Sexist movie rating in Sweden: The problem if the only thing women talk about is men

Article published on Nov. 8, 2013
Article published on Nov. 8, 2013

Gender platitudes? Four Swedish cinemas recently introduced so called Bechdel tests, named after a feminist American comic drawer, to rate movies according to their sexist attitudes towards women. Ellen Tejle, the 29 year old director of art-house movie theatre Bio Rio in Stockholm, explains why people should take the test with more irony.

Ellen, your cinema uses the so called Bechdel test to rate what exactly?

No one really knows how to pronounce it correctly (laughs). To get an A rating a movie should have at least two women in it talking to each other about something other than just men. But people should take the test with a little more irony. Because it should be something that is not even considered a problem anymore. Feminism for me simply means that men and women have the same rights. Do we even have to discuss it anymore? 

But conversations about men might be philosophical as well… where do you draw the line?

It’s not a problem if women talk about men. It’s only a problem if the only thing they do is talk about men. The point is, even a 12-year-old boy or girl can look at a movie and see if it passes the test. Here everybody at the cinema helps to A-rate the movies. Plus you have this website Bechdeltest.com which can give you some more hints, people from all over the world discuss movies there. It shouldn’t be misunderstood; we still show the same repertoire we used to. We have positive intentions. The only difference is that we put a feminist label on it. We are independent cinemas and want to simply help the film industry become more equal. 

There are gender quotas in governments and major companies nowadays. Should art as well be limited by an official quota?

I don’t really have an opinion on that. For us it’s just an eye opener that leads to discussion and hopefully other tools on the matter. One thing we’ve found out is that it doesn’t really matter about what genre the film is or whether the movies are from Europe, Asia or America. At the moment we have The Pervert's Guide to Ideology which didn’t pass the test as well as Red Obsession and a bunch of Swedish films. I think it effects our democracy that we only see men on the screen. We have this norm, we are so used to it that we don’t even talk about it anymore. I was shocked using the test, I thought we were actually more aware of what we see on screens.