Our playlist of rad songs that pass the music Bechdel test!
If you’ve ever taken a class in gender studies, chances are, you’ve at least heard about the Bechdel test. If you haven’t, don’t worry — it’s not nearly as complicated as it sounds. In fact, this whole Bechdel business is pretty fun.
The Bechdel test was born when a cartoonist by the name of Alison Bechdel (ta-da, it’s eponymous) wrote an episode for her comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For in 1985. In an episode called “The Rule,” a female character in the strip claimed that she would only watch a movie if it fit the following requirements:
- It has to have at least two women in it
- They have to talk to each other
- They have to talk about something other than a man
Though purely unintentional on Bechnel’s part, the character’s requirements soon became a metric for measuring gender bias. For the last thirty years, the Bechnel test has been applied mostly to fictional film, but why stop there? Apparently, some of the folks at Pitchfork were wondering whether music would hold up to the Bechdel test as well. With a few adjustments, Pitchfork devised a music-friendly Bechdel standard. In order to pass the test, all songs must:
- Have at least one female-identifying lead performer, performing as themselves or a female-identifying likeness
- Involve the female self, another woman, other women or otherwise an implied female audience in the song’s lyrics
- Have a central lyrical topic or theme that’s something or someone besides a man
In other words, “The Boy Is Mine” definitely didn’t pass the test. However, fourteen other songs did make the Pitchfork cut, including M.I.A.’s “Bad Girls,” Nicki Minaj’s “Starships” and Bikini Kill’s “Rebel Girl.” Seeing as though we’ve got a few contributions of our own, we decided to make our own Bechdel-friendly playlist. The more the merrier, right?
Santigold featuring Karen O – “Go”
What do you get when you combine the talents of Santigold and Yeah Yeah Yeahs frontwoman Karen O? A song about reclaiming your power, of course.
Garbage – “When I Grow Up”
To this day, “When I Grow Up” is one of the most tenacious rock songs in history. Even though a lot of us thought the song was about proving your parents wrong, lead singer Shirley Manson cleared that up for us real quick. In her words, the song is about “that delirious state of wishing and hoping and dreaming for things [and] not giving up.” Sixteen years later, the song still gets our hearts pumping with that fiery, fist-clenching determination.
Haim – “Falling”
A talented trio of sisters singing about self-motivation? Oh yeah, that definitely passes the Bechnel test. Danielle Haim told VH1, “I think we wrote the song at a time when we weren’t playing around LA, nothing was really happening. We kinda wrote it as a ‘Stay strong’ kind of cheerleading song.”
Eve featuring Gwen Stefani – “Let Me Blow Ya Mind”
Talk about staking a claim — Gwen Stefani and Eve made it clear that they were not gonna tolerate any toe stepping when they came out with this jam in 2001. “Let Me Blow Ya Mind” is chock full of fiery verses that are even better when you read along.
Janelle Monae featuring Erykah Badu – “Q.U.E.E.N.”
Janelle Monae and Solange Knowles made an appearance on Pitchfork’s list for “Electric Lady,” but we’d be doing this list a huge disservice if we forgot to include “Q.U.E.E.N.” Though Janelle’s entire Electric Lady album is dedicated to female empowerment, this song reaches to sociopolitical issues much larger. “Q.U.E.E.N” is, in Janelle’s words, “for people who feel like they want to give up because they’re not accepted by society.”
No Doubt – “Just A Girl”
I guess we have Gwen’s dad to thank for this ’93 classic. According to Gwen, the song was inspired by a tiff she had with her dad. She told Bam magazine, “I wrote that because my dad got mad at me for going to [No Doubt bassist] Tony’s house and driving home late at night. I mean, c’mon, I’m, like, going on 30 here! I wouldn’t trade [being female], but I really don’t think guys understand what a burden it can be sometimes.”
Any you’d like to include? Let us know!