My grandmother wanted me to be the perfect picture of womanhood. She wanted me to cook and clean and bear children and stay silent while men did the speaking. She wanted me to do all this without complaint. Needless to say we never really did see eye to eye on that front. But on the other hand while we were butting heads on just what I was meant to do with my life she also in many ways showed me that she wasn’t herself a perfect picture of womanhood. At least not the kind we saw in movies and television shows. She was hardheaded with a dark sense of humor and when shit needed doing she just did it. No matter what she said she wasn’t the type to just cringe in the background while some hero took care of her business. In other words, while telling me to comply she showed me what it meant to be non-compliant.
I find myself thinking about my grandmother whenever I read Bitch Planet. We disagreed on so many things but in the end we were both non-compliant and both of us would’ve found ourselves on Bitch Planet, incarcerated for different crimes.
If you’ve never heard of it, Bitch Planet is a recurring comic, by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro, about a world very much like ours except that they have colonized the another planet and turned it into a prison for women. The reason they need a whole planet as a prison is that the society back on Earth has turned being a female non-compliant into a crime. And there are so many ways of being female and non-compliant, just like there are now. There’s the dutiful wife whose husband cheats on her and she gets angry enough to threaten him. She gets sent to Bitch Planet so that the husband can start his new life with the younger, more compliant mistress. The overweight girl, too angry by half for the society that wants its women silent and fading into the background. That’s a particularly nasty touch of world building that took me several re-reads to see; the fashions of the society have evolved so that most fashionable women wear fabric-based versions of a Scold’s Bridle when out in society functions.
Finland is fairly egalitarian as countries go and yet I have found myself being stopped on the street by men, and it’s always men, just so they could berate me for being overweight, just so they could tell me to smile. As if my body or the way I presented myself was any concern of theirs while they were passing me by never to be seen again. Most often the ones who berate me on being overweight are not only overweight themselves but usually also possess some questionable hygienic habits, to say the least. It seemed so unfairly hypocritical to me until I started reading Bitch Planet.
The concept of the Bitch Planet is all about making women prioritize other people. Their comfort as well as The implication in that being, of course, that women aren’t real people. You don’t have to spend a long time watching the news to see how we could find ourselves in that situation. We’re not there, thankfully. And most years we keep making progress away from that place. But sometimes… Sometimes it also seems inevitable.
And those times? Those are the times I take my keyboard and start writing non-compliant women. We exist. We always have and always will. The internet allows us to use our voices in ways unprecedented in history. And amazing creators show us both the road to revolution as well as the possible dystopic future that many today would consider their own, personal utopia. We can either comply or we can rise up. I know which I would rather do.