About 'Alpha+Good'

Alpha+Good (a bad wordplay on Orwell's "double plus good" and old machismo - I'm the realest after all) is a side project that belongs to 'Onklare taal' ('Unclear' or 'Unripe language'), the umbrella of several literary projects in Dutch.

This section is almost exclusively in English and comprises my ongoing thoughts on progress, gender, politics and various other social themes. Why is this in English why everything else in Dutch? Because I want to gun for a much wider audience here. Also, my literary English isn't good enough, otherwise I would always write in English.

Are you a little lost? This link will take you right back to my home page.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Bechdel failure

I recently happened upon a thing called 'the Bechdel Test', also known as the Bechdel-Wallace Test, or, apparently, the Mo Movie Measure. While primarily used when talking about gender bias in movies, it's equally applicable to any work of art that is story- and character-driven.

The test is as follows:
(1) Does the work of fiction have at least two women in it?
(2) Do they talk to each other?
(3) When they do, do they talk about anything other than men or a man?

These seem like simple questions that make a lot of sense, yet, if you interpret the test liberally (e.g. replace 'man' with any sort of marriage- or relationship-related topic), apparently a lot of works with traditionally strong female characters don't even pass the test.

Now, it's no secret that I consider myself a progressive person with a deep interest in minority causes and feminism, so I decided to apply the test to my own short and long stories. For the sake of brevity, I've only considered work I've written since January 2010, and only if the story consisted of two or more chapters. Here are the results:

  • De patriarch (The Patriarch): passes none of the questions, although in fairness, this is a story without dialogue and only two characters
  • Desert of the real: passes the first question, barely passes the other two, but in such an insignificant way that it doesn't really count
  • De kleine onderwereld (The Little underworld): passes none
  • De gehangenen (The Hanged): passes the first question, fails the other two
  • Jahannam: this story is as of now unfinished, but it passes all three questions, although the last two weakly so
  • De spiegel van Satraoron (Satraoron's Mirror): passes none
  • Ungesicht (Unface): passes the test, but not exactly with flying colours
  • De nacht van de ram (The Night of the Ram): passes the first two, fails the last
  • De presidenten (The Presidents): passes none
  • Alleen op feestjes (Only at Parties): passes the first, fails the two other questions
  • Einde (End): passes the test
  • De vergelijking van Wolver (The Wolver Equation): unpublished, but only passes the first question
  • Zeppelin: fails the test completely

In numbers: out of 14 short stories I've written since January 2010, only four pass the Bechdel Test, and if I'm really strict, only two do. Five stories fail the test completely.

As you can tell, this is a sobering conclusion. While I like patting myself on the back that I've come a long way as a writer since the days I was 15 and didn't know any better than to write horrible turns of phrase about how a female character had "luckily calmed down and became the cornerstone of a family", it shows that I still have a lot of progress to make if I want my progressive stances to be reflected in the fiction that I write.