When I was in 5th grade, our class was going to put on a classroom play: an abbreviated version of A Christmas Carol. When I looked at the script, there was only one female part, that of Fezziwig’s wife, and she only had two brainless lines. I figured that must mean all the parts were open, so I decided to audition for the part of Scrooge, which had a meaty fifty lines, plenty of scene-chewing grumpiness, and even a crying scene. I borrowed my grandfather’s hat and shirt, and I explained to the teacher that since none of the girl parts were remotely interesting in this play, casting should be open to all comers for all parts. She agreed with me, and I got the part! 
The Bechdel test  is used to identify gender bias in movies and literature, but it applies to any narrative story. In order to pass the Bechdel test, a work has to contain:
- Two or more named female characters
- Who talk to each other
- About something other than a man
Given this year’s course of study in gospel doctrine, how does the Book of Mormon fare? Well, it may surprise you to know that there are 87 references to women in the Book of Mormon. Wait for it. Only 3 of them are named: Sariah, Abish, and Isabel the Harlot . That means that 96.6% of the women in the Book of Mormon fail the first Bechdel criterion. Not only are they not named, but most of them are only named in reference to a man, a seeming further violation of criterion #3. Some of my favorites:
- daughters (28 references)
- women (18 references)
- wife or wives (17 references)
- wives & concubines (6 times)
- women & children as a group (4 times)
- References made twice for wives and daughters, widows, and queens
- Only one reference each for the following: sisters, mother, maid servant, mothers & daughters, girls, wives & children, and widows & daughters.
My personal favorite is Nephi’s wife. I mean he waxes prolific about speaking with the tongue of an angel, but he never once refers to his own wife by name. Dude. It’s also interesting to note the several instances of referring to daughters as “fair” in the Book of Mormon, a word meaning both light-skinned and attractive. The Book of Ether is particularly daughter-centric, citing daughters both fair and unspecified, for a book that doesn’t name any women. And by the end of the Book of Mormon, some of these unnamed women are fairly fierce warriors, uniting against the Gadianton robbers, being killed in the Jaredite battle, and taking up arms to fight. But I’m pretty sure that Angelina Jolie isn’t going to take a role called Riplakesh’s concubine, no matter how much street justice she gets to dispense.
This lack of naming is why none of the three women who are named can have a conversation with another named woman, because they are all from different parts of the book and don’t interact.
Apparently, the Book of Mormon musical also fails the Bechdel test with only two named female characters who don’t interact. There are also zero women in the creative team. Behind every failed Bechdel test is a privileged male writer who doesn’t notice the lack of women or worse, who thinks that women don’t put butts in seats. But I digress.
The Bible squeaks by thanks to the book of Ruth, although the sexual content in chapter 3 gives one pause. The book of Esther deserves an honorable mention because she’s awesome and the obvious hero of the story, but she doesn’t talk to any other named women. There are also two brief conversations in Mark and Luke that mostly qualify:
- In Mark 16: 1-3, Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James, and Salome (a disciple of Jesus) go to the tomb together. In verse 3: “And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” Yes! Women, talking to each other, about a stone. We don’t know who said what, but there it is.
- In Luke 1: 39-55 Mary and Elisabeth meet and discuss their pregnancies. Mary opines about the mercies of God. Now, this one’s iffy because they are talking about their male offspring and God who is male, but they are also talking about religion and being blessed more broadly, so a case could be made for it. 
The most obvious reason scriptures often fail the Bechdel test is that they were written by men, then edited and copied by men, some of whom had taken a vow of celibacy and saw marriage as a weakness. Women are often absent from history books. It occurred to me today that Gospel Doctrine class is basically a book club. Which got me thinking how much better the Book of Mormon would be if Jane Austen had written it. But that’s another post, for another day.
 And I’ve been Scrooge ever since.
 For a primer on other feminist terms, see this post.
 Classic. Note that nobody calls Corianton a Man-Ho, but last I heard it takes two to tango, bub.
 Any port in a storm, folks.