BY SHANNA BOWIE
In a week where Serena Williams was called manly for winning her 21st Wimbledon championship and Amandla Stenberg was called a bully for pointing out Kylie Jenner’s cultural appropriation, it makes me wonder where are the White feminists when it the time comes to defend women of color and society’s double standards? The answer is: the majority of them do not care. This is why Kelly Sue DeConnick, writer of Pretty Deadly, Bitch Planet and Captain Marvel has become one of my personal icons. In a sea of white feminism, she’s an island of intersectionality.
We can’t go any further without talking about Bitch Planet. Bitch Planet is DeConnick’s latest project distributed through Image Comics, which tells the story of a dystopian future where non-compliant women are sent to a prison planet colloquially called Bitch Planet. From the first issue, DeConnick subverts the readers’ ideas of where this story is going. Initially, the story seems to be about Marian, a suburban housewife who clashes with her husband and is sent away for being non-compliant. But by the end of the issue, a different protagonist emerges, a strong, capable, naptural Black woman named Kam, who we are learning, has her own reasons for coming to Bitch Planet. Are you hooked yet?
That bait and switch in and of itself is masterful in a comics world where so much focus is placed on strong (white) female characters, but when you have a creator like DeConnick, she adds touches that ground this book in a deeper feminist praxis. Each issue ends with an essay penned by a feminist writer including popular women of color feminists like Danielle Henderson and Mikki Kendall. DeConnick is purposefully centering women of color but particularly Black women in this conversation about what it means to be a non-compliant woman in our society; what does it mean when the very body you’re born in is unacceptable by society’s standards? Coming from a woman that admits her early work was basically “Gloria Steinheim fan-fiction”, this is an important and deliberate act of defiance.
DeConnick is creating in a climate where women are navigating their various identities and as a white woman choosing to engage in a conversation about these intersecting oppressions she is the definition of non-compliant. She talks about her writing coming from a place that is “wildly uncomfortable and terribly terrifying” and how “that is the space you should occupy as an artist”. And by doing the real work of examining her own privilege she’s able to create work that comes from a deeper place and that’s why it resonates with people. It’s why despite having only four issues out, I’ve seen more non-compliant tattoos and patches and artwork than I have for many other fandoms (seriously, check out Tumblr, Twitter and Etsy). Kelly Sue DeConnick is at the forefront of ushering in a new wave of feminism that pushes white, middle class women to examine their privilege how it impacts their feminist ideas. I hope more people join her.