“Potatoes, Mother”, said Janice.

The Alison Bechdel test, for who didn’t know, is a way to judge gender bias in the Media – books, films, and also fanfic. It’s very simple. To pass the test, the story must:

  1. Contain at least two women
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. About something other than a man

An amazing number of films and books fail this test. Either there’s only one token female, and even if there are more, they don’t get any lines, being mostly bit-part players for sex scenes, “You Utter Bastard You Killed My” Girlfriends, or otherwise just there to make the hero more awesome. And it’s not exactly deep arcane magic to pass the Bechdel test. I don’t write specifically to pass the test, nor even to be particularly feminist. I just treat women as human beings and give them something meaningful to do and at some point, they’ll have something to say to each other.

Also, just passing is no guarantee that your story treats women with all due respect. That’s not what it is supposed to do. The title of this post passes the Bechdel test. It’s also no use getting too hung up in the exact rules, like requiring the women to have names, or not passing if they’re talking about childbirth. Trying to use it as a way of gauging feminist cred is like using a piece of litmus paper where clearly a gas chromatograph is called for. Still, I wanted to know how my stories are doing. So. Let’s see:

 

  • The Tale of Bannog and Ariciel“. Easy pass. Ariciel and Mareva spend some time together, talking to each other about all kind of things. Interalia and Ariciel talk on the subject of “Let’s get out of here”.
  • The second tale of Bannog and Ariciel“. Pass. There’s several occasions where women are chatting about, oh, music, sleeping arrangements, Orc sieges, and whatnot.
  • Selena and the Wolf“. Pass. The two main protagonists are women on their way to becoming hunters, and you can’t do that by talking about men all the time.
  • The Strange Last Days Of The Good Ship Exodar“. Pass. Among other things, Mareva and Oraya go to a concert together, discuss their social clubs. Mind you, Mareva’s club is into competitive sexing… Mareva and Old Mhaari talk about her heater wot is on the blink.
  • The Druid, the Shaman and the Mage“. Laughs in the face of the Bechdel test. Three female protagonists, and more female supporting characters than you can shake a stick at.
  • Steamy and Hot“. Pass. Trixie, Dora, Lenna, Beatrice, Bieslook, all have plenty to discuss with each other.
  • Thunderpetal“. Passes. In chapter two, Lenna and Trixie talk about… Hmm. Childbirth. But trust me, it’ll pass soon.

So all my long stories pass. Of my shorties, the “Peasants” ones fail, because it’s basically an Orc peon and a Human peasant whingeing about their work. That just doesn’t work with women. The Hira Snowdawn one fails because it’s a monologue. Of a woman, but still just one. The “paranormal phenomenon” one fails, because there’s only one woman. I’m not gender-flipping James Randi or Bannog just to pass a test.

Now this does not mean I’m overly gentle with my girls: Ariciel gets beaten up by ogres, attacked by a warlock, and generally suffers at the hands of her enemies. That’s her job, okay? She’s a bear tank. She can take it ’cause she’s awesome. Mareva gets shot and stabbed in the back. Ellandriel gets a throwing knife in her arm, her arm broken by a blood-elf and beaten up by a Sentinel for being a Night-elf mage. Selena gets off lightly: she only gets knocked unconscious once and almost gets killed by a bunch of Undead. And fed snails by Night-elves. Raven… well, just wait and see. I make no apologies. I’m equally rough with my boys. This is, after all, the World of Warcraft, not the World of Lovecraft. I write about them having fun as well. Happy sexy fun, playing games, listening to music, eating nice food… so it balances out.

So on the whole, I’m pretty much happy with the women in my stories. They’re amazingly fun to write. Bad shit happens to them, but you need a sadistic streak as a writer so you can show what your characters are made of. There’s only one thing I’ll never do to any of my characters, male or female. Like Seanan Macguire, I have never written, nor will I ever write, rape scenes. I had no intention ever of writing those, and I just thought I’d mention it. None of my characters, male or female, friend or foe, will ever be raped.

But that’s a subject for another post, I think.

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