The Bechdel test started out as a witty way of pointing out how profoundly absent women are from mainstream cinema. The cartoonist Alison Bechdel had one of her characters in her strip cartoon (Mo, in ‘The Rule’) describe how, to avoid wasting her time on gender biased cinema, she would only watch films that met 3 criteria.
- There must be two female characters. With names.
- They must talk to each other.
- The conversation must be about something other than men.
Critics have stated that this is no way to judge a film (it was never meant to indicate quality, just absence), while in Sweden a couple of years ago an arthouse movie theatre resolved to show only films that had passed the test. (A big ‘A’ appeared on the poster. Just as worrying.)
The test is clever because it helps us see what we could previously only sense – and then to make our own judgement.
Let’s adapt the Bechdel test to work meetings.In the workplace, there are two biases – gender, and power. So we could really have fun with these criteria..
Feel free to boycott any meeting that does not pass these 4 conditions.
- There must be more people than communication devices.
- The meeting must begin with everyone present speaking -checking in- for 30 seconds.
- Everyone must prepare. Prep is 3 words only, 3 things to be achieved.
- Any one eating must share with everyone else.
To really make a difference, then this additional condition applies.
- Anyone apologizing for their point of view wears a Jester hat for the rest of the day.
Jesters tell the truth, and sometimes we all need to hear it.
Have a truly productive meeting. You’ll feel amazing.