Holy Moly Alison Bechdel Won A MacArthur Genius Grant

The MacArthur Foundation awarded lesbian cartoonist Alison Bechdel one of its coveted Genius Grants. The only requirement of the $625,000 award is that Bechdel and the 20 other recipients continue doing the good work they were already doing.

So, hopefully this means Bechdel will continue doing revolutionary work related to film, family and culture. Her name was on everyone’s lips starting last year as her 30-year-old film test re-entered mainstream conversation. The Rule was born from a 1985 strip of her comic Dykes To Watch Out For.


The rule, now known as the Bechdel Test, calls for basic inclusion of women in film. The concept shouldn’t be so revolutionary, but when women had only 30 percent of speaking roles and 15 percent of leads in last year’s top films it is clear we have a lot of work left to do. It’s great to see the MacArthur Foundation honoring someone doing that work.

Bechdel has also earned well-deserved praise for graphic novels including 2006’s Fun Home and and 2012’s Are You My Mother. In August, it was announced that the stage production of Fun Home is officially headed to Broadway after years as a beloved Off-Broadway experience.

Some of the other winners are pretty cool too — Mary Bonauto, the director of the Civil Rights Project for Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders also won a grant. Then there’s Pamela Long, the 71-year-old who pursues research on medieval history without a university affiliation, and Terrence Hayes, whose poems on race, politics and love are some of the most powerful words being written today.

The winners are doing their work from around the world — Bechdel, for example, is on an artists’s residency in an Italian castle. Although it took 30 years for Bechdel’s simple, brilliant ideas to reach this level of recognition, with this new recognition and funding she’ll be able to continue moving the conversation and stealing our hearts.

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Adrian is a writer, a Texan and a Presbyterian pastor. They write about bisexuality, gender, religion, politics, music and a whole lot of feelings at Autostraddle and wherever fine words are sold. They have a dog named after Alison Bechdel. Follow Adrian on Twitter @adrianwhitetx.

Adrian has written 153 articles for us.


  1. So exciting! In DTWOF there’s a strip where Mo tells Sidney that Sidney will never win a MacArthur Genius Award, so since Mo is in many ways Bechdel’s alter-ego within DTWOF, this is almost as if Mo ended up winning it rather than Sidney. :)

    Just wanted to mention, though, that Bechdel speaks about the fact that she’s not entirely comfortable being so emphatically associated with the Bechdel Test for Movies. It’s an important diagnostic of what’s wrong with our culture, but she has mentioned at lectures I’ve attended that she is concerned that people see it as prescribing a solution or as being useful for identifying feminist movies, and movies can fail the Bechdel Test and still be feminist films, while they can pass and not be feminist in any way. So while it helps us to talk about broad cultural trends, it is less useful than it is sometimes taken to be in identifying feminist films or in pointing the way towards feminist film production.

    • I’ve decided to reread the DTWOF archives upon announcement of this news.

      Also agreed on The Bechdel Test and have seen quite a few people point out its main use is in being applied to films at a societal level. It is such an easy test and when a large percentage of films manage to fail it, that says a lot. I think it is especially insightful when paired with the Mako Mori test.

    • I agree with the point made about the Bechdel test. It always bothers me when some people decide to use it as the end-all-be-all test for whether a film is feminist or not. I feel like it’s a good manner of test for looking at trends, but not for evaluating singular films.

  2. Oh my goodness I’m so excited and happy right now. It’s really late and I’m far too sleep to write anything intelligentish but wow such excitement!

  3. Good for her:) I haven’t heard much from her since the 90’s. Love her cartoons I have few of her collections.

  4. Yay!!! I love her books so much, I just started rereading Are You My Mother the other night and every time I read it I get something new.

  5. Yay for Alison Bechdel! I re-read both of her graphic novels and most of my DTWOF collection during the summer. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.

  6. I’m so happy for her, and I’m particularly glad that she and her work are getting even more much-deserved visibility and acclaim.

    I only just read “Fun Home” over the summer, and was completely stunned by it. It’s one of the best books I’ve encountered in a while; I can’t wait to check out “Are You My Mother?” soon!

  7. This is absolutely wonderful! I was ecstatic when I saw the article. I love her work! Though I’m still working on reading all of it–25 years of comics is a lot to read. I can’t wait to see what more the amazing Alison Bechdel will be doing!

  8. This is great! I remember being loaned (or maybe just given the recommendation) a copy of Fun Home by an LGBTQ coordinator on campus and being blown away but how amazing it was. A few years later I was able to devour The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For and was equally amazed and moved by the stories.

  9. Eeeee so excited for the winners! I want to tell my scared 14-year-old self who did not want to be queer and could not for the life of her imagine what a happy queer adulthood might look like: “Look, a real live grown-up lesbian making amazing art and winning money and prizes and living in an Ialian castle!”

  10. Alison Bechdel is incredible – I was so excited when I saw this in the news this morning!

    It’s also important to note that Samuel D. Hunter, an awesome badass playwright, is another gay winner.

  11. FUCKING EH!!
    I mean, we’ve all known she was a genius for years, but it’s nice to be rewarded with money. Uh, lots and lots of money.

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