Bitch Planet 1: Extraordinary Machine

Are There Lesbians? Yes

What Happens?
Non-conformist inmates of the off-world penitentiary commonly known as Bitch Planet are offered a chance to help reduce their sentences.

The Verdict:
This comic is one of those stories where it took me a while to get around to finally reading it and I’m really wishing I’d gotten to it when it first came out instead of repeatedly looking at it and putting it back on the shelf! Bitch Planet takes no prisoners, it is unapologetic and almost vicious in its message. It is, undoubtedly one of the most unashamedly feminist works I’ve read, either novel or comic. It even comes with some delightful discussion questions on the back page, urging its readers to consider the issues it brings up in a real-world context, the most predominant of which is internationality.

The majority of the women in this comic are black or asian, with the primary focus on two black women – my favourite of whom is overweight with a no-nonsense attitude and whose main reason for living seems to be to right the system. Her name is Penelope and her storyline actually made me cry it was so beautiful. I wont give too much away but lets just say that despite everything, she certainly doesn’t seem to have any issues with her sense of self-worth. She is brash and unapologetic and the absolute antithesis of what the fictional (and lets be honest, real) society expects of its women. To put it simply, she is too much, and I think we can all strive to be a little too uncomfortably much.

When the lesbians are introduced it is along with the concept of the male fantasy, specifically how homosexuality in women is viewed as titillating for men, but only to a point. Bitch Planet then goes on to make the statement that female sexuality is something that, while often at the mercy of men, can then be turned on its head and used against them. It is a similar statement to that made in Insexts which shows that even ones body can become a weapon and although Bitch Planet does this without making literal monsters of its women the message is still abundantly clear.

In the world of Bitch Planet the use of male dominated institutions are shown to build a culture of masculinity, outside of the already patriarchal government. The game Duemila or Megaton is at the center of the novel, with a team of inmates formed in order to keep the prison running and also to increase ratings. The game is emphasised as a dangerous, male-dominated sport with it being very unlikely for women to succeed. It also creates a masculine culture around the sport, with the implication being that if you aren’t interested in Megaton, then you aren’t really a man. Another prominent institution used to maintain the status quo is religion, particularly Catholicism. There isn’t much mention yet of how this is used in everyday settings, but within the prison a program called “The Catholic” is used to instill a strong sense of guilt in the women. Combined with the “Confession module” the idea is emphasised that one’s very being is, at its core, guilty for simply existing.

Bitch Planet is an amazing, almost-a-little-too-real comic which wields its message like a blunt object. It is well worth the read, even down to the mock ads at the end of each issue. It is an extremely empowering comic that has come at just the right time and let’s be honest, don’t we all need a little more revolution in our lives?

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