These are just some words that can often make the average person squirm for one reason or another. The last word in the list has been twisted and worked in so many ways when referring to the human female, both in the negative and the positive, that its hard to determine if it is something that should be taken from our vocabulary completely, or worn like a badge of honor for all the non well behaved women who dared to make history, or at least dared to create HERstory instead.
It is a word that holds many different connotations, and can often spark an argument on what constitutes as a “bitch” exactly. Is it an “mean” woman? Is it a “weak” man? Is it a label used to silence and shame a woman, or human being in general, who dares to not conform to the rules that society tries to force upon her?
And what would happen if we existed in a dystopian world where, if a woman was in fact deemed to be a “bitch”, and non-compliant, that she could be shipped off to a prison like planet, filled with all the women that mainstream society deemed unable to function within the rules and regulations? Would the non-compliant women of the “Bitch Planet” accept their fate, and simply work to be considered more acceptable? Or might there be the makings of a feminist rebellion on their hands?
The comic book series, “Bitch Planet”, by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, and illustrator Valentine De Landro, poses those very questions in what its distributor, Image Comics, describes as a “highly-anticipated women in- prison sci-fi exploitation riff. Think Margaret Atwood meets Inglorious Bastards.” And indeed it is.
This is a comic that plays on the women in prison exploitation plot, and turns it on its very head. The strong women characters aren’t just caricatures having naked shower scenes for the male gaze.
These characters are nuanced, layered, and come in all shapes, colors, and various sizes. They all have stories to tell that brought them to Bitch Planet, and they all are drawn into the plot to cast off the chains that society has put upon them both literally and figuratively. You may be tempted to see it in the light of a Intergalactic Orange Is The New Black, but no, oh no, it is beyond that.
This comic series touches upon all my criteria for being highlighted and then some, just by issue #1 (it is currently on Issue #5), and it keeps getting better. It has all of the following:
-Has a woman of color playing a major part/role in the creative work- CHECK
-Has people of color playing major parts/roles in the creative work – CHECK
-Has some badass women in it – TRIPLE CHECK BABY!
-Shows representation not only in race, but with gender, sexuality, religion, and the like (Intersectionality y’all!) – CHECK
One of the things I love most about this series is that the writer, DeConnick, could have easily made this story about a white female who happens to be thrown into a world of prison, surrounded by interesting, but glorified token pieces of women of color. DeConnick doesn’t go that route at all, and, without giving away the ending of the first issue, she goes against that generic trope in a very surprising and interesting way. These characters and this story is in your face from the very beginning, and it makes no apologies about that.
The artwork, by De Landro, is stylized and intriguing, but without falling into the comic book pitfalls of drawing the women characters in impossible and uncomfortable positions, wallowing in over-sexualization. The scenes where the characters are naked, (because yes, there still is a naked shower jail scene. This is a prison flick- comic after all), are done in a such way to make the reader, well… not enjoy it… as it should be, when taking a peak at these women being shuffled into the prison like cattle, and their rights stripped from them along with their clothes.
Not only that, but the back of the comics have fun advertisements that make fun of products pushed on women to make them more “desirable”. Its a tongue in cheek rip on the fashion and cosmetics industries plight to prey on the consumer’s insecurities of self. Along with this, at the end of every issue is a pro-feminist essay discussing a particular topic of interest to Women’s Rights… OH YEAH!
If you’re not already checking out this series out YOU SHOULD BE.