In the show Orange Is the New Black gender is not very diversified. Shows characterized with “low diversity” are generally assumed to showcase hetersexual white men with few women or queer people. On the other hand, in Orange is the New Black there is not much diversity but the cast is dominated by women—many who are homosexual—and many who are African American and Latina. Because the plot takes place in a women’s prison, it makes sense to have the focus on women instead of men. The dominating groups in this show are the groups that are marginalized in most television.
In this show, almost all of the characters that have agency are women. Piper Chapman, the main character who is thrown in jail and forced to sort out her life both inside and outside of the system, is a woman who relies on herself, her own strengths, and her true character to survive. Her ex-girlfriend, Alex, also has a lot of agency in the show as she is the reason Piper was put in jail and tempts Piper into an affair with her (while Piper has a fiance). Although many of the jail staff (counselors and guards) are men, they do not have much say in the direction the plot twists, despite their relative power within the prison system compared to the inmates. In fact, the head of the prison where Piper stays in the first season is a woman who controls the subordinate men staff mainly with manipulation, threats, and cutting insults. Women make the major choices in the show and take on the traditional male heroic and dominating role within the plot lines.
Aside from being their own heroes in the show, women take on other roles that are traditionally male dominated (both in television and in the real world). Piper’s job, for example, within the prison system is to be a repair-person—a technical job that is typically dominated by men. Other jobs that women have, however, reinforce the stereotypical female image. Alex, for example, has to work in the laundry room, washing, drying, and folding others’ clothes. By both reinforcing and subverting women’s typical position in this prison community, the writers convey the theme that women are able to fill all roles—those that they usually fulfill and those that they usually don’t. Women are just as capable as men and thus, can have just the same opportunities as them in all positions.