At least two women, for a certain period of time, discuss something other than a man. Doesn’t seem impossible, right? This test, devised for works of fiction, when applied to real life offers some interesting results.
I was at a dinner last week with two other women, both artistic, both in the late twenties/early thirties age-bracket. After initial introductions were made between myself and my friend’s other guest who I hadn’t met yet, we talked on various subjects for a while -- neighborhoods where we live, work we do, where we’re from, etc.
After about 20 minutes, the subject of men somehow came up, and immediately one of the other women said, “And we were doing so well on the Bechdel Test until now.”
Did the discussion of men suddenly mean that we were failing? We decided that because we had already spent a substantial amount of time on other topics that we would inevitably return to, that we could allow ourselves a brief ranting and venting session on relationships -- with men.
Ever since that moment, I have become increasingly aware of what me and my female friends discuss together, and how frequently the conversation veers towards men. It is shockingly, worryingly often. And no matter how I have tried to steer things in a different direction, it always comes back to the same subject.
Just today, one of my best friends got an incredible new job, one that will totally revamp her career and steer her life in new and exciting directions. But 90 percent of our conversation following this news revolved around the man in her life and how his idiotic behavior is dampening her excitement. My efforts in urging her to forget about him and celebrate her own achievement appeared to fall on deaf ears.
It’s not all doom and gloom. More often than not, we are sharing hilarious stories that would undoubtedly make the men in question want to entirely disappear.
Women talk, the rumors are true! We are hardwired to gossip, share and then overshare. Pretending otherwise or attempting to deny it is futile.
We are pack animals, strengthened in numbers, bonded by our unified views and opinions. But when did men become the sun, and us the planets slowly revolving around them?
In another recent debrief with some fellow females, there were several admissions to intentionally posting pictures on social media that were specially engineered to generate jealousy in the brain of a designated male. The male, in this scenario, may be an ex partner or desired future partner, and will be presented with images of the female looking fantastic, in a fantastic place, doing fantastic things. The goal is that the male will wish to be a part of the female’s life. It’s a classic animalistic mating ritual. Only on Snapchat and Instagram with about 5,000 filters so as to remove the situation as far from reality as possible.
What happened to an ordinary level of unhealthy and equally annoying self-promotion? Why does it suddenly have to become a pointed remark directed at a man?
Admittedly, I’m guilty of doing the same. However, I am an advocate of “winning” social media when in post-breakup mode. There’s an element of having to prove that your life is flourishing in the absence of said man, and not just completely crumbling around you. Sometimes it’s okay to be pathetic.
That being said, social media is becoming more widely accepted as a drastic misrepresentation of real life, and the dialogue being created there is a one-way street. The conversations that merit a little closer attention are the ones happening in real life, with mouths forming words.
I can’t say for sure, given that I am not a man, but my guess is they don’t talk about us half as much as we talk about them. I’m willing to be corrected on that one but I can’t see anyone rushing forward to do so.
From what I can see, there are two basic structures within which women talk about men. First and foremost is the structure of sisterhood -- sharing experiences, seeking advice and generally open discussions peppered with humorous anecdotes. This is great, a happy homely structure where everyone feels safe, where secrets are secure and where everyone leaves feeling better, buoyed up and balanced.
Secondly, is the more destructive structure wherein bitterness, competitiveness and malice prevail. I recently fell victim to an extremely basic display of this kind of fake female companionship.
An acquaintance disguised herself as a confidante and began asking about my recent breakup and the various details involved. At this point, I’m way beyond needing to talk about it and moving on with my life, etc., so this entire situation was tiresome to begin with.
I couldn’t decide if it was just the gossip or the first-hand tale that was being sought out. But there was tequila involved and I love talking about myself, so I nattered on without thinking.
Only later did I realize the connection between this girl and the ex in question, and suddenly the 20 questions session made sense. I had been poached for intel.
Questions about whether I was seeing anyone in New York seemed friendly and typically gossipy but now feel tainted with having been poked at for information to send home. Perhaps I’m paranoid, perhaps I’m wrong. But this was one of those times where I wish it wasn’t such a compulsion of ours to talk about men.
Surely there is more to life? Surely we have more interesting, exciting things going on in our worlds that merit lengthy discussion than a “mysterious” text, a first date, a drunken night? Surely it’s all becoming a bit generic, a bit predictable, and a lot like obsession.
My mission in life is now to pass the Bechdel Test every day. Every woman I talk to, I will actively not bring up the godforsaken topic of men.
We live in New York City. We are surrounded by so much, we have so much more to offer than what the men in our world are succeeding or failing to do.
That being said, if it’s a funny story? Even better, a grotesquely embarrassing one?
I’ll grab the wine. Old habits die hard.