Bitch Planet by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro quickly became a fan favorite after its release in December of 2014. Written as an exploitation film parody, this feminist dystopian comic is sure to make many feel “noncompliant”. Of course, life on the Auxillary Compliance Outpost known as Bitch Planet isn’t easy.
“Bits and Pieces” by Che Grayson & Sharon Lee De La Cruz start with the MISS TWEEN NECK COMPETITION, a pageant for those with the “longest and most elegant of necks”. This year’s sponsor, of course, is AGREENEX, “the nations favorite vitamin”. When we finally see the contestants we realize they are little children, being judged on their smiles and their necks. The pageant begins and the “birdies” are all seen dancing, the crowd oohs and aahs as the judges deliberate. Tabitha has been chosen. A rose takes on a snake like movement and vines its way around her throat. Tabitha’s prize? An eternity spent in a tank for visual noncompliance.
Any woman can attest to the constant berating by the media and some people, about how we should look, what we should eat, and what we should do. Long elegant necks, thin waist, firm but not “manly”, no tattoos, shaved legs. The list is endless.
The storyline presented in Bits and Pieces is undoubtedly a nod to those unrealistic beauty standards. But it’s wonderfully juxtaposed by the two main characters, Dawn and Tabitha. Beautiful girls, sure to win the competition with light up jewels. One on Tabitha’s neck and one on Dawn’s prosthetic.
Readers will be quick to note, a likeness between one of the announcers and a certain politician.
This is Good For You by Danielle Henderson, Ro Stein, Ted Brandt and Clayton Cowles, is better read then reviewed. It follows similar themes to Bits and Pieces and the overall theme of Bitch Planet. Themes of oppression, violence, and societal demands are present in these comics but there is an unmistakable and powerful undercurrent of girl love.
Below are four different scenes that resonated with me.
The first shows a woman waving goodbye to presumably her husband as he heads off to work in his bright red sports car. “Family values keep women safe and fulfilled”, long has this sentiment ruled the western conception of women. Cook, clean, raise the children, all while looking impeccable. Traditional values held by many in power, on both sides. There is no one way to be a woman and it certainly isn’t defined but what you do for the patriarchy.
A friendship between two women is often perceived as fake. I’ve often heard it said that women are mean to each other and competitive, they can’t get along. Then again, it was never a woman who said these things. These friendship are not a distraction and they are certainly not forced. There is nothing stronger or more powerful than the friendship of women. Together we can accomplish anything.
The next image shows four women discussing their take on compliance. “I like feeling good about myself”, “now that I’m not working I can really give it my all to look good”. Comments that equate personal value to outward appearance, all problematic. One woman speaks of her families values and how her family ‘benefits from me looking my best”. Another woman speaks of her ‘biological imperative’, “women are supposed to stay skinny, have lots of babies and take care of our men, that’s how the Lord built us, honey”. No woman, or anyone else, should be judged for what they choose to do on their own fruition, including wearing makeup. But I think it’s important to make a separation between what we want, what we think we want, and what society “expects”.
The final image is my favorite. Reminiscent of the Women’s March. A crowd has gathered, each with signs decrying the patriarchal regime. A chant rises above the crowd, “institutionalized violence against women will not stand, your hatred will not divide us”.
“On January 21, 2017, people of all backgrounds–women and men and gender nonconforming people, young and old, of diverse faiths, differently abled, immigrants and indigenous–came together, 5 million strong, on all seven continents of the world.” 
No matter what they do, we must stand with each other. Women together are strong forever. In compassion, in solidarity, and in action.
The last story in this triple feature is What’s Love Got to Do With It? by Jordan Clark and Naomi Cowles. This last one resonated with me for various different reasons, familial pressures to lead a “traditional life” and the government involvement in a women’s life. I am 26, unmarried and with no children, both by choice and thankful that at least my parents don’t have to pay an old maid tax. A fate not shared by 30-year-old Amaya and her parents. Amaya’s mom has just gifted her a smart watch that tracks ovulation, called the biological clock. An important job at a hospital doesn’t negate the need for a husband and a child.
I’ve spent long nights thinking about marriage and children, not for want, but for lack of understanding. A government sanctioned relationship just really never made any sense to me and let’s be honest, being registered to your parents at birth is a little odd too. All for taxes. I have a long term partner of ten years, we’ve lived together for seven years, and we have plans for the future that don’t include getting hitched, yet without a marriage certificate, I have no say in what should happen in an emergency situation. It’s infuriating in my eyes, yet I understand what marriage and children mean to so many others. I also understand that not everybody even gets that choice.
Amaya decides that she will try to find a husband. Her first date, set up by her mother, features conversation topics such as Amaya’s weight and her dates rich father who owns a resort in Mar-A-Lago. To top it all off, Amaya is stuck with the bill.
She next tries the online thing, all catches.
Peep the side note at the bottom – “everything you just read was a real thing one human being said to another”. Cringe.
Finally, Amaya tries the bar, but a seemingly successful night is ruined when she returns to find her date making out with another woman. At her wit’s end, Amaya asks her sister what to do, to which she responds with a way to waive the tax.
To waive the tax, Amaya must act as a surrogate mother, fulfilling her societal duty. The comic takes one last stab at the system with a small slide. The newborn baby is compared to what looks like a paint sample from a hardware store.
The babies skin is light enough to receive a full tax credit.
To end I’d like to leave you all with some discussion questions provided in volume one of Bitch Planet.
- How does non-compliance as displayed in the context of Bitch Planet work as an allegory for women today?
- Intersectional feminism is 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… Can you think of (other) instances either in pop culture, in the media or in your own life, where you can point out the ways that different women’s experiences don’t always intersect?
Additionally, both Bits and Pieces and This is Good for You, speak to societal pressures of beauty;
- How is beauty depicted in the media you read or watch? Is it inclusive of ALL women?
- Do you believe that society puts unrealistic expectations on women?
Finally, What’s Love Got to Do With It? provides an example of how beauty ideals can lead to further oppression;
- How often does your outward appearance affect your relationships? Jobs?
- Is there a correlation between looks and money?
- In one of the final scenes, Amaya’s surrogate child is given a full tax credit based on his skin tone. What correlations in your own life can you make about the color of someone’s skin and money?
Thanks for joining me this week. I hope you enjoyed the review. If you liked it, hit that star and follow my blog.
About Kelly Sue DeConnick & Valentine De Landro, Authors
Kelly Sue DeConnick is a writer, of comic books mostly. She lives in Portland, OR, with her husband, writer Matt Fraction and her kids, Henry Leo and Tallulah Louise. She owns a company called Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, Inc. // Kelly Sue DeConnic tumblr
Valentine De Landro is an illustrator, comic book artist, and a designer. // Valentine De Landro tumblr