Not so long ago, I had a troubling realization about one of my friendships. In a mixed group of people, this girl and I would talk about whatever, but inevitably our one-on-one conversations always ended up being about a male friend and his problems. While this was out of care and concern for the guy, it was also ridiculous. “This conversation isn’t passing the Bechdel test,” I finally said to her. “So how’s work going?”
If you’re unfamiliar with the Bechdel Test, it’s a way of analyzing female representation in movies and boils down to this: does the movie feature at least two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man? You’d be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t) how many movies fail to meet this criteria.
The Bechdel test is great for movies, and I don’t think it’s a bad grading criteria to add to your life, either. Everyone has those times they get so wrapped up in their significant other they sort of forget they have other friends, so make sure to keep other female characters in your life. I think we all get into those life phases where every single conversation devolves into complaining about your boyfriend or lackthereof, and applying the Bechdel test can help us pause and remember that our lives are so much bigger than who we are or aren’t dating.
For the most part, I think I manage to pass the Bechdel test on a daily basis. However, as I think back on recent conversations with girlfriends, I think it’s safe to say that 90% of the conversations I have that aren’t about guys are about work. And thus, I’d like to propose the Greb Addendum to the Bechdel Test: Does your movie (or life) have two female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man, or her career?
I’m certainly not knocking careers, or our desire to talk about the activity that consumes 8, 10, 12, or 16 hours of our days depending on which of my friends you are. I also completely understand that work, dating (and that possible eventual consequence of dating, a family), and trying to keep ourselves fed and bathed is often more than enough to fill all of our waking hours and then some. Nevertheless, I think it’s incredibly important that we fit something else into our conversations – the great book you just read, a trip you’re thinking of taking, the 5K you’re training for – something to remind us that we and our friends are people outside of our obligations.
It’s not just my conversations failing this new test; it’s movies, too. Films that pass the Bechdel Test with flying colors can still fail the Greb Addendum. In Legally Blonde, pretty much every conversation that isn’t about Warner or weddings is about law school. In Miss Congeniality, every conversation Gracie has is in the context of her job. Of course, many movies pass both the Bechdel test and my own – of course work and men come up in Bridesmaids, but so do workouts and roommates and what it’s like to fall off a boat and be saved by a dolphin. I want more of that in my life.
So there you have it. That’s my challenge to you: Talk to your friends, about something besides work and boys. And maybe you’re like “Andrea, this is ridiculous, of course I do that,” in which case, awesome. And if you think about it and realize it’s been awhile since you talked about your passion for kayaking, your dream of some day climbing Everest, or even just last week’s episode of Pretty Little Liars, there’s no time like the present.
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