Posted on | June 7, 2014 | 102 Comments
Lea DeLaria in the Netflix series ‘Orange Is the New Black’
“It’s like I’ve died and gone to feminist lezzy heaven. I’ve been a professional lesbian for over 30 years — before that I freelanced — but my entire career has been about that, putting a human face on what a butch is.”
— Lea DeLaria, star of Orange Is the New Black
A TV series about women’s prison is “feminist lezzy heaven,” and Orange Is the New Black is a cultural phenomenon — like HBO’s Girls — primarily because of critical praise for its feminist themes. Typical is Amanda Duberman’s gushy enthusiasm at Huffington Post:
Perfectly written, hilarious and culturally relevant, the series chronicling a diverse group of women behind bars proved to be a feminist triumph. . . .
The male characters are either punchlines or morally reprehensible gatekeepers of sexism. The first season’s plot lines recognized transgender identity, sexual fluidity, race relations and the triumphant potential of sisterhood.
A show that portrays men only as “morally reprehensible gatekeepers of sexism” must be praised, you see, because this is what feminism is all about: Demonizing men as the source of all evil in society.
Never mind, of course, that Orange Is the New Black was adapted from the memoir of Piper Kerman, a born-rich woman who graduated from Smith College and was sent to prison for money laundering for a heroin smuggler who was Kerman’s lesbian lover.
You can read Kerman’s own self-pitying account, in which she portrays herself as a victim of federal mandatory-minimum sentencing laws: “Without mandatory minimums, Piper would almost certainly have been sentenced to probation and community service.”
Well, boo hoo hoo.
Other people have suffered far worse fates than doing 13 months in prison for money laundering, but those other people don’t have rich families and elite educations (Smith College annual tuition, $44,450) and so they don’t write memoirs that become TV shows.
Feminism’s victimhood narrative requires us to ignore contradictions and paradoxes. Instead we must pretend that a simple common-sense interpretation of facts — “Hey, maybe dating a heroin smuggler is a bad idea” — is too unsophisticated to be a valid judgment. Piper Kerman is a woman, and when bad things happen to a woman, there must be a feminist morality tale in there somewhere, right? God forbid that we should interpret “sexual equality” in such a way that women are viewed as responsible for their own choices.
Of course, no fan of Orange Is the New Black cares what I think, because I’m just a morally reprehensible gatekeeper of sexism.
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