By Sarah Shamim
When I first heard about the Bechdel Test, I was both 17 and pissed as hell. Having just watched Bollywood & The Bechdel Test, a video about sexism in Bollywood, I was quick to notice the sexism in Lollywood too.
Before I knew it, I was writing paragraph after paragraph about the Bechdel Test in my answer to an essay question about content analysis in my Sociology O level exam. It was all worth it though because not to flex, but I did get a regional distinction in the subject, giving all the laundaz around me a free pass to say “Socio kitna faaltu subject hai uss mey tou distinction koi bhi le aye”.
Of course, what place does a cis-het rich boy have in a room where social inequality is discussed anyway. Deep down, I knew that the laundaz quiver at the immense amounts of power I hold.
The summer after my Socio exam, I obviously streamed so many movies and shows. Whenever I would watch something new, my brain’s gears would turn and I’d inadvertently put everything I watched to the Bechdel Test. I was unsurprised when Bollywood and Lollywood failed me. However, when I realised that Stranger Things season 1 technically doesn’t pass either, I was heartbroken.
Let’s cut to the chase, what is the Bechdel Test exactly?
Also known as the Bechdel-Wallace Test, the Bechdel Test is a measure of the representation of womxn in fiction. It asks whether a work features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. The requirement that the two women must be named is sometimes added.
The test is named after American cartoonist, Allison Bechdel, who featured this test in a comic strip.
In no way is the Bechdel Test a guarantee that womxn are well represented in the movie. The way I see it, the test is the bare minimum. And the fact that most Pakistani, and international movies and shows don’t even satisfy the bare minimum makes me very angry.
From stereotypical token female characters like the tyrannical saas, the ever-forgiving bahu, and the “modern” characterless villain, to dialogue-less female characters, consuming Pakistani media can often lead to daunting realisations about how women are perceived in this country.
That said, more progressive Pakistani shows and movies are surfacing. Asim Abbasi’s Churails definitely passes the Bechdel Test with flying colors! Dare I say, it receives a distinction. And as we all know, distinctions never make laundaz happy.
Sarah Shamim is a student, activist, writer, poet, and performer. Sarah loves Stranger Things, pasta, vegan food, and all things purple.