Photo:  ScypaxPictures on Flickr used under a Creative Commons license

When it comes to pop music and gender quality, no one can fucking TOUCH Sweden.

The Scandinavian nation is known for being one of the world’s most progressive and egalitarian.

This year, the country even rolled out a gender-neutral pronoun, introducing hen as an alternative to han (he) and hon (she). From the Government of Sweden’s official website:

“Advocates say hen avoids the need to refer only to one gender or to use the cumbersome inclusive form of he/she, while also opening up the language for people who might not identify themselves as either male or female, or who wish to avoid referring to themselves as one sex or the other.” (If I were a cartoon, I’d have hearts for eyes.)

Now, those forward-thinking Swedes are promoting gender equality at the movies, with select theatres introducing a new rating system based on the Bechdel Test, named for American cartoonist Alison Bechdel. To get an A rating, a film must have at least two named female characters who talk to each other about something other than a man. Many movies, popular movies — your favourite movies — do not pass the Bechdel Test.

“The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy, all Star Wars movies, The Social Network, Pulp Fiction and all but one of the Harry Potter movies fail this test,” Ellen Tejle, the director an art-house cinema in Stockholm, told the Associated Press.

The Bechdel Test isn’t perfect — a lot of pornography, for example, meets its criteria  — nor does a rating system based on it completely eradicate gender bias. But it’s a good first step when it comes to opening people’s eyes to gender bias and — gasp! — promoting critical thought.

After all, how women are portrayed on the big screen has a massive impact on how women are viewed in real life. And we’re not portrayed all that well, if we’re portrayed at all. From a 2012 report by the Women’s Media Center, via Policy Mic:

In the 100 top-grossing films of 2007, 2008, and 2009, women represented only one-third of speaking characters for all three years. When there was at least one woman involved with directing or writing for a film, there were more female characters on screen. Female characters were more likely to be depicted wearing sexy clothing, partially nude, and referred to as attractive in comparison to male characters. Girls and women from ages 13 to 20 had a 21.5% chance of being referred to as attractive opposed to 13.8% of women aged 21 to 30 years old.

Typically, female characters in film and television were not portrayed in leadership roles and were less likely than male characters to achieve their goals. [Among] the 10 top-grossing films of 2010, three of those films were considered ‘woman-centric.’ Only 19 out of the 100 top-grossing films were given that title.

Ratings exist to help people make informed purchasing decisions by telling whether or not to expect nudity, violence or coarse language.

Why, then, can’t they be used to highlight gender bias?