I love reading Bitch Planet. I also hate reading Bitch Planet.
The book tells the story of a futuristic alternate universe where women who are deemed “Non-compliant” (i.e. not skinny, submissive, sexualized, etc.) by the ruling “Fathers” of society are sent to a prison world. However, the book is really an allegory of current society so sharp, so familiar, that it’s almost too painful to read. After a five-month absence, it finally returns with a stunning end to the first arc.
Though I’ll admit the book didn’t quite click for me until the third issue, an empowering, incredible reminder that sometimes a corrupt system only has as much power over you as you give it. The fourth issue gave our heroines a possible way to fight that system. And then this issue reminded us that sometimes the system is so powerful that you never had a chance. It was gutting and I’m woman enough to admit that I cried while reading it.
The cover, in the faux ’70s exploitation style artist Valentine DeLandro does so well, warns readers to steel themselves for heartbreak, but anyone who’s still reading the comic at this point probably knows that it’s a difficult read. That’s not to say that writer Kelly Sue DeConnick’s work isn’t strong. There’s an incredible confidence in the storytelling and the her willingness to use the story to challenge readers to question our own society is huge. DeConnick and DeLandro are doing something bigger than periodically making a now-40-page comic. They’re trying to affect people’s lives.
And it’s working. That may sound melodramatic, but think on this: an unsigned letter in the back of the issue states that Megan Carpentier’s essay in the back matter of Issue #3 helped the writer push back suicidal thoughts. Another says the comic caused the writer to fight and win a battle to be paid the same salary as her male coworker in the same position. Not to mention the numerous readers who have already tattooed the “Non-compliant” symbol on their bodies.
There are days when even I consider getting one, but then my mind buzzes with worries. How will I cover it up if I go to events or job interviews? What will I say when people ask me what it means and will I be able to handle the criticism or misunderstandings? But then I realize, that’s missing the point. Clearly, I’m not ready for a “Non-compliant” tattoo. I can’t feel to bad about that though. Most of the world isn’t, that’s the point.
By day, Marisa Carpico stresses over every detail of America’s election system. By night, she becomes a pop culture and celebrity obsessive. Whether it’s movies, TV or music, she watches and listens to it all so you don’t have to. You can find her risking her life by reading comic books while walking down the crowded streets of New York City, having inappropriate emotional reactions at her iPad screen while riding the subway or occasionally letting her love of a band convince her to stand for hours on end in one of the city’s many purgatorial concert spaces. You can follow her on Twitter to read her insightful social commentary or more likely complain about how cold it is at @MarisaCarpico.