You may have heard of the Bechdel Test for Women in Movies — it measures the “active presence of female characters in Hollywood films and just how well rounded and complete those roles are.”
For a movie to pass this test, it has to have:
(1) two or more female characters;
(2) who talk to each other;
(3) about something other than a man.
Many movies don’t pass this test. If it does, it doesn’t mean it’s a “feminist” movie, but it’s one way to measure underlying sexism in the industry.
Of course, when you think of sexism, you also think of religion.
Adam Lee has come up with the Bechdel Test for Religion:
… I think it’s worth creating a similar test for religion, to help believers notice sexism in their churches they might not have noticed. My suggestion is as follows. For a religion to pass this test, it has to have:
(1) at least one woman in a position of authority;
(2) who plays a formal, recognized role in shaping doctrine or practice;
(3) that is binding on male members of that religion.
If a religion categorically excludes women from all positions of authority, it fails. If it gives women positions of authority, but only so that they can teach and pass on doctrine created by men, it fails. If it permits women to create doctrine, but doctrine that’s only applicable to other women, it fails.
As with the Bechdel test, the mere fact that a religion passes this test doesn’t mean that it’s a feminist or egalitarian religion. It could still be appallingly sexist. It could still have rules that treat women as inferior to men. And it could still be harmful in any number of other ways. But I would argue that this test is the bare minimum — the first necessary, but not sufficient, step for any religion to genuinely treat women as equals.
I think we can even loosen those restrictions about shaping doctrine and let it apply to individual churches, too.
Would your (former) church pass this test?
How about your entire (former) faith?
How about your current atheist group, if you are part of one?
Or are they all boys-only clubs?