Revamping the Bechdel Test For Disabled People

'Free Freshly Painted Handicap Wheelchair Parking Sign in Parking Lot Creative Commons' photo (c) 2011, D. Sharon Pruitt - license:

The awesome Tami Harris wrote a very interesting piece at Clutch magazine regarding the Bechdel Test, which was created to examine gender bias in media.  Tami took this approach one step further to examine the portrayal of people of colour in the media. Tami posed the question: What is the minimum standard for portrayals of people of color?

In the end, she created the following list using suggestions from myself and self  and several other bloggers of colour: 

  1. One or more named people of color
  2. Who talk to each other
  3. Who don’t act in a service capacity (No magical brown people!)
  4. Who are reflective of their culture and history, but don’t communicate that through stereotyped action, such as an affected accent

I think this is a pretty great start towards better characters of colour in the media.  I was very inspired reading this. There is absolutely no reason each marginalized group shouldn’t have their own list of what constitutes a good portrayal in the media.

When I was TAB, I was not very cognizant of the harmful ableism that happens in the media. It took becoming disabled and living with ableism for me to really open my eyes. Learning about disability is an ongoing project for me, and I know I still fail at times to recognize my own internalized ableism when it comes to people who live with a different disability than I do. 

I know that the media informs much of social discourse. Much of the time we passively consume rather than critically consume and this why we internalize a host of problematic messages. This then effects our interactions with others. To borrow a page from Tami’s book, what would well rounded disabled characters look like? What do you think the minimum standard for good inclusion should be?


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