even of my species.

      So — if this is the theory of Political Correctness, that readers can only empathize with persons of their own race, nation, sex, age and condition of hair, the logical result is that each artificially-defined grievance group will be fed stories starring only members of the same grievance group. In what sense will this produce MORE rather than LESS hatred between the groups?

      But what if I want to read about, let us say, Aladdin or Sindbad or the new Ms Marvel, all of whom are Muslims, and the grievance group to which I belong happens to be an international and interracial group, like one of the religions which invites or commands all the families of man to join?

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      “What I find most annoying about [the Test’s] use is that it’s an attempt by liberals to politicize another area of my life which is None of Their Business.”

      Ah, but that’s the fundamental tenet of collectivist progressivism: there is no area of anyone’s life which is not the business of the rest of us, if one can plausibly construct an argument as to how the collective effect of some people’s choices in that area is perpetrating or perpetuating an injustice upon others.

      It’s also the collectivist, cumulative nature of the issue which has to be understood to grasp the complaint the Test is meant to highlight. That female readers can be reasonably expected to invest in male characters, and male readers vice versa with female characters, and the equal effective and value of both in principle, is not being contested in itself. The issue is the collective frequency with which each group is, in actual practice, obliged to have to make that external investment; the comparative paucity of female protagonists means women get to see “representative examples” far less frequently than men do, and this collective imbalance in frequency of appearance is held to produce a cumulative conditioning effect on women that, however unintentional and however capable of individual exception, drives home the idea that they are not important — that the majority of interesting stories don’t get told about them.

      That is the other great thesis of PC collectivist progressivism: the belief in the power of mass media to produce collective unconscious influences, such that even if a majority of works do not explicitly propagandize certain attitudes, lack of representation eventually equals lack of value and respect. The problem with this thesis is that while it seems plausible in itself, (a) if true, the statistical studies advanced to verify it would be by definition themselves too inevitably biased to be sufficiently objective, and (b) any thesis where both the presence or the absence of evidence supporting that thesis can be cited as evidence for it (what C.S. Lewis called “invisible-cat logic”) is by definition fallacious. It is a kafkatrap accusation which takes both denial and admission as proof of guilt.

  9. Comment by paul.griffin:

    The underlying story being reinforced by all of this is that we (humans, that is) are inherently and infinitely malleable. That we are searching for utopia and we need only find proper method and the correct shape in which to form ourselves and we will become our own saviors. It is Nimrod’s project in the here and now. Lewis did a wonderful job outlining it and the fundamental flaws inherent in putting any such plan into action in “The Abolition of Man.”

    The reason this project is so vehemently defended is that to acknowledge the futility of it would be to admit many uncomfortable facts; our need for outside help, that we are incapable of making ourselves into what we desire to be, and that there is something more fundamentally wrong with us. There are millions of us invested to a greater or lesser extent in this story, and if the story is not true, the cognitive dissonance will be unbearable to those of us that need that story to be true for whatever reason, whether because it is what invests us with power over others, or it is what rescues us from taking responsibility for our lives. Regardless of the particulars, it has become the foundation of identity for so many. To attack the story is to attack the identity. Rage is usually the result of that sort of cognitive dissonance, and whatever (or whoever) is perceived to have caused the story to falter can generally expect to be on the receiving end of that rage. I think you’ll find that truth and logic have very little to do with any of it. It’s more like trying to rehabilitate an addict than trying to win a debate.

  10. Comment by PersonalLiberation:

    As an effete, life hating, bus riding, library going, urban dweller (“elhbrlgud”) I would like to cast my vote in favor of more rigorous critic than the Bechdel test. Additionally, I find the presence of the test to have merit on the grounds of getting people to think about gender roles and their portrail, if nothing else. I’m sure all free thinking people will agree that examination and debate are healthy.

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      Examination and debate are healthy when an honest person examines himself, or two honest persons debate an issue honestly. There is no honesty in a philosophy based on exciting the ingratitude of women and the arrogance of intellectuals.

      So, with all due respect, I believe your assessment of the Blechel test as meritorious on the grounds that it gives and excuse to mock and deride great works of art on the shallowest imaginable political grounds is far too generous. The test only could serve the purpose you define if there were actually a cause-effect relationship between the number of women in a story and the status of women in society. There is no such relationship. Failing to put women in war stories or boy’s adventure stories is not a sign or symptom of oppression against the fairer sex.

      • Comment by PersonalLiberation:

        I’m sorry for the sloppy way my original post was written, sir. To be succinct: we agree the Bechdel test should not be used to criticize works, whether to “mock and deride” or otherwise.

        If I can make amends by adding something of substance by addressing your positing of a racial/ethnic version of the Bechdel test and then applying it to your own work I shall now attempt so. Please confirm for us that the work referred to is Count to a Trillion, the third in the series soon to be released to anticipating space opera lovers. I see where some have been confused by certain details, not because the work was poorly written, neither explicitly nor implicitly insulting, but undoubtedly the confused are influenced by the wooden villians of Hollywood who require no justification for damnation than the music shifted on cue. Count to a Trillion was racial, not racist. The villians shared an ethnicity, yes, but their villany was defined by their actions. I prefer well-written stories such as this where the heroes earn praise and villians scorn. Additionally to the charge of racism in this work, as you point out Mr. Wright, an observant reader would see that Menelaus also has Spanish blood even though he is from the Angloshere not the Hispanosphere.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          Modern liberals suffer a mental disorder. That book is based on the premise that language groups, not races, form the basis for self-identity during those years because society in the future will be different from society now. Hence no liberal can comprehend it. They live in the past, technically, in the 1800’s, when the theory of Darwin led to modern theories of scientific racism.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          The villains did not share an ethnicity. One was Spanish, one was Portuguese, one was Basque, one was Catalan, and so on. I did that deliberately, to make the point that what looks like an ethnic group from the outside, from the inside forms a plethora of groups. The reason why they were the villains was that the book assumes that in the future, Brazil and India will be the only superpowers capable of a space program. The reviewer took this as a sign that I thought badly of the Hindus.

          His theory seems to be writers always pick the next superpower in a future history based on which nation they think is inferior, not accomplished.

  11. Comment by wlinden:

    In English indigenous popular dance, there is a movement called a “gypsy”.
    Some years ago, there was an uproar on rec.folk-dancing complaining that this was insulting, or racist, or something.
    What was typical was that the posts were not coming from real Romany, but a bunch of gadje insisting that SOMEBODY ELSE would be offended.
    What was also typically PC was that they could not agree on an explanation of WHY it was offensive.

  12. Comment by Carbonel:

    Well, I failed the whatsit, sexism test a while ago, when some kerfluffle on the internets caused me to look over my list of Summer Reading books for gender parity. To my initial dismay, I discovered that my list (at the time) was heavily weighted toward female authors and main characters, especially if you didn’t include the books with co-protagonists, one of each sex, as viewpoint storytellers. Pretty unfair to boys, no?

    But then I discovered that the YA lit field, which is the one making all the money these days (that and romance. Heh!) is predominantly female, even those fields assumed to be “male dominated” like Sciffy. Google the Andre Norton awards if you don’t believe me. And then I went back and double-checked my list to be sure I really did have the balance I was looking for: humor, adventure, romance, emo-angsty novels of Teen Issues, interesting “how to” books, and nonfiction and fictional history/realism. It passed the “Good Readin’ for Every Taste” test, so I decided that the rest of it was a mugs game and gave it a pass.

  13. Comment by Nostreculsus:

    Sigfried Smith tells me that “The Dark Enlightenment of Rebecca Gryffindor” (by Mr Wright’s wife) does at least pass this Diesel Test of yours. In Chapter II, no fewer than four female students have an extended discussion of their magical broomsticks.

    But then, he sometimes garbles details, so I can’t be sure.

  14. Comment by The Ubiquitous:

    Two women walk into a bar. One says to the other:

    “Beschel annoys me,” says one.

    “I think he’s adorable,” replies the other.

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