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Tulane Welcomes Feminist Icon Alison Bechdel
It’s a big week in Louisiana for powerful women, and feminist icon Alison Bechdel is joining the likes of Erin Brokovich and Donna Brazile with her New Orleans tour stop. The award-winning academic and author of the syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For is speaking tomorrow about her work, and she’ll get into the nitty-gritty of race, gender, and sexuality.
In addition to authoring widely taught texts like Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Bechdel’s work is responsible for the extensively applied Bechdel-Wallace test. In a 1985 strip of Dykes to Watch Out For entitled, “The Rule,” a female character introduces a threshold that has become a rule of thumb for weighing male bias in popular culture.
The unnamed character in Bechdel’s strip says that she will only watch a film if it features two named female characters who have a conversation with each other about something other than a man. What sounds like fairly simple criteria served to expose widespread failure on the part of the film industry to give female characters lives outside of their heterosexual relationships.
In 25 years, Bechdel has grown from an unknown cartoonist into a significant figure in college classrooms. Her test has been applied to literature, television shows, and other media since it was adopted by the academic community.
Gender and Sexuality Studies major at Tulane Jessica Callahan said the Bechdel-Wallace test changed the way she viewed popular culture. “It was like I could finally put my finger on why so many movies felt like something was missing,” she said. “Women’s voices, women’s experiences, women’s stories have been ignored and silenced in so many ways, and the Bechdel-Wallace test really brings that to light.”
Callahan said Bechdel’s stop sends a positive message to the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual) communities at Tulane and in the greater New Orleans area.
“Many LGBTQUIA people don’t get the chance to see themselves represented in art, music, books, or media very often, so it’s just very validating when it does happen,” said Callahan. “As a queer Tulane student, it means a lot to me personally that the university has chosen to recognize a queer feminist writer in this way,” she said.
Bechdel is speaking at the Kendall Cram Lecture Hall in Tulane’s Lavin-Bernick Center (201 Boggs), tomorrow, March 6, at 7pm. More information on Bechdel and tomorrow’s lecture can be found here. The talk is free and open to the public.
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