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Dr. Kristi Holsinger – Women, Crime & Criminal Justice

Virtually every semester, students in my Criminal Justice and Criminology classes want to know if I am watching any number of criminal justice system related television series (CSI, Law and Order, Criminal Minds, Lockup, Oz, etc.).  My answer in the past has always been, “No, first we don’t have cable and second, I can’t stand to watch any of these shows.”  I suspect the same may be true for medical professionals related to hospital dramas.

However, newer shows (which I was initially reluctant to watch) are forcing me to rethink my pat answer.  So what is the difference?  How are these these new shows (for example, The Wire and Orange is the New Black) different?

I’ll give you my three initial observations:

  1. A critique of a profoundly dysfunctional “justice” system
  2. The “good” people and the “bad” people are not simplistically defined with one group being glorified and one group being demonized
  3. An obvious opportunity to see and discuss the effects of gender, race and class privilege in its many forms

If you love Orange is the New Black or need a good reason to watch the series, I hope you’ll join my on-line Women, Crime and Criminal Justice class next summer.  It is perhaps the first time a series has told the stories of so many interesting (read non-Hollywood) women—women of color,  of lower socioeconomic status, of varying sexual orientations, including transgendered.  In Feminist Criminology language we would say the show allows us to examine intersecting marginalized identities.

I look forward to having a class were we can look at this representation together , and see both the realities captured by this series and critique ways in which it falls short.