A guy friend of mine recently crashed a girls’ night out. It was a Thursday like any other: unnecessary wedges, ‘90s song requests and all we could drink. It even ended where all GNO’s should — at the Flaco’s Cuban Bakery window. Just one thing kept me from calling the night a success, however. That night, I learned one important thing. Nothing spoils an arepa more than these words from our token dude: “I didn’t know girls talk about guys so much.”
It was the ultimate feminist’s gut-punch even though it was said with a laugh and all the love in the world. When I asked my friend about it the next day, he barely remembered saying it, so it’s safe to say our boy-related banter didn’t rain on his University Avenue parade. Still, I couldn’t shake it off. I realized that my life, or at least my Thursday night, didn’t pass the Bechdel Test.
The Bechdel Test is a simple, three-part test applied to movies. Here’s the criteria to pass: 1) there must be two female characters in the movie, 2) they must talk to each other at some point, and 3) they have to talk about something — anything — other than a man. While the test is heteronormative and could use an update to include romantic interests for all sexualities, it has good intentions. Women should be represented by characters who are more than objects of the male gaze, and this test attempts to hold writers, directors and producers accountable for that.
As an unabashed consumer of romantic comedies, I’ve watched movies of the genre scrupulously since I learned about the Bechdel Test. I thought it was crazy that a film, especially one meant to reflect realistic situations, could make it to theaters without a single scene of dialogue between two female characters that didn’t have to do with a romantic interest. For the most part, even the most shallow-seeming rom-coms I’ve seen have passed where my own conversations have fallen short.
I know I’m not the only one.
On FaceTime, I ask my childhood friend, who is interning in a pediatric surgery unit, about her boyfriend before I ask about the pediatric surgeries. Over Google Hangouts, I ask my best friend, who has her dream job in New York City, about the girl she’s seeing before asking about, well, the dream job in New York City. I’ll call my sister to debate the possibility that I’m being ghosted before I’ll call her to tell her I got a story published. Are you cringing, too?
I wouldn’t stand for this kind of thing if I saw it in a movie. I would not be cool with a character who spends the first half-hour gossiping about guys with her smart, talented, dimensional friends, before she even addresses what should be the primary storyline.
I’m not proposing that we cease all discussions of our love lives, or serious lack thereof. There are days when new flames or bad breakups rightfully take center stage. Plus, I probably wouldn’t watch a movie without a healthy amount of typical “girl talk,” and I wouldn’t want to go to brunch or a bar without some either. Sue me.
We just have to remember that our rhetoric matters. The more we let the guys or girls we like seep into the center of our conversations, the less room we’ll have for our aspirations, ambitions, Instagram captions and other things that matter to us. Let’s take the time to remind our friends, and ourselves, that we’re the main characters.
Carly Breit is a UF journalism senior. Her column appears on Wednesdays.