NC is the new Scarlet Letter (musings about my non-compliant tattoo)
[This post has been in draft for weeks now, so I might as well publish it, in all its fuzzy logic glory now, because I doubt I'll ever finish it soon.]
Last December, my mother, my sister and I each got a version of the fast-spreading feminist tattoo phenomenon that is the Non-Compliant logo from the comic Bitch Planet. Hundreds, probably thousands, of women in North America also have gotten this tattoo, to symbolize and announce their independence from gender norms and their lack of fear at not being what society wants us all to be. I do not regret it at all. I have had complements, questions and a few women have had loud, heartfelt belly laughs when I told them about it. My brother-in-law asked me if I was going to be thrown away now that I had been stamped non-compliant, but he's an engineer and he does not get it. That's ok, he's a dear that way.
In any case, I have been thinking about all of us who now bear the mark, and I think I stumbled in something interesting. The NC tattoo is kind of another scarlet letter. The branded A on the adulteress's chest was meant as a mark of shame, but Nathaniel Hawthorne's heroine managed to find some pride in her actions, even through all her guilt. I think Kelly Sue DeConnick, the author of Bitch Planet, imagined the NC logo branded on the women sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost to serve as a Scarlet Letter in the narrative. I think the parallel, the literary reference, is intentional. These women, who are too fat, too black, too willful, too independent, too strong for society, are deemed non-compliant, branded as such, and sent away. And yet, most of the characters in the comic manage to find pride, or anger at least, in their predicament. In this way, NC is A but multiplied. Which is why so many women, like my mother, my sister and I chose to brand ourselves with it. In the world of Bitch Planet, I can assure you I'd have been sent there a long time ago! To be frank, my sister would have gotten the Scarlet letter a few hundred years ago too.
The key difference is the pride in not complying. All these women do not comply to society's expectations in women, in gender definitions, in body type, in behaviour. I will not comply. My sister will not comply. My mother has turned not listening to anyone into an art phone! And we will flaunt our stubbornness and our strength and our difference. I'm fat, I'm loud, I'm usually the smartest person in the room, and I've got tired of hiding that fact around age 28.
There is it.