Are You Woman Enough To Survive Bitch Planet?

Bitch Planet

A feminist comic book is building a community of badass women who aren’t apologizing for being themselves.

“God, please make me an honest man but never an honest woman,” was the morning prayer of renowned French courtesan Ninon de Lenclos. Her influence spanned beyond entertaining some of the most brilliant minds of the 17th century, such as Racine, Moliere, Rochefoucauld and Voltaire. In fact “what would Ninon do?” was a go-to question for absolute monarch Louis XIV, also known as the Sun King, whenever he needed a second opinion. Clearly Lenclos thumbed her nose at feminine propriety and resisted her sex’s category assignment. This gave her the freedom to become a pillar for feminist agency as well as an important intellectual incubator. But had she lived as a character in Kelly Sue DeConnick’s graphic novel Bitch Planet she would have been shipped off to a prison for women who “did not fit into the box assigned to [them],” otherwise considered as “noncompliant.”

According to Bitch Planet being noncompliant is being “too whatever-it-is-they’ll-judge-you-for-today.” That can mean too fat, too thin, too loud, too shy, too religious, too secular, too prudish, too sexual, too queer, too black, too brown… sound familiar? This idea of not being good enough (or right enough) touches on many of the social issues women are currently faced with. In a world fixated on Kardashian contouring, insistent upon subduing a presidential candidate so that she can be perceived as “likeable” and where demeaning women somehow makes for good reality TV, Bitch Planet‘s narrative is a much needed breath of fresh air and serves as a great example of intersectional feminism:

Intersectionality is a term that was coined by American professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989. The textbook definition states: The view that women experience oppression in varying configurations and in varying degrees of intensity. Cultural patterns of oppression are not only interrelated, but are bound together and influenced by the intersectional systems of society. Examples of this include race, gender, class, ability, and ethnicity.” [1]

The story also encourages a strong sense of sisterhood and unity among women despite those underlying differences. Even though the characters range in ethnicity, sexuality and body type there’s a place for each of them on Bitch Planet, and the only way they can overcome their challenges is by coming together.

Bitch Planet

But what kind of feminist would entitle her tome with a word so often used to degrade women? Here’s DeConnick’s explanation: “I thought it was funny! And there’s a — you know, [bitch] is a terrible thing for a woman to be called, right? That’s the thing that we’re all sort of afraid of. We so wanna be liked! And I’m a pleaser as much as anybody else is, and I don’t want to be considered unpleasant, but, you know, sometimes, I’m also the boss. And if I am unable to continue for fear of being called a name, I’m not a very effective leader. And so, there’s an attempt there to just sort of own it, put it out there.” [2]

Not convinced? Sign up for rapper Princess Nokia’s introductory class:

When women claim the thing that defines who they are – even when that means going against “acceptable” notions of femininity – they come out in charge of their own identity. They belong deeply to themselves and ultimately add dimension to womanhood. 

“What I think the statement they’re making is, I am a person who does not fit the box assigned to me. I am […] too whatever the fuck it is my culture is going to judge me for today, and I refuse to see myself through your eyes. I refuse to see myself as imperfect because of that. And you will support me or you will get the fuck off.” – Kelly Sue DeConnick  [3]

This idea is illustrated when one of the characters Penelope, a large black woman rejected for her size and autonomy, reclaims herself. In the scene Penelope is being run through an experiment where a machine visualizes the subject’s ideal self. At first she’s reluctant, even scared, of what the experiment will reveal . All her life she is told that she isn’t good enough, so the possibility that this could also be her truth is frightening. To her surprise, the person that appears to be a manifestation of her ideal self is simply her, just as she is, laughing. “If it aint’ broke don’t fix it. I ain’t broke and you bastards ain’t never gonna break me” she declares.

The spoof ad page next to this scene, titled “Hey Kids, Patriarchy”, further drives the point. One of the placements reads: “maybe today TRY not to believe that your VALUE is inextricably linked to some asshat’s assessment of your desirability. F*** that dude. F*** that culture.” 

Bitch planet spoof ad page

The ever-wise Ninon de Lenclos may have said it best: “A woman is more influenced by what she divines than by what she is told.” Never doubt how awesome your bitch is ladies. 

Just remembered how awesome my bitch is 🐶

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