I’ve been having complicated feelings about gender and how I, as a nonbinary femme person, fit into women’s spaces and women’s narratives. I’ve previously identified as a woman, but I haven’t been identifying that way for the past couple of years at least. Yet I’m read by the world as a cis woman, and that reading affects the way I’m treated. So do I have space and a voice in women’s spaces, and do women’s narratives represent me?
I’m still grappling with the question of spaces. However, I feel that the priority for general women’s spaces is to be inclusive and centering of trans women’s experiences and DMAB transfeminine people’s experiences. Most women’s spaces that I’ve encountered don’t do so—they are almost always cis women’s spaces, where trans and nonbinary folks are on the margins anyway.
I feel less dissonance when it comes to narratives. I think there’s room for my experiences to be simultaneously in line with women’s experiences while also not being a woman’s experience, and I don’t feel dissonance identifying with women’s narratives and narratives that center women.
So I both relate to the narratives in Kelly Sue Deconnick’s Bitch Planet while understanding that my own embodiment of noncompliance is different from a cis woman’s embodiment of noncompliance. Gender presentation is separate from gender identity—my femininity does not mean that I am necessarily a woman. And so, regardless of gender, femme is not compliance. Femme, as Nina so wonderfully put it, is resistance.
To be femme in a world that is misogynistic and that devalues the feminine is inherently a challenge, both in its definition as hardship and as contention. Transmisogyny and misogynoir compound that challenge. Bitch Planet has been touching on misogynoir, and I’m hopeful that it touches on transmisogyny as well—so far, all depictions of women seem to be of cis women.
So it was with these feelings that I set out on creating my own visual declaration of noncompliance, both as a fandom beacon and as a general statement.
I started with a pink adult medium T-shirt from Joann’s, which was on sale for $3. I wanted the shirt to be ultra-feminine, so I converted the regular collar into a boatneck collar according to these instructions:
I then scanned in the back of an issue of Bitch Planet, enlarged the noncompliant symbol, and traced it in Photoshop to create a pattern. I cut out the pattern, positioned it over my fabric for maximum floral coverage, and pinned it in place so I could then position the heat bond paper accurately on the back.
I’d unpinned the pattern pieces to iron on the heat bond paper, so I repositioned them afterward and cut out the pieces. Not sure if there’s a less time-consuming way to do this.
After cutting out the pieces, I peeled off the backing and pinned them in place. While I was doing this, I used hot black tea to add a creamy tint to the white lace that I bought so that it’d match the cream-colored lace that I already had on hand for the shirt trim. (No photos of that unfortunately, but the lace was small enough for me to use a regular bowl and my electric kettle instead of the stove top.)
Normally, you want to iron on the pieces before sewing, but I wanted the satin ribbon of the lace hidden underneath the pieces so that the tiny pearls formed the trim. Thus began an hour or two of painstakingly aligning the pieces, cursing when the presser foot would occasionally pull the beads to the side and expose the ribbon, and cutting notches into the ribbon as I turned corners and curves with the lace.
Adding the lace trim was super easy; I just used the same zigzag stitch that I used on the applique and tacked it into place following the existing hem line.
Altogether, this project took me about three or four hours to complete, and once again I started it around 8 pm or 9 pm. Really gotta stop with these late-night projects, but, when the inspiration strikes, I’m loathe to put down a project.
If you’re in the market for a new series to follow, Bitch Planet only has three issues out so far, and they’re all fantastic. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing is wonderful, and Valentine De Landro’s art pairs perfectly with the text. I’ve also totally geeked out over Clayton Cowle’s lettering. Check it out if you have a chance.
Download the noncompliant symbol pattern here. I don’t require credit for my work in tracing the symbol. Because I’m not the owner of the art, I don’t feel like it’s my place to restrict how you can or can’t use it, either—that’s up to Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, Inc., the trademark holders. If you create anything with the pattern, though, I’d love to see it! Feel free to leave a link in the comments or send it to me via a private message.