This little exercise started off when I was looking for fun ways in which I could analyse the archive of my Twitter feed, on which I had just laid my grubby mitts. The estimable Dr Yobbo introduced me to the concept of the Bechdel Test, which set me to thinking: exactly how hard is it to write a piece about two women having a conversation that doesn’t involve men? I mean, why should it be hard? Can’t authors give female characters personalities? (Of course they can. But that’s for another post.)
The result is this. The café is based, albeit loosely, on a real one in Melbourne. The characters are pure works of fiction, but are dedicated to all those wonderful women of my acquaintance who have to deal with arsehattery of the academic publishing system.
IN WHICH TWO WOMEN HAVE A CONVERSATION NOT INVOLVING MEN.
An unadorned, narrow, entrance off a steep, narrow, street. Open the door and it’s like the TARDIS – certainly larger than the frontage suggests – but a very noisy, packed, TARDIS, where the aroma of coffee manages to overpower even the smell of Wet People coming in out of the rain and shouting their orders.
A small side-room, possibly a former broom cupboard, houses two tables, one just vacated and covered in empty cups and a carelessly forgotten cellphone, the other occupied by what appears to be a version of the “I’m a Mac, I’m a PC” advertising campaign. Although the appearance of the owners gives the impression that they may have just swapped laptops.
Mac user is looking at her screen with distaste, PC user is viewing hers with a half-smile, of the more ironic variety. Mac breaks the silence:
“It’s complete garbage! How did this ever pass peer-review, let alone get picked for publication by Nurtura? This isn’t a case of flawed methodology, there IS no methodology! This is pure marketing bullshit, passed of as science!”
“Hyperbole, Daphne, please; marketing HYPERBOLE.”
“But you’re right; things have been getting just a bit silly with what Nurtura’s been putting out of late, but this is just going to kill their credibility altogether. It’s sad to see an old, niche, journal going this way, but we’re already covered by two Open Access publications with impact factors that just keep going up.”
“Impact factors are just as much marketing bollocks as this ridiculous piece of pseudo-scientific drivel!”
She glances at the clock on her screen, then at her watch.
“SHIT, Jules, my watch has stopped, I’m late for the dentist!”
“Daphne, it isn’t possible to be late for a dentist. If you turned a day late, you’d still have to wait to get in. But get you going, girl, I need to move, too.”
Daphne rises, slips her Macbook into her tapestry bag and looks to manoeuvre past the harried young man clearing the adjacent table.
“Good luck with the Ethics Committee, Jules. See you in the morning.”
“Good luck with the dentist – not quite sure which of us is getting the worst deal. HEY – don’t forget your umbrella!”