I’ve been reading (and re-reading) the amazing feminist comic Bitch Planet, and I can only assume this is what true love feels like. Five issues have been published since 2014, and the first trade paperback was just released this month.

If you can get your hands on the individual issues, you should, because they feature letters and essays in them that aren’t in the trade volume.

The series is set in the vaguely distant future, where the Earth an extremely structured patriarchy (um, more than it is now) where women who do not obey are labeled non-compliant and sent to the “auxiliary compliance outpost” a prison set on another planet and colloquially referred to as “bitch planet.”

the cover of the third issue of Bitch Planet The reason I bring this up is because of one character: Penny Rolle, a fat woman of color who is incarcerated for, essentially, being unapologetically fat. There are other “crimes” listed, such as insubordination, assault, aesthetic offenses, capillary disfigurement (I assume that means her tattoo), and “wanton obesity,” but essentially they all boil down to the fact that she physically does not fit what the “fathers” of Earth think she should look like, and she has been pushed and bullied and reacted to that. The third issue of the comic (pictured above) tells her backstory, which I will not spoil here, and slips in some pithy references to the toxicity of diet culture.

Several panels from issue 3 of Bitch Planet
We are all Penny Rolle in some way here. I’m white, so I don’t experience the racism she does, of course, but I like to think that I commit “aesthetic offenses” every day, and that my “obesity” is wanton. Plus I have six tattoos, so that’s a lot of capillary disfigurement.

Penny has a tattoo on her arm of two elephants with some flourishes and the words “born big.” There have been a lot of people out there getting tattoos of the non-compliant label, but I have yet to see anyone with Penny’s. I’m considering it. Not on my arm, but maybe on my thigh, which would be a bit symbolic. Someone my size (and hers) is expected to cover up, and when we don’t, we are met with stares and jeers. So to have something on my body celebrating that that’s only visible when I strip down beyond what society thinks is ok would be delightfully subversive.


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