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1984 was written as a warning, but between social media check ins, public surveillance, and the digital trail we leave whenever we do something as innocuous as buy a coffee or share a ride, we’ve used it as a map to guide us in the sixty-eight years since it was written, making the Newspeak and thought police a reality.
Someday in the not distant future, I fear someone, or more likely, a collective of someones, with too much power and too little intelligence, will read DeConnick’s Bitch Planet and see not a scathing indictment of patriarchal oppression but a blueprint to maintain social order.
We are already using shame as a public tool to codify behavior. We de-humanize people for their weight, their color, their sexual and gender identities. We demand beauty but use it as a way to discredit intelligence, depth, creativity, humor, etc. We purport to live in the land of the free, but terms and conditions apply to anyone who falls outside the archetypes that have been forced upon them, usually at birth.
Even though Bitch Planet, a space station prison for women who upend their submissive patriarchal role, provides the setting, the women who landed there by virtue of non-conformity are the characters and the heroes. None are more intriguing and alluring than Penny Rolle, who landed there for the crimes of being outspoken, fat, and black. An entire issue/chapter is devoted to her backstory and deprogramming at the hands of the misogynist women who assume charge, only for her to triumph over conditioning and look to her real, current self as her own ideal.
When proponents of kyriarchy read Bitch Planet and see the absurd logical conclusion that oppression dictates, feminists will read it and see a call to arms to fight back. As the series continues, I have a feeling we’ll win.