Monday, June 22, 2009

In Which I Am Maybe Unmasked As Sexist?

Last week, Lucy told me about The Bechdel Rule, and I’ve been fascinated by it ever since.  Actually, I’m not fascinated by the rule itself, but rather by how powerful a statement it makes despite its simplicity.

Alison Bechdel is a comic artist, creator of the long-running strip Dykes To Watch Out For and the autobiography Fun Home, which was nominated for numerous awards and appeared on many of 2006’s best book of the year lists.  The Bechdel Rule, as it is informally named (though Bechdel credits a friend with the concept), appears in a DTWOF strip circa 1985.  Two lesbians are walking past a movie theater, and one shares her criteria for seeing a movie.  “One, it must have at least two women in it who, two, talk to each other about, three, something besides a man.”

Sounds simple, right?  OK, everyone reading this right now: try to think of how many movies you’ve seen that meet these three criteria.

I’ll tell you right now, that number is pretty small in my case.  When Lucy & I scanned our DVD collection, we found four (4!) movies out of roughly 50 or 60 that stood up to The Bechdel Rule.

One conclusion that was immediately apparent was how my demographics – white male from the suburbs – affect my choice in movies.  Of course, there are other factors at work, such as the type of movies Hollywood makes, which movies are selected for screening by local cinemas, etc.  Still, I feel vaguely guilty over my somewhat sexist entertainment track record.

This train of thought is like an offshoot of the current controversy over some statements made by Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.  She’s discussed how her background informs her decisions as a judge, and for some reason this is a big deal?  Where was the outrage from the Right when Samuel Alito said the following during his confirmation hearing:

When I get a case about discrimination, I have to think about people in my own family who suffered discrimination because of their ethnic background or because of religion or because of gender.  And I do take that into account.

That quote was recently used in a article; hit the link to see Alito’s full statement defending the empathy he draws from his personal background.  In fact, just read that whole article: like The Bechdel Rule, it’s short, but it packs a punch.

1 comment:

Christopher Downes said...

Wow, this rule has thoroughly blown my mind. I must go and look at my DVD collection now to see how I rate.