I recently read something with the insult, “A girl would do better.” And before that, this same week, I read a scene with a bunch of kids competing, and it was specified, “There is only one girl.” The girl did not have a name, nor was she given any discernible characteristics.
Please, come close. Take my hand. Lean closer. IT IS TWENTY FREAKING FIFTEEN. We are five minutes away from 2016, and we still have writers using girl as an insult and begrudgingly including them in crowd scenes.
Alison Bechdel, author of Fun Home and a million other things you should read, first included the test (which she attributes to her friend Liz Wallace) in her comic strip, Dykes to Watch Out For. The test is simple: A movie must have 1. at least two women in it who 2. talk to each other about 3. something other than a man.
The same should go for books, and I shouldn’t even have to say that. I’m shaking my fist in the air right now! Most of you do a great job including all kinds of different humans in your manuscripts. But I do read plenty of “boy YA” (and for the record, I love YA that features boys as MC. Often, I prefer it.) which is about a boy who loves a really flat girl (character-wise…usually she has other non-flat attributes) for no better reason than she smiled at him and is hot. Or the girl is there to be the nag. Or the motherly type. Or the tomboy. It doesn’t really matter how boy-centric your story is, it’s really, really not too much to ask that it has two girls in it who talk to each other about something other than a boy. If you have to force yourself to include two girls, GOOD. DO IT.
If I catch any of your work not passing the Bechdel-Wallace test, you can count on an automatic delete. I just don’t accept any of your excuses. (Obviously there are exceptions based on concept, like Maze Runner, but concept shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not have girls. Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes.*)
*Walt Whitman, Song of Myself