Refinery 29 sat down with cast members Yael Stone (Lorna Morello), Dascha Polanco (Dayanara Diaz), Selenis Leyva (Gloria Mendoza), Uzo Aduba (Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren), and Lea DeLaria (Carrie “Big Boo” Black) to talk about what it means to be a feminist, girl power, and the fourth installment of Orange Is the New Black.
The following dialogue has been reproduced from the article:
What were this season’s challenges?
DeLaria: “I had a big challenge to face this year. But I can’t tell you because it’d be a big spoiler!”
[. . .]
Polanco: “My character will have her moments. She’ll distance herself from some people. It’ll be interesting to watch.”
In the series, we mostly see inmates gathering in groups, backing each other up. How important is it to you, personally, that women support each other?
DeLaria: I’m a feminist, darling. It’s very important to me.
Polanco: We were just talking about this last night. I’ve caught myself focusing on other women’s flaws at times, instead of complimenting them. But the same thing goes for myself. Whenever you look at yourself in the mirror, you should try to see the positive things, the things you’re proud of about yourself. It’s very important that we, as women, support each other these days. We need to build up an alliance. Of course, nothing will ever be perfect – but there needs to be somewhat of a balance.
[. . .]
Aduba: Women are not the enemy! You can tell other women how beautiful they are and that you admire their work. You can support and empower each other – with words and actions, with energy, friendship and loyalty. I truly believe that. And I wonder why it is that I should feel threatened by you simply because we share the same sex. It’s just not true. I want to give a shout-out to my girlfriends at this point. I am blessed to have all these amazing women around me. If we decide to form an army of women, who are all headed in the same direction, we can be so much stronger than any one of us individually. It’s the only way this show works, too.
[. . .]
DeLaria: I also believe that women should support each other a lot more. We live in a world where society teaches us not to be appreciative of one another. They force us into thinking one is better than the other. That’s a problem. But as long as we stick together and fight these ridiculous power plays, we can achieve amazing things. I have faith in humanity. And yes, when it comes to women, we have to be there for each other because, after all, no one else will.
Lea, you have been actively fighting for the rights of the LGBT community for years now…
DeLaria: I have achieved more than I ever imagined I would. As an activist I’ve been working and fighting for this for the past 35 years. I always thought I was doing this for the next generation. We still have to move past those power plays within the community though. And we need to stop assuming we’re all the same because we’re not. Listen to each other, talk to each other and learn from each other. And then take action against those who oppress us, together.
Have you ever felt you’re being oppressed?
DeLaria: As an activist, I’ve been arrested a couple of times. When I first came out, it was still illegal to be homosexual. Which is why I also got arrested once for kissing a girl by a lake in Missouri. It was against the law. A police officer took us in and put us in jail. We were released on bail, put on trial and ultimately had to pay a fine. All that for nothing but a kiss.
What about the other ladies? Would you call yourselves feminists too?
Aduba: Yes, absolutely.
Leyva: Yes. Period.
Polanco: Yes! The way I see it, when a man opens the door for me, that doesn’t affect my basic human rights. I enjoy it. ‘Cause there are men who’ll say: Okay, you wanted equal rights – I don’t need to do this for you anymore.’ But there should be a balance for everything. When we talk about equal rights, we mean job opportunities and equal pay. It’s also quite unsettling that the entertainment industry dictates this specific ideal of beauty, and I’m supposed to change in order to look beautiful, and be accepted. And you need a lot of money to be able to afford this extreme ideal, too. But it’s not about that. I try to tell people all the time that, above all, they have to love themselves.
The full interview can be found here.