For a show that takes place in prison, it would be expected to see a running theme of a “weak class” serving the powerful. In Orange Is the New Black, however, there is an added layer to this power dynamic. Within the prison system of this show, those in power are almost always men and those obeying them are women (inclusively speaking).

In the third episode of the first season, this connection between gender and the amount of power one has is highlighted from the start where a police officer blatantly objectifies the women in the prison, referring to them as a means to his pleasure instead of as actual people. He further proceeds to yell at a transgender women and taunt her with a McDonald’s mealsomething he knows she wants but cannot have. When she refuses to express her hurt by his offensive behavior, he again begins to yell at her for standing too close to him. The subordinate status of the women is evident by the police officer’s blatant disrespect of her and his ability to do so without consequences.

A quote from the show that highlights how men make all of the rules for the women in the prison.

This episode is further littered with offensive jabs at women that, although hurtful, provide an accurate representation of our modern society’s perspective. For example, one girl calls Piper a “real woman” because she doesn’t sweatan allusion to the fact that women are expected to be clean and perfect all the time. At other times, women are told to “man up”, referring to the belief that men are generally stronger and can handle problems better than women. Furthermore, when the women question certain aspects of the legal system, they are often answered with something on the lines of “you have to do this because the white man said so”. Such statements refer to the fact that in the past and still in present day, many aspects of the government, our laws, our workplaces, and our everyday lives are shaped by one small facet of society and are not influenced by all members equally. This running theme that women have less power than men factors into the show by highlighting Piper’s inferior and relatively helpless situation, allowing viewers to understand the challenges she faces and the complications of why she has them as a woman. More importantly, however, this theme comments on the current position of women in society and unapologetically points out that women are in an unfair disadvantage in many different areas of their liveseven in a prison where they are surrounded by people of the same gender.