A Historical Feminist Analysis Of Orange Is The New Black

1829 words - 7 pages

Today, women have many of the same privileges as men. This includes the right to free speech, personal safety and education. Women’s rights have progressed dramatically since the French Revolution, but the cycle of poverty still affects many women today, specifically women of minorities and/or who have been incarcerated. Two popular adaptions of this unfortunate phenomenon and characters affected by it are Fantine, a single-mother trying to provide for her daughter, in the film “Les Miserables”, based on Victor Hugo’s experiences of the French Revolution then turned into a book, and the various female characters playing female inmates in the popular TV series “Orange is the New Black”, which is based on the personal experiential book written by Piper Kerman. Although both stories and all characters are altered for entertainment’s sake, many of the scenes and underlying themes unravel huge underlying themes historically and currently in the lives of many women. The question is: how exactly are women of the French Revolution and female inmates of today similar? Both women of the Third Estate in Revolutionary France and incarcerated women of today, are subjugated to the vicious, discriminatory cycle of poverty. Because of the lack of resources, rights and education provided for these women, but by learning from the past, this could dramatically change by increasing each women’s social agency.
Having resources means having a viable life with options. Unfortunately, for these women, this is not necessarily the case. In “Les Miserables”, Fantine goes into prostitution after having lost her job to be able to provide for her daughter. Known as the “Lovely Ladies” musical number, she first starts off by selling her daughters pendant, then, not receiving enough, by cutting her hair fully off and giving away one of her teeth. (The Docks [Lovely Ladies]) After all, it will “pay the debt”. (The Docks [Lovely Ladies]) She is later found laying on the ground in emotional and physical pain. At first, she turns the pimp and ladies away, only to be told that she is not any better than the rest of them. (The Docks [Lovely Ladies]) The ladies continue to tell her she is at the “bottom of the heap” and can make “money in her sleep” with “young men, rich men, leaders of the land”; all it takes is money in her hand. (The Docks [Lovely Ladies]) She agrees to do so because she really does not have any other option to turn to, and even agrees that it is “easy money lying in a bed.” (The Docks [Lovely Ladies]) A pattern continues in “Orange is the New Black”. Most of the women are in prison for “typical offences for low wages”, but “it is more than anything elsewhere”. (BitchMedia) These women do not have great economic opportunity in their communities other than working in the labour force or the service sector. Another resource these neither of women do not have, and therefore have in common, are health resources. After nearly being arrested for prostitution, the lead...

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