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Gender Identity in the Media

If you're on this site, chances are pretty good that you've heard of the Bechdel Test.  If not though, here's a quick overview: developed by Alison Bechdel, the Bechdel Test can be applied to any work of fiction to assess whether women are adequately represented. Here is what you should look for: At least two female-identifying characters, who have names of their own, talk about something other than a man.  Seems simple, right?  Sadly, an enormous number of our novels, video games, television shows, and movies fail this test.  And what happens when the test is failed?  Women’s stories aren’t told, women actors lose roles, women writers and producers and directors and game developers lose opportunities…you get the picture.  It also means that, when women are included in the narrative, they are frequently written to behave per a male perspective and, often, for a male gaze, sometimes leading to misrepresentation, underrepresentation, and the hypersexualization of female characters.

Some argue this is because media is developed with the intention of drawing a largely male audience.  Others point to system-wide issues with how the makers of said art are themselves largely male, in part through a reinforced system of hiring and promoting folks like themselves, largely leaving female-identifying storytellers and directors out of the loop.  The reality is that likely both are true: we live in a society that values male audience-goers over female audience-goers (and when the latter shows up, we brand the media “chick flicks” or “chick lit) –and- fosters a movie and television studio system that is deeply patriarchal.

Ok, so are you ready to take action on the issue of gender identity and the lack of representation in (and behind) the media?  On the right side of this page, you’ll see a list of national organizations with which you can connect to learn more and take action.  Be sure to also do a search online, including on social media, to see who might be doing work on gender identity in the media in your state or your community.

Looking for next steps? Explore how you can get involved and learn about the many ways to take action.


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