An open letter to Alison Bechdel

Hi Alison,

You probably won’t read this, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.  You might, and if you do, thank you.

I’ve always admired your work. I had a copy of Dykes to Watch Out For in my squat in the late 80s.  My family collects graphic novels & comic books:  Hot Throbbing Dykes to Watch Out For sits between Castle Waiting and Persepolis on a shelf on my upstairs bookcase.  My young adult daughter, a lesbian, has copies of your books strewn around her room.

 I taught my kids about the Bechdel Test as soon as they were old enough to understand it. They told their friends about it and discussions ensued.

It’s as relevant today as ever, because barely any films pass this incredibly low bar.

Two women, who talk to each other, about something other than a man.

I like to think you knew what a woman was when you drew your iconic cartoon that sets the criteria for what we now call the Bechdel Test. 

In 2000 you said in an interview,“You can be a biological female who thinks of herself as male and is attracted to men, you know? Any combination is possible.

I’d agree with that. Of course. A woman may feel that way, she may think of herself as male, but it doesn’t mean she is a man. For that woman to claim manhood, to demand that others see her and treat her ‘as a man’, she must abandon countless other women to a sea of stereotypes. Because if ‘woman’ isn’t about biology, what is about it but feeling and behaviour?

Where does it leave same-sex attracted women when a lesbian can have a penis and lesbian dating sites are infiltrated by biological men?

I wonder if you support single-sex spaces? This cartoon has been used to suggest you don’t. Is that what you meant?

What about women who feel  uncomfortable swimming in a public pool when men are present, or who are triggered by nearly-naked male bodies? Should there be no single-sex sessions for them? Is it hateful of women to want that space? Should we be entitled to female-only gyms? Changing rooms? Toilets? Do you know that boys are being allowed on girls’ sports teams? And that they are winning? Did you know that men in women’s sports are setting records in weightlifting, running and cycling, to name just three events?

If we say ‘transwomen are women’, we also say all that’s ok.

What about women-only refuges? Should they be defunded if they won’t take male-bodied people? Should women be evicted for complaining? It’s happened.

If we say ‘transwomen are women’, we also say that’s ok.

I get that, generally, nobody wants to be unkind, but if men can say they’re women where does that really leave us?

Do you know that schoolkids are being taught they can ‘choose’ to be girls or boys? That 12 year old girls are being given cross-sex hormones? That 14 yr old lesbian girls are having their breasts removed? That young women are so revolted by the idea of being female that they are growing beards to escape the stereotypes of womanhood? That adults are telling them this is possible?

The problem we face with gender ideology is there is no middle path. There is only complete and utter submission. We have blurred biological sex and personality into this horribly sexist concept of gender identity, with which everyone must comply.

Either you say ‘transwomen are women’ or you are called an evil bigot.

Some of us believe women should have biological rights and that our oppression from the womb until death- from sex-selective abortion, through higher levels of sexual abuse, FGM, sex-trafficking & forced surrogacy, voting rights and pay gaps- is based on our biology.

This isn’t something we can identify into or out of. We need that word ‘woman’. It has a meaning. It shouldn’t be taken from us.

Gender identity ideology changes the Bechdel test. Firstly, it becomes virtually meaningless when it’s claimed that anyone can choose to ‘identify’ into an oppressive situation.

So where you said ‘women’, should we now read ‘womxn’? Does it include men who call themselves transwomen? What about nonbinary folk? Where do the gender fluid fit in? Or agender? Or FTMs? Do they not count any more? Demiboys- are they in? What about male crossdressers?

If you say the Bechdel test is concerned with biological women, the gender ideologists will say  it is transphobic.

If you say the Bechdel test is about representation of all those who identify as women, it becomes something entirely new. It become a test that measures minority representation within the film industry. Not something without worth, but certainly no longer about the representation of women.

You once said, “the secret subversive goal of my work is to show that women, not just lesbians, are regular human beings”.

I wish you would speak up for us now.

Wishing you all the best,



About Lily Maynard

Shamelessly gender critical. There's no such thing as a pink brain, a lesbian with a penis or a gender fairy. Transitioning kids is child abuse.
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3 Responses to An open letter to Alison Bechdel

  1. Jen says:

    I was literally just talking about the Bechdel test this morning. Of course you’re right, it is meaningless if she means womxn, rather than women.

    Thanks for all your hard work Lily.

  2. Redpeachmoon says:

    Beautiful letter, full of great phrases and talking points that I will grab.
    I hope you hear back from Ms. Bechdel.
    Thank you for your work!

  3. latsot says:

    Thanks for this!

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