Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Bitch Planet: Stay Non-Compliant

When I first noticed Bitch Planet in my local comic shop I wasn't sure what to make of it. Knowing nothing about it beforehand, I knew it would go one of two ways. Either it was just going to be another sexist comic full of scantily clad women tearing each other apart, or it was going to be something special. I decided to try it out, and boy am I glad I did.

After reading the first issue, I fell in love. Bitch Planet is a prison planet, where women who are deemed to be 'non-compliant' are sent as punishment. Non-compliant with what, you ask? Well, with the fathers' ideals of how women should look and act. In the first issue we have Marian Collins, whose husband paid a fee to have her sent to Bitch Planet after she (understandably) made some threats when she found out he was having an affair.

The scariest thing is that while reading, you notice that this fictional world isn't all that far from the real world. If you look at politics, especially in America, it is constantly men that are making decisions on how women should lead their lives. They decide if we have the right to abortion, birth control. Don't even get me started on how victims of rape and domestic abuse are treated. It really isn't all that far from 'The Fathers' who run this fictional world in Bitch Planet. It may be exaggerated, but the underlying themes are still there and I love that this comic is bringing people's attention to them.

My favourite part of this comic, though, is that each issue has a feminist essay at the back. So far each one has been fascinating, informative and a joy to read. When I went back to the comic shop to buy issue #2 after thoroughly enjoying issue #1, the guy that served me told me that the essays were his favourite part too, so I was pleased to know that the comic is reaching out to men as well as women and hopefully opening their eyes to some issues they may not have ever noticed.

Every third issue gives us the origin story of one of the characters. Issue #3, the first of these origin stories, is about Penny Rolle. We see Penny growing up, she gets taken away from her loving Grandmother and put into care. She's attacked for her natural hair, told it's too unruly. Later when she's running her own café, she's attacked for her weight and skin colour. She snaps, trashes the place and ends up on trial in front of the Fathers who claim they want to help her become her ideal version of herself, as if this is the cause of her rage. My favourite moment in this issue is when they hook her up to a machine that's supposed to show them her ideal version of herself, only to discover she already is. Their reaction reminds me of a Mindy Kaling quote:

"I always get asked, 'Where do you get your confidence?' I think people are well meaning, but it's pretty insulting. Because what it means to me is, 'You, Mindy Kaling, have all the trappings of a very marginalised person. You're not skinny, you're not white, you're a woman. Why on earth would you feel like you're worth anything?'"

They simply cannot comprehend how she could love herself exactly as she is, so she gets sent to Bitch Planet. Out of their way.

One final thing I like about this comic is the back page. It's full of amazing vintage style adverts, some of which are real things and can be purchased if you live in the US. Some of them are fake, like the diet parasite, which carries a wonderful disclaimer that if anyone actually tries to buy it, the money will be donated to the Girls Leadership Institute "in the hope that tomorrow's generation fares better".

Basically, I'm overjoyed not only that this comic exists, but that it's so popular. People are already getting 'non-compliant' tattoos, if you search the #bitchplanet hashtag on twitter you will find an outpouring of tremendous praise and adoration for the comic. If you're not already reading this, I hope you want to now. I'd love to hear other people's opinions on Bitch Planet, and if anyone has recommendations for anything similar I would love to hear them.

Stay non-compliant, ladies.

Bryony :)

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