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Men’s Rightser on the Bechdel Test: “Why do Women need to talk to each other ? I don’t get it.”

kittens!
Talk amongst yourselves.

So some Swedish movie theaters have decided to institute a new rating system to let viewers know whether or not the films they show pass the Bechdel Test — that is, if at any point in the film two female characters have a conversation about something other than a man.

Over in the Men’s Rights subreddit, a fella with the classy handle classypedobear takes strong exception to this terrible affront to human decency. His argument?

classypedobear 28 points 1 day ago (37|9)  This test is BS, simply. I think what they are trying to accomplish is noble but that is where the good stops.  Why do Women need to talk to each other ? I don't get it. I have plenty of female friends who get along better with males. If two women hav a conversation about their kitten or their baby ? I think it's even worse.  Bad idea overall

Wait. WHAT IS WRONG WITH TALKING ABOUT KITTENS?

Thanks, AgainstMensRights subreddit!

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princesssunnyburn
7 years ago

And that tells you all you need to know about these jerks, really.

Dvärghundspossen
7 years ago

As a Swede I can testify that this only happened because Sweden is a hotbead for misandry. 😛

Also, I wanna defend the Bechdel test from everyone who goes “it doesn’t say aaaaaaanything about the individual movie, it’s ONLY interesting because of the PATTERN it shows”. I think it does, usually, say something about the individual movie too.
I mean, there are exceptions. Das Boot doesn’t pass the Bechdel test because it’s set on a German submarine during world war two. There are a small number of movies that are so completely centered around just one person that it’s not gonna pass any Bechdel test – usually, that one person is a man, but lately, we have Gravity where it’s mostly just Sandra Bullock and nobody else on screen.
Usually, though, movies are set in an environment that isn’t male-exclusive, with a few main characters and a number of secondary characters. When such movies don’t pass Bechdel, it’s usually because all Persons are played by men, and only people who “must” be women are women (like, if there’s gonna be a romance or Unresolved Sexual Tension ™ between a male Person and another character, heteronormativity demands that the other character is a woman; also, if a character is gonna be a mum, for instance, it’s gonna be a woman). And such a set-up is likely to lead to Bechdel fail.

swankivy
swankivy
7 years ago

Hmm, maybe they’d “get it” better if they used the same argument reversed. “Why do Men need to talk to each other? I don’t get it. I have plenty of male friends who get along better with females. If two men hav a conversation about their kitten or their baby ? I think it’s even worse.”

Had to go back and double-check that I was making all the same language mistakes.

Or maybe they’d change the references to kittens and babies, because as we all know, only chicks talk about kittens or babies, and anything to do with cute animals or children is irrelevant to men. Maybe said men would talk about their sports or their penises, and these dudes would TOTALLY go see THAT movie.

I wonder also if they’d “get it” better if they saw how many movies would pass a test requiring two men to talk to each other about something other than a woman. Just about every movie, including movies about, by, and for women, would pass that test.

HeatherN
7 years ago

@swankivy: You know, aside from the rare rom-com…I actually don’t think there are any movies in which two men don’t talk to each other about something other than a woman. Actually…I don’t think there are any movies out there (even rom-coms) in which there is only ONE male main/secondary character.

dustydeste
dustydeste
7 years ago

I somehow doubt that classy fellah has “plenty of female friends” if he thinks that all women talk about is kittens and babies.

Not that kittens and babies aren’t awesome! But given my long experience in talking to other feeeeeemales, I have to say that they’re not really the only acceptable topic. We also talk about shoes, shopping, more shoes, spermjacking techniques, diet plans, diet plans to make us super fat and unlovable so we can take over the world with our disgusting feeeeemale mass, abortions, killing newborns, recipes, recipes for poison, makeup, superspy makeup to fool all men into thinking we’re HB 10s, shoes, hair tips, nailpolish, shoes… you know, all the important things in life!

Dvärghundspossen
7 years ago

Exactly, Heather. And that’s because screen writers don’t write by first inventing all these female characters that do different stuff, have different personalities and play different roles in the story, and then go “right, this one’s gonna have a love interest, so I’ll enter a man for her to flirt with…”

serrana
7 years ago

Well duh. The only things women ever want to talk to one another about are those icky, girly things, like babies, kitties, purses, jewelry, and makeup, and who the hell wants to talk about that? And those feeeeemales who get along with males so well? It’s not like they get along with everybody or anything, because that’s impossible. You can only get along with one gender (and of course there are exactly two.)

cloudiah
7 years ago

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Dvärghundspossen for all the misandering Swedes have been doing!

Dvärghundspossen
7 years ago

Btw, have you seen “the Mako Mori test”?

The Mako Mori test is passed if the movie has: a) at least one female character; b) who gets her own narrative arc; c) that is not about supporting a man’s story. I think this is about as indicative of “feminism” (that is, minimally indicative, a pretty low bar) as the Bechdel test. It is a pretty basic test for the representation of women, as is the Bechdel test. It does not make a movie automatically feminist.

http://chaila.tumblr.com/post/58379322134/spider-xan-also-i-was-thinking-more-about-why

I agree that one can think it cool that a movie has even one main character who’s a WOC – representation of women period isn’t all that matters, representation of WOC is important too, and since WOC:s are so far and few between in mainstream media it might be adequate to do a little dance of joy as soon as there’s one important WOC role. But the Mako Mori test as an alternative to Bechdel? Seriously?

I read this feminist blogger who said “the first time I heard about something called “the Mako Mori test” I thought it was a feminist fail test, like, if you can say of a a character “You know, she’s the girl in [insert name of movie] then there’s feminist fail”.

And yeah, really. I think the Bechdel test is useful because it really shows something. But there being one female character with a personality arch, and then everyone can interpret for themselves whether she’s supporting a man’s story or has her own arch (and we’re all gonna be prone to wishful thinking here, and think that female characters in movies that we love for other reasons do have their own archs and aren’t primarily about Teh Menz) – that’s a crap test!

Dvärghundspossen
7 years ago

To clarify, I think that maybe ONCE there was a time where it would have made sense to check movies for ONE decent female character. But fortunately, we’re passed THAT point now. There are quite a lot of movies with ONE decent female character. That’s really no basis for giving cookies to movie-makers any more.

Jojo
Jojo
7 years ago

True story: every lesbian porn movie passes the Bechdel test…

Robert
7 years ago

I also think the Bechdel Test can say something interesting about a film even if the yearly trends are more widely reported. I watched an odd little slasher film called Black Rat last night that passed the Bechdel Test. Female characters talked to each other about their relationships with each other, a huge school function coming up, and whether or not they should be punished for their female friend’s suicide. Then it took a hard turn into standard female characters talking about male love interests even while facing the threat of a female student taking revenge for past misdeeds against her. It passed the Bechdel Test because it focused so heavily on the female characters, but decided to resolve the remaining plot threads in the third act with nothing but “you stole my boyfriend/he was mine first/why can’t I have a boyfriend” nonsense that had no real bearing on the story.

The Bechdel Test, at its best, is a starting point for a discussion about gender roles in film. It’s also not the only indicator of quality gender roles. Short Term 12 does not pass the Bechdel Test, but its focus is on the relationship between a female foster child and a female caretaker trying to prevent her abusive father from keeping any custody at all. The father’s role in the story allowed for really honest and thoughtful character development for the two leading ladies even if the exact dynamic couldn’t exist without the male influence.

The Mako Mori Test is really cool, too, but it’s so new. I remember seeing Pacific Rim and being blown away by how many different stories were being told in the context of humans versus monsters. Mako’s stood out the most for being a purely psychological conflict over her own feelings of inadequacy brought on by childhood trauma. Pacific Rim fails the Bechdel Test because there is no solely female interaction, but the female-driven story elements are focused on even more than in films that actually pass the Bechdel Test.

And Short Term 12 passes the Mako Mori Test with flying colors with two strong female leads getting their own narrative arcs that intersect at key points in both of their stories.

Dvärghundspossen
7 years ago

I actually do watch tons of movies that aren’t Bechdel-worthy, because they can still be funny, exciting and so on, and I feel my pop-cultural life would be too boring if I were to boycott everything not Bechdel (apparently one of my colleages has a wife who’s on a boycott and who thinks everyone ought to do the same until the industry changes, and I sort of admire that feminist engagement, but I can’t be bothered to myself). But I still defend it as an overall pretty good feminism test, even if it’s obviously far from perfect.

Alice Sanguinaria
7 years ago

You know, yesterday I was discussing math problems and how chiropactors shouldn’t be prescribing drugs/suppliments. Was that really codeword for kitties and babies? O_o

moldybrehd
7 years ago

“Why do Women need to talk to each other? I don’t get it.”

Nope, he surely doesn’t.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

As someone who’s a Pacific Rim fan and writing a (decently popular, by my standard) crossover fanfiction series with it, I HATE the Mako Mori test. For god’s sake, there was another woman, a Russian pilot, in the movie. It wouldn’t have taken that much effort for the filmmakers to have Mako Mori talk to her. Aaaand that’s it. Those are the only two female characters with names in the entire film. You have a dozen named male characters–shit, you have freakin’ SEVEN who’re white in a movie set in freakin’ CHINA–with names, and two female ones, and they never speak to each other.

Guys, I like Pacific Rim too. But it’s really not the social justice haven you want to pretend it is.

(And this is why, in my fanfiction, I’m ignoring most of the cast, focusing on disability issues, and introducing women and people of color as pilots, groundcrew, and various bureaucratic jobs. I mean, Christ, I’m writing in a universe where all the countries around the Pacific band together. Why SHOULDN’T I actually take advantage of it?)

cloudiah
7 years ago

I spent a lot of time while I was in Texas talking to women (and men) about improving open access to information, curating data throughout its lifecycle, and developing methods to make rich machine-actionable information freely available online. That’s pretty much kitties and babies, right?

MaudeLL
7 years ago

@swankivy
They can’t reverse the argument, because men *cannot possibly prefer the company of women.* If they do, they may become manginaified.
The in MRAology, everyone prefers the company of men, because men are that much awesomer. OTOH, they are also the most oppressed (especially the white ones). This combination of awesomer than everyone else + oppressed triggers is like female crack. It’s all science and shit.
(more shit though)

HeatherN
7 years ago

I like to think of the Mako Mori test as supplemental to the Bechdel Test. Or vice versa…Bechdel as supplemental to Mako Mori…neither one replacing the other. They’re just low-bar indicators for slightly different issues with women movie characters.

They’re both so low-bar that neither really address a lot of really tired tropes, such as “woman in a man’s world,” and whatnot.

Eumenidis
Eumenidis
7 years ago

Y’know, I don’t think Hollywood would put a character on screen who’s as much of a stereotype as that guy is, except for an easy laugh. As for the lots of women friends he claims to have, I suspect he may be counting women coworkers who’re polite & pleasant to him because they do have to work with & see him every day, he clearly sees women as an undifferentiated, interchangeable mass rather than individuals & is incapable of relationships of any depth–with either women OR men. If his disability weren’t self-inflicted he’d be pitiable.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

Also, JoJo, Twilight passes the Bechdel test too. Seriously, the test isn’t an insta-feminist award. It’s intended to show how shitty the media is at even acknowledging such basic things like women talking to each other.

And actually, I think Coraline doesn’t pass the reverse Bechdel. There are plenty of male characters running around, but I don’t think they ever talk to anyone but Coraline, her mother, or her “other” mother.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: HeatherN

See, I have a lot less patience for the Mako Mori test is because I’m used to thinking of that… for folks with disabilities.

I have grown to accept that people like me are so rare in media, expecting more than one is an exercise in naivete. But women are 50% of the goddamned population! There should be more than one with a goddamned independent arc!

Dvärghundspossen
7 years ago

Twilight sort of proves that passing Bechdel doesn’t guarantee that the movie is a feminist one. What I would like is feminists stop pretending that there are loads of movies that doesn’t pass but are still so great from a feminist standpoint. I think there’s this tendency among many feminists who love pop culture to try to see every movie that they love for other reasons as a really feminist movie at that. They first like a movie, then thinks “since I’m a feminist, and I like this movie, this movie must be feminist”, tries to find reasons why the movie is feminist, and usually ends up at “there’s this one female character which is well-written”. That, and also “the camera lingered for a while on a hot dude’s body”, that’s usually the other argument for the movie being feminist, although it’s not used as much as “there’s one well-written female character”.

THIS IS NOT ENOUGH FOR FEMINISM COOKIES!

CassandraSays
7 years ago

I didn’t see Pacific Rim but it sounds more like what we get all the time in movies, where there’s allowed to be one female character who’s important as long as there really is only one and she doesn’t interact with other women. Having a detailed backstory about her being abused doesn’t make that any better, imo, especially if that’s going to be your only significant female character.

cloudiah
7 years ago

I had totally forgotten about the cat shit/toxoplasmosis conversation in Trainspotting.

katz
7 years ago

I think the Mako Mori test is effectively useless because applying it inevitably turns into a big discussion of what qualifies as an arc and what is or isn’t supporting another character. The utility of the Bechdel test is that it’s relatively objective.

Ally S
7 years ago

Mako Mori? Really? Maybe I wasn’t paying attention to the movie, but she really didn’t seem to stand out as a female character. I didn’t see any gender-role non-conformity from her.

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

Woman can humans?! I don’t even…

Karalora
7 years ago

Two male characters in a movie having a conversation about a kitten.

Well, you’ve got various animated movies that are about kittens. Like Oliver & Company.

freemage
freemage
7 years ago

Dvarghundspossen: There was a Sinfest strip along those lines shortly after Tatsuya realized feminism was actually a good thing, in which the newly-feminist Monique is watching the TV and alternating between disparaging the show’s patriarchal influences and squealing about how good it is.

Bechdel, Mako Mori and other ‘tests’ are really more about how privilege functions than anything else, I think. It’s not so much a critique of the film that fails it, as it is a critique of the society that creates so many films that fail it.

****
I’m trying to figure out if one of my favorite horror flicks passes or not. Trick or Treat is a really cool, well-done movie. It’s got a string of interlocking stories about one town that pretty much goes wild on Halloween. The story arcs criss-cross, making it one of those ones you need to watch twice to get all the interactions.

One of the story arcs features a group of kids–I’m hard-pressed to guess ages, here, but I think pre-teen covers it pretty well. But the kids are led by one girl, and they’re targeting another for their rather cruel prank (warning to anyone who is curious–there’s some harsh treatment of neuroatypical kids in this film, but it’s not played for laughs, and they do get some measure of revenge).

katz
7 years ago

The interesting thing about Mako Mori, IMO, is the gaze aspect: We get a little female gaze going on, which is very, very rare.

katz
7 years ago

Two male characters in a movie having a conversation about a kitten.

Doctor Who episode “Gridlock.”

Erica Stratton
7 years ago

“the Man Boobz test: Two male characters in a movie having a conversation about a kitten”

Two men in Boondock Saints talk about a cat (though it ends rather gruesomely!)

Skyal
Skyal
7 years ago

He does, kind of, have a point. A movie with a strong female character, even a lead character, who doesn’t talk to another woman, wouldn’t pass, while movies with 2 minor, but named, female characters who have one line of dialogue unrelated to men would, even if that’s their only lines. Personally, I think the Bechdel test combined with the Mako Mori test would be a better standard. If it passes one, gets a C, A for both, F for neither

HeatherN
7 years ago

@katz: Does it count if one of the men in question is a Time Lord, and the other is a cat-person? 😉

@David: “Women in man’s world” movies can be good, and can definitely be feminist-y…but it’s still a tired trope. Plus, it’s a recipe for Strong Female Character disaster…though it doesn’t always end up in that.

@LBT: It’s the same with queer people, really. You usually get one…MAYBE two, and if there are two, then they’re definitely dating each other. (Unless you’re talking about a queer cinema film). – And yeah, as you say, women are basically half the population…so no excuse. So, yeah, I don’t think either test is necessarily indicative of adequate representation.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: CassandraSays

I didn’t see Pacific Rim but it sounds more like what we get all the time in movies,

It is slightly better, but that’s it: slightly. I mean, I liked that movie and clicked with it enough to write crossover fanfiction for it (which is very unusual for me), but I’m a really cynical bastard with high standards for my media. I know creators who I can pay for aweome poetry about trans multi people of color being superheroes, so having a few POC running around in giant robots doesn’t wow me much.

And I really need to see Fargo.

RE: Skyal

*points to Freemage’s comment* The test was supposed to be a tongue-in-cheek reflection on patterns in society. I don’t really see a need for high-ranking and thorough testing. I mean, Twilight STILL passes your amped-up test.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

RE: HeatherN

You usually get one…MAYBE two, and if there are two, then they’re definitely dating each other. (Unless you’re talking about a queer cinema film).

<.< *clutches large stock of queer comics* NEVER TAKE THEM AWAY.

Wetherby
Wetherby
7 years ago

Would John Waters’ films pass the Bechdel test? Or do female characters actually have to be played by real-life women?

(Actually, thinking about Waters films that don’t star Divine, I’m pretty sure that Serial Mom would qualify.)

Skyal
Skyal
7 years ago

I was referring to Sweden’s new rating system. Passing the Bechdel tests gets a movie an “A” from what I’ve read. And it shouldn’t

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

@Skyal
He only has a point if you’re very, very charitable with your interpretation of what he means. I mean, his point wasn’t that it’s more important that it shows women being capable and intelligent than that they have a single conversation about something other than a man. It was that women don’t need to talk to each other. I’ll grant that a really good film with women who never speak to one another but portrays them as fully rounded human beings is better than a film with a pair of two dimensional optional love interests who happen to speak briefly about how bad it was when the big bad burned the castle. I just don’t think that’s what he was getting at.

LBT
LBT
7 years ago

Oh, I gotcha, Skyal. Yeah, I admit, it is kinda weird to me that they’d choose THAT for a rating system. O_o I mean… can’t we kinda expect better? I guess not.

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

I find the comments on the article funny.
The new rating system has been launched by cinemas.
The very top comment?

At the risk of being lambasted I would like to start the discussion by saying that this is another example of ridiculous nanny state intervention.

Independent businesses choosing to introduce a system – if a poorly thought out system – highlighting gender imbalance in films = nanny state intervention.
More importantly, proper films are not outlawed!!

Ridiculous. So classic ‘buddy’ movies like Thunderbolt & Lightfoot or The Dirty Dozen can never be made again? (there appears to a market for chick flicks with sophisticated women characters and cartoon men too).
Sincerely hope this nonsense never reaches these shores but I don’t doubt the EU is on it already.

Seriously. Guys. Get a fucking grip. Stop freaking out over tiny steps in the right direction. Nobody’s saying we can’t have war films or crime dramas anymore. Nobody’s even saying you need to write two women into the film just to have them talk about kittens or babies. It’s just a few private businesses deciding to let people know a little bit about the content. OH NOES! TEH ENDZ AM NYE! ABADDON SHEP! ABADDON SHEP!!

Athywren
Athywren
7 years ago

“proper films are now outlawed”

bbeaty
bbeaty
7 years ago

Things I talked to my totally real female friends about this week: Game of Thrones, Battlestar Galatica, organizational change management, Syria, tater tot hotdish, snow, why my car is making that funny sound, dogs (better than kittens?), their jobs, my job, water heaters, mouse control methods (kitten adjacent?), football, roller derby, art, bankruptcy, church politics, cigars, The Heat, the housing market and yes, kittens, No babies, though.

bbeaty
bbeaty
7 years ago

Sometimes I wonder if MRAs just need to get out more and meet a different women You know, if all the women they know are so horrible.

talacaris
talacaris
7 years ago

Is there any list of movies that doesn’t pass the reverse Bechdel test?

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