Well, if you’re Non-Compliant (NC) you will, and I’d bet money most of us are. All across the web women (and men) are getting NC tattoos in solidarity with Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro’s phenomenal comic book Bitch Planet. Self-described by Image Comics as “Margaret Atwood meets Inglourious Basterds”, Bitch Planet should appeal to anyone who likes a great story and enjoys a good bit of cultural criticism with explicit jabs at the patriarchy.
Bitch Planet (BP), more formally known as the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost, is a women’s prison on another planet. To call it harsh would be an understatement. The events of the story take place in a hypothetical, not-so-distant (but eerily familiar) future where the patriarchy has continued policing women and their bodies to the point where they are actually policing women and locking them up for their “crimes.” Said ‘crimes’ include chromosomal differences, “seduction and disappointment,” being “bad mothers,” and miscegenation. Women who don’t conform to the standards of the all-knowing and all-loving Council of Father—a group of dudes who decide what’s best for women—are sent to Bitch Planet in order to be rehabilitated (read: molded and brainwashed) or gotten rid of (read: killed).
The first of only five issues (of a planned 30 issue run) initially came out back in December 2014. In a mere five issues this comic has managed to foster a community so passionate that they are branding themselves “NC” in solidarity. Not merely with a comic book, (as DeConnick herself beautifully explains in the backmatter of issue four) but with the ideals of self-love and acceptance it promotes in the face of warped and narrow societal standards. Bitch Planet is intersectional feminism and empowerment at its best, exposing a beautifully inclusive space in so few pages. Its aim is to crush the patriarchy and binary gender-norms that, in the fictional world, are made real and tangible enemies. Every third issue promises to focus on an inmate (a la Orange is the New Black) and if Penny Rolle’s issue is anything to go by I am very, very excited. It evoked all the things that we internalize over a lifetime, and then begin policing about our bodies and ourselves, reminding us that these are all things set to somebody else’s standards. It is strong purely as a standalone piece, and I encourage everyone to read it because the final panel is how most of us wish we could feel every day about ourselves.
Another amazing perk of reading these comics are the guest essays at the end of every issue. They will give you hope, solidarity, experience, and knowledge you wish someone had shared with you a long time ago but was too afraid to. Danielle Henderson’s essay “But I’m Not Oppressed” points out that we are already on Bitch Planet—an act of non-compliance to a patriarchal society labels us a “bitch.” While we may all commit acts of non-compliance within the status quo every day, for some their very existence is non-compliance. We’ve barely scratched the surface of main character Kamau Kogo’s backstory or the infraction that landed her on Bitch Planet, but the very fact that she used to be an athlete, is strong, black, and dominant all make you feel like these are good enough reasons to get locked up in this parallel universe. Our current society and our legal systems are not quick to accept nor willing to forgive the most minor misstep of marginalized people and orientations. This is a fandom everyone can get behind because not only is it engaging as a story, it is voicing a very real social and cultural problem that needs to be stemmed.
Admittedly still in its beginning stages, Bitch Planet’s storyline already feels neat around the edges—something pretty rare in the world of comic books. Even the careful artwork doesn’t feel objective when portraying its often-naked female inmates—artwork so upfront I can only describe it as evocative of punk. The subjective representation of women is so rare that Bitch Planet feels cathartic for fans of the medium; the comic book industry being, after all, heavily dominated by men and produced primarily for the male gaze. We’ll have to wait and see where Bitch Planet goes, but what I know for sure is that I’m going with it, and a lot of other passionate people are too. This is, without doubt, an inclusive community everyone can get behind.
So, are you Non-Compliant?