Law & Order: SVU — The Most Feminist Show on TV

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit isn’t often talked about on Feministing or other feminist blogs that I read from time to time. This surprises me, because I think it’s the most feminist show on television. That might not be such a hard thing considering the anti-woman crap that’s on the tube all hours of the day, but I still think SVU is the most pro-woman show. In fact, it’s the only fictional show on TV that makes me tear up almost every week. Even though it’s a fictional show, the problems it exposes are very real.

Have you ever read something on this site and thought, “That wouldn’t have happened if Olivia Benson and Elliot Stabler were around”? I know I have, and it’s too bad that these two aren’t real. Because they just plain rule. Elliot Stabler, the ultimate man’s man, dedicates his life to helping kids and survivors of sexual assault and putting asshole rapists in prison. Elliot, get out of my TV and into my bed (to maybe eat popcorn and play Crazy 8s). We need more Elliot Stablers everywhere. We need more Olivia Bensons too. She really puts her life on the line for the victims. Did anyone see that episode last season where Olivia goes undercover in the women’s prison to expose rampant sexual assault by the guards? Who else would do that? I totally cried after watching that episode.

The show is in its 10th season, so why am I just talking about it now? Well, this season is a little different. The pro-feminist messages are more overt than in previous seasons, in my opinion. For one, the new ADA, Kim Greylek, wants to make rape a hate crime. Rape — a hate crime! *choir of angels sing* But the last two episodes have been particularly feminist.

Last week, the episode starts out with a young woman trying to get some Plan B from the pharmacy, and the pharmacist tries to keep her from getting it. The pharmacist said, “Did you talk to your doctor first?” and “Have you considered adoption?” Turned out, the woman seeking Plan B was raped by her dickhead of a husband. Then when Eliot and Olivia talk to a nurse at the hospital where the rape survivor is staying, the nurse expresses her frustration over pharmacists pushing their values on other people. So in typical SVU fashion, that initial story turns into a bigger story when the police discover that an escaped murderer, who killed her husband 30 years ago, lives in the same building as the rape survivor and her dickhead husband (who ends up murdering her, the dickhead). The husband was sexually and physically abusing her, so she shot him in his sleep. While the case was litigated, she ran away because she was pregnant and had to sneak to get an abortion, because she wouldn’t be able to get one in prison and didn’t want to give birth to a kid in jail. When this information came out, she was only sentenced to probation instead of murder, because everybody sympathized with her. This was a woman who had everything against her. She was raped by her husband, and that couldn’t have been punished because raping your spouse wasn’t a crime until 1984 (they bring that up a lot on SVU to really slam it into people’s brains). She got pregnant and couldn’t even choose to have an abortion, and she would have had to give birth to a rapist’s baby in prison. And I think the first part of the episode showed that women can still end up being forced to have their rapist’s babies because of judgmental morons like the pharmacist who denied a rape victim Plan B. We’ve come far in 30 years, but not far enough.

This past week’s episode shed a light on the prevalent rape of women in the military. A female Marine was raped and impregnated by an officer in a higher rank. She went AWOL to join a therapy group for sexually assaulted women in the military. Then she was murdered and the fetus was cut out of her to destroy all evidence of the rape. During the whole episode, the police and ADA were jumping through hoops to investigate this case, instead of allowing the Armed Forces to take care of it by dropping the case because the rape took place in Iraq and outside of any jurisdiction (and, of course, blaming the victim). Luckily, the sorry-excuse-for-a-man who raped and killed her was caught.

SVU brings to light a lot of issues that affect women that a lot of people might not know about. Maybe someone who thought denying Plan B to women in the name of conscience was a good idea until they saw what could happen to those women seeking it. Maybe someone didn’t realize how big of a problem rape in the military is, how hard it is to report, and how difficult it is to prosecute in the United States. So that’s basically why I think Law & Order: SVU is the most feminist show on television. 

Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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