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Introducing “The Kent Test” for Female Characters of Color in the Stories We Tell

There’s a new pop culture test in town. Like the Bechdel-Wallace test and the Mako Mori test before it, The Kent Test, which was introduced yesterday to celebrate International Women’s Day, seeks to offer a way to measure the participation of women in the stories we tell. More specifically, it seeks to provide a more in-depth measurement of how women of color are used and portrayed.

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Equality for HER announced The Kent Test, which was created by culture writer and critic Clarkisha Kent (a.k.a. @IWriteAllDay_ on Twitter) “to determine whether a film or any other piece of media has provided the audience with adequate representation of femmes of color.”

Unlike the other pop culture tests named above, The Kent Test is really in-depth, complete with explanations and context as to why any one particular element is important to look at. For example:

E. Must not solely exist in the film/piece of media for the purpose of fetishization. ​(1 Point)
Self-explanatory. Historically, women of color, be they Black, Brown, Asian, or Native, have been oversexualized​, hypersexualized​, and fetishized​ in the United States, and this phenomenon is all too common in our media as well. If a film/piece of media does nothing but include women of color for the express purpose​ of being fetishized, gawked at, or drooled over, this point will be lost. The only exception​ to this is if the film/piece of media has established very, very​ clearly that this is the character’s choice, is in line with their character, and/or is an attempt by the character to subvert an existing trope/expectation. If none of these exceptions apply, this point will be lost.

The other metrics include:

A. Must not solely be a walking stereotype/trope.​ (1 Point)
B. Must have their own plot / narrative arc.​ (1 Point)
C. Must not be solely included in the narrative just for purpose of “holding down” some male character and his story. ​(1 Point)
D. Must not solely be included in the narrative to prop up a White female character.​ (1 Point)
F. Must have at least one interaction with another woman/femme of color.​ (1 Point)
G. Must not be the go-to character “sacrifice” in a film/piece of media​ (1 Point)

The points, when added, work into a grading system that measures on a scale from “abysmal” to “strong.”

It’s important to note that this, like the Bechdel-Wallace test and the Mako Mori test, isn’t attempting to be the final word on representation, merely a starting point for talking about what representation can look like. So, if you’re out there creating stories, 1) include more women of color, and 2) use this handy-dandy metric as a starting point to ensure that you’re being inclusive in the best way possible.

(image: Equality for HER)

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.

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