It might just be that Kelly at Radiant Shadows has become my YA blogging inspiration. Last month she posted an interesting discussion of YA books and the The Bechdel Test. What is The Bechdel Test?
The Bechdel Test: a test measuring female presence in fictional media where in order to pass, the media must meet the following criteria:
- It includes at least two [named] women,
- who have at least one conversation,
- about something other than a man or men.
It’s surprising how many movies, video games, and books do not pass this test! Anita Serkeesian from Feminist Frequency (who is pretty awesome, by the way) explains this very well (yes, Kelly also had this video in her post, but it’s so good that I wanted to include it here, too.)
Over at Radiant Shadows, Kelly went on to explain in more detail, and I was surprised to discover that many of the books she’s read don’t pass the test. So, naturally, all of this got me thinking about the YA books I’ve read and if they pass The Bechdel Test. Right off the bat, there were some that I knew passed the test (Prophecy of the Sisters series), but I couldn’t think of many that didn’t pass the test. At that point, it was time to dig deeper!
How Many of the YA Books I’ve Read Pass the Test?
That’s right: I collected data, and compiled statistics, and created charts! While collecting all this data, I decided to break it down by… not genre, really, but… er, category I guess. Category, in this case, means things like vampires, werewolves, zombies, dystopian, magic, etc. This means that yes, many of my books fit into more than one category, and I’m okay with that. In addition, I collected rating numbers for each book, and marked whether or not it passed the Bechdel Test. I wanted to see if certain categories were more likely top ass the test, and also if there were any correlations as far as how much I liked those books.
A Note About My Collection Process
It is true that many of these books I read over a year ago, and it can be hard (impossible) to recall every conversation that happened in every book you’ve read. But I did my best to remember each one, and I might have been too generous, but we’ll see. I also tagged all my books on Goodreads with passes-bechdel-test, for easy future reference. Feel free to look over my list and correct me if one of them does NOT pass, but I marked that it does (you know, because you have nothing better to do?).
On With the Charts!
To begin, just a general breakdown. I collected this data for 93 total books (yes, I have read more than this, but I excluded some, sorry!). Since some books fit more than one category, I have 139 total ratings. First, let’s see what percentage of these books passed the test.
So, either I am good at picking books that pass this test, I was too generous with my tagging, or YA authors are super awesome and avoiding this trope! Since my data differs significantly from Kelly’s, I guess we’ll have to go with one of the first two options.
Next we’ll look at broad categories. I have 20 total categories, but I combined them into 5 larger ones:
- Paranormal (vampires, werewolves, super powers, angels, demons, ghosts)
- Science Fiction (cyborgs, clones, alternate universes, genetic modification, steampunk)
- End of the World (zombies, dystopian)
- Fantasy (witches, magic, dragons, fairies, magical realms)
- Other (contemporary, historical)
And let me just say, it is HARD to categorize books, so you may not disagree with all of my choices, but I had to draw the line somewhere! Here’s how much each category takes up in my overall ratings:
And here’s how each category measured up overall.
I find it interesting — although not especially surprising — that the science fiction category has a lower percentage of books that passed the Bechdel test. I think sci-fi books are more likely to have male protagonists, or just generally include more male characters. I also suspect that the fantasy category has such a high percentage because so many of these books I choose for the abundance of (powerful) female protagonists and secondary characters.
What I forgot to make note of (and yes, I am kicking myself) is how many of each different rating (3 stars, 4 stars, etc.) passed the test. I was really interested to see this, though. So, let’s see if I can at least try to compare a different way.
… Okay. No, no, I can’t. Which sucks. So I guess I’ll stop for now. Next time, I also want to run this test past the non-YA books I’ve read and see some statistics for THAT!
Aren’t You Excited?
I know, me too!