Physical & Mental Health in Orange is the New Black.

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Whereas last year’s inaugural season of Netflix’ women’s prison effort, Orange is the New Black, introduced us to the myriad characters in Litchfield Penitentiary through the incarceration of the WASPy Piper Chapman, this year is all about the more diverse women that wear orange (well, mostly beige).

Specifically, we see the challenges of staying physically and mentally healthy in America’s prison industrial complex.

Last season we did see some of these issues come to light; transgendered inmate Sophia Burset, played by the incomparable Laverne Cox, had her hormone medication limited due to concerns about the drug’s side effects, while Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren’s mental illness was a comedic calling card for the show.

This year Suzanne’s backstory gets more airtime, as well as an explosive trajectory for Lorna Morello, which reveals that though both women probably need psychological counselling, they’re not going to get it at the indebted Litchfield. Instead, their issues fall through the cracks so much so that only Nicky is privy to exactly what Morello did to land her in prison.

Season two has been applauded for giving more airtime to the minor characters who also happen to be from racial minorities: Gloria, the Hispanic cook who took over the kitchen from Red and is serving time for welfare fraud, and her Latina cohorts; Vee, Taystee and Poussey’s familial-love triangle cum drug ring, and Rosa, the bank robber with terminal ovarian cancer.

There’s also been an influx of older women this season, whom feminist recapper Sady Doyle describes as a “knitting circle” with “an alarming tendency to shiv people”. This includes dementia-ridden Jimmy, who wanders the grounds (and even inadvertently escapes!) looking for her presumably long-dead husband, Jack. Due to her deteriorating mental state, Jimmy is given “compassionate leave” which is revealed to be not-so-compassionate when you take into account that she has no family to look after her and is without the mental faculties to secure herself a home or care. Inmate Frieda predicts she’ll be out on the streets and “dead within a week”.

Jimmy’s release is apparently due to the above mentioned “budget cuts”, which seem to be happening all too regularly at Litchfield. Reporter Andrew Nance contacts Piper’s ex-fiance, writer Larry, and later Piper herself, to see if he can get the inside scoop on the missing millions from Litchfield.

There was talk of the building of a new gym, but that money—along with the gym—is nowhere to be found. The inmates’ bathrooms are leaking raw sewage and they have no heating in the Eastern winter. The prison’s dire financial state comes to a festering head in the penultimate episode of the season as a storm rips through Litchfield, leaving the prison flooded and without power, a backup generator and whatever functioning plumbing they had left.

These appalling conditions contribute to newcomer Brooke Soso, Yoga Jones, Sister Jane and some girls from Pensatucky’s former laundry crew going on a hunger strike. Sister Jane’s past as an activist comes to light, and let’s just say she’s not as selfless as she makes herself out to be. Having said that, though, she berates prison administrator Caputo for releasing Jimmy with no accountability:

“The elderly are the fastest growing population in prison and they have special needs. So-called ‘compassionate release’ in lieu of care is completely unacceptable. You can’t dump sick old ladies on the street. It’s unconscionable, inhumane and illegal.”

Surely Rosa would be a better candidate for compassionate release as she has weeks to live?

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Sophia leads the inmates in an episode-long exploration of “which hole” pee comes out of and the importance of knowing your body.

This season really attempts to get at life in America’s underfunded and overcrowded minimum security prison system. While there’s still a ways to go in achieving a realistic portrayal of the dire reality many incarcerated women face, it’s the only piece of pop culture striving to do so. If it keeps heading in that direction, who knows the depths season three will plumb, so to speak.

Elsewhere: [In These Times] Orange is the New Black Makes Other TV Look Quaint.

[Global Comment] How Progressive is Orange is the New Black, Really?

 

On the (Rest of the) Net.

ICYMI: Navigating popular culture as a feminist.

The freezing, hungry reality of NHL “ice girls”. [Mother Jones]

What it’s like to work at Playgirl. [Medium]

Orange is the New Black‘s second season dropped on Netflix last weekend, and Sady Doyle explains that it’s not just a “knitting circle” show for women:

“I mean, there is a knitting circle. But they have an alarming tendency to shiv people.” [In These Times] 

What a difference 40 years makes: Seventeen magazine then and now. [Shameless Magazine]

Is Miley Cyrus proving that sex doesn’t sell anymore?

“The old adage that sex sells meant a lot when you literally had to buy into an artist or performer. You couldn’t read Madonna’s Sex book without purchasing it, or watch Deep Throat without going to the cinema. True, music videos have always been free at the point of access, but they once acted as adverts for a purchasable product; now people can watch ‘Wrecking Ball’ as many times as they want, with no interest in the Miley album itself. They can tweet about what she means for feminism till they’re blue in the face, but with no real interest in the end project, there’s no guarantee that all publicity is good publicity.”

I would argue that Miley’s selling a different kind of sex than your Britneys and even Madonnas once did; she’s portraying a crazier, more aggressive and perhaps more authentic sexuality than we’ve seen amongst female pop stars in quite awhile, barring Rihanna and her IDGAF attitude. [Vice]

Slenderman shows that “adolescent intensity, obsession, fantasy, derangement, illness and yes, sometimes violence, are not the exclusive domain of boys.” [The New Republic]

And if you’re after even more linkage, check out The Conversationalist‘s hosting of the 73rd Down Under Feminist Carnival, featuring links from yours truly and many other feminist musings.

Baby, It’s a Wild World: Navigating Popular Culture as a Feminist.

Recently, a friend questioned why I listen to Stone Cold Steve Austin’s podcast when he’s a known intimate partner abuser. He makes a fair point, as I have shunned Sean Penn and Michael Fassbender movies and R. Kelly and Chris Brown’s music (not that I really had an interest in them to begin with) because of their woman-hating ways. But by the same token, I listen to 2Pac, John Lennon and Prince despite knowing their histories of similar assaults.

I replied that you can’t watch, listen to or read anything these days where the creator and/or their characters haven’t committed a crime or moral transgression. There’s Woody Allen, Game of Thrones, Michael Jackson and, to varying degrees, Bryan Singer, Fassbender and Halle Berry of the current X-Men film.

A lot of the pop cultural morsels I’ve mentioned above I first consumed before I knew about their creators’ wicked ways. I got into professional wrestling and all its problems, rap and hip hop and their misogynist lyrics, and the Beatles and MJ as a teen whose feminist ideals were in their infant stages, but by no means as staunchly militant as they are today. It’s easy to make the conscious effort not to consume products made by artists whose questionable morals you’re already aware of, not so much when you’ve already got a passion for them. (I’ve had conversations with people in recent weeks who did not know about Singer’s rape allegations nor Fassbender’s violent streak; their inner torment about liking something made by someone reprehensible [or at least someone who’s committed reprehensible acts] was evident in their pained, conflicted responses.) When I pointed this out to my abovementioned podcast friend, he asked whether that meant I thought I was exempt from examining the issues with famous men being rewarded for their transgressions just because I happen to like the stuff they produce.

“Absolutely not,” I replied. But by the same token, if we were to avoid problematic pop culture, we’d never leave the house!

I think the most important thing is not to make excuses about the problematic pop culture we choose to consume. I can’t say if I’ll continue to listen to Austin’s podcast but if I do I’ll be sure not to be hypocritical about it. No excuses here.

Related: Why Are Famous Men Forgiven for Their Wrongdoings, While Women Are Vilified for Much Less?

Elsewhere: [The Smoking Gun] Stone Cole Steve Austin Roughs Up Girlfriend.

[Lipstick Alley] Flashback: Sean Penn Beat Madonna for 9 Hours in 1987; Charged with Felony Domestic Assault.

[TMZ] Girlfriend Fears Inglorious Basterds Star.

[Village Voice] Read the “Stomach-Churning” Sexual Assault Allegations Against R. Kelly in Full.

[MTV] Chris Brown Police Report Provides Details of Altercation.

[Lipstick Alley] Why Isn’t Tupac Remembered as a Rapist?

[Listverse] Top 10 Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.

[Daily Mail] Sinead O’Connor Talks About Punch Up With Prince.

[Vanity Fair] Mia’s Story.

[Jezebel] Game of Thrones, Sex & HBO: Where Did TV’s Sexual Pioneer Go Wrong?

[Wikipedia] 1993 Child Sexual Abuse Accusations Against Michael Jackson.

[Slate] What We Know So Far About the Hollywood Sex Ring Allegations.

[People] Collision Course.

[TheVine] Can a Feminist Love Professional Wrestling?

[TheVine] Wonder Why They Call U Bitch.

[Social Justice League] How to Be a Fan of Problematic Things.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

Santa Barbara gunman Elliot Rodger isn’t the only one who feels awkward about their lack of sexual experience. Women feel like this, too!

“The notion that all women can get effortlessly laid, if only they open their legs, reduces the reality of female experience, transforming women from complicated individuals to the vessels for male sexual desire…” [Nerve]

Still with Rodger, taking the pressure off sex might have made him realise that losing your virginity doesn’t change your life. [Vice]

Finally, he wasn’t a “virgin madman, he was an entitled madman with four guns… Misogyny actually kills people.”

ICYMI: Feminism in Elle magazine.

You’d better #pitchbitch: a new initiative to encourage women writers to get their stuff out there. [Kill Your Darlings]

Pregnancy on TV. [Los Angeles Magazine]

Finally: alcohol doesn’t cause rape, rape mentality causes rape. [Times Free Press]

ABC’s disability discussion website Ramp Up will cease publication at the end of this month, thanks to the new government’s budget.

Magazines: Feminism in Elle.

angelina-jolie-elle

There’s been much talk around the blogosphere about the recent appointments of Jill Filopovic of Feminisiting fame at US Cosmopolitan, and Rebecca Traister and Amanda Fortini at US Elle. It seems women’s glossies are clamoring for “feminist cred”, as Daily Life puts it, but I would argue that Elle, in particular, as always had a feminist edge to it.

I’ve been an avid reader of Elle ever since I laid eyes on it in my small town newsagent in 2005. Until recently, I had hardcopies of almost every issue since then. (I donated them to the Whitehouse Institute in Melbourne in an effort to declutter my life. I now receive Elle monthly on my iPad.) And the mag has always been a different kind of women’s interest publication. Elle has always published features on issues pertinent to modern women, such as mental illness, the ladymag prerequisite of “having it all”, and their #longreads by women campaign, in addition to the $5,000 It bags and cosmetic surgery advertorials. (It is perhaps for this reason that women’s magazines can never be truly feminist.) I specifically enjoy their women in film, women in TV and women in politics yearly editions, as well as their monthly Intelligence section, featuring books, movies, art and culture.

I like the way Elle doesn’t pander to women; sure, there’s your outrageously overpriced fashion and beauty that your average Josephine could never afford, but diets, sex tips and low culture are seldom seen. Whereas many women’s magazines can unfortunately be seen to appeal to the lowest common denominator, Elle truly is a grown woman’s magazine. And these things are some of the reasons Elle is pretty much the only glossy I read on a regular basis.

Elsewhere: [Daily Life] Women’s Magazines Suddenly Desperate for Feminist Cred.

[The New Inquiry] On Ladymags & Liberty.

On the (Rest of the) Net.

The-To-Do-List-Kiss

I wrote about joyless, obligatory sex in The To Do List. [Bitch Flicks]

I recapped Outback Championship Wrestling’s show last week, featuring international wrestling superstars Rob Terry, Briley Pierce and Mohamad Ali Vaez. Expect to see a lot more of me in that company. [Facebook]

On writing while female. [Thought Catalog]

And, ICYMI, walking while female.

Feminism is not always about “leaning in”:

“We are so obsessed with ‘making it’ these days we’ve lost sight of what it means to be successful on our own terms. As women we have internalized the idea that every morning we wake up, we have to go for the fucking gold. You can’t just jog; you have to run a triathlon. Having a cup of coffee, reading the paper, and heading to work isn’t enough—that’s settling, that’s giving in, that’s letting them win. You have to wake up, have a cup of coffee, conquer France, bake a perfect cake, take a boxing class, and figure out how you are going to get that corner office or become district supervisor, while also looking damn sexy—but not too sexy, because cleavage is degrading—all before lunchtime. Who in her right mind would want to do that? And who would even be able to?” [Glamour]

Further to the link I posted last time, the case of using trigger warnings in school. [Jezebel]

The final girl: women in horror. [Junkee]

Navigating an anti-porn conference as a pro-sex feminist:

“Throughout the SPC conference, there is a phrase that shows up again and again: “selling women.” It is a phrase that doesn’t sit well with me. After all, you could argue that all labor entails buying the worker on some level: the manual laborer selling their body and physical strength, the nanny or social worker selling their capacity to care, or indeed, me as a writer selling you parts of my brain in writing this essay. To argue that sex work is different to these other labors is to argue that sex cuts to our souls in a more meaningful and profound way than anything else that we do. And that is just as conservative an idea as some of the portrayals of sex in pornography.” [New Inquiry]

Feminists and women who won’t give NiceGuys™ sex are to blame for the Santa Monica mass shooting. [Cosmopolitan]

Image via Bitch Flicks.

Walking While Female.

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There’s been a hell of a lot of assaults on women at night in Melbourne making the news lately. Acquaintances I’ve spoken to in passing about the news ask why is such a deluge of assaults happening now? I would argue that they’ve been happening pretty frequently since the beginning of time but they’re only just making the news, more so since the brutal rape and murder of Melbourne woman by way of Ireland, Jill Meagher.

One Facebook status a friend sent me a screenshot of, which I found particularly ignorant, asked why women insist on walking at night in Melbourne. Um, because we’re human beings?! The status came from someone who lives in a small town where everyone has cars and it takes ten minutes to get everywhere. When my friend pointed out the implausibility of the status in the comments, she got the reply that if women must walk at night, to do so in groups.

As a person from said small town who doesn’t have a car and who now lives in the city, I can tell you that suggestions like these are just not viable. Taxis to get from one side of town to the other can cost you hundreds of dollars. Not everyone lives close to public transport and most likely have to walk to and from train stations and bus and tram stops. This is not to mention people who can’t afford taxis and public transport, people who use wheelchairs or other mobility assistance apparatuses (apparati?), the elderly, the homeless, etc.

None of my friends live in my area so it’s not like we can organise a buddy system of pick ups and drop offs. Melbourne is not a town where everyone congregates in one park or on one stretch of shopping mall; many people don’t walk for fun, but for necessity.

Some other helpful hints to protect young women are as follows: don’t walk your dog before or after work (it’s almost the dead of winter in Melbourne and daylight only exists from 8am to 5pm, the hours many people are away from their pets at work); if you must walk in the dark, make sure you have a dog with you; and don’t wear headphones when walking alone. These suggestions are, again, completely out of touch. Most pet-owners have to walk their animals; not everyone has a pet; and while I can acknowledge the argument against loud headphones limiting their use in this tech-obsessed society is pointless. And many women use headphones as armour regardless of whether they’re listening to anything through them. Sometimes I’ll have headphones on on public transport to avoid being spoken to by entitled men who must know what you’re reading or to remain alert in uncertain situations unbeknownst to others. (Someone recriminated me for not being alert whilst wearing headphones because they honked at me on the street but I “didn’t hear them”. Anyone who’s walked whilst also being a woman knows responding to honks on the street is “asking for trouble”, as so many people are wont to accuse us of.)

In the furor surrounding Jill Meagher’s murder and the seemingly random Brunswick and Yarravile attacks, as well as the attack on a schoolgirl in Glenferrie, we’re forgetting that people we know, trust or even live with are the most dangerous to us. Remember in the past few months the influx of intimate partner murders reported in the news?

Because men have perpetrated all of these attacks, maybe we should be telling men who match the description of said assailants to limit their nocturnal movements outside of their homes lest they attack an unassuming woman just going about her daily business. Now wouldn’t that be a controversial idea.

Related: Sexual Assault, Moral Panic & Jill Meagher.