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Laura Perrins: House of Cards – power trumps feminism in the White House


Frank Underwood advocates ‘ruthless pragmatism’ in clawing his way to the Oval Office. The only character who is even more ruthless is his wife, Claire Underwood. She is odious but that has not stopped some feminists from claiming her to be a ‘Feminist Warrior Antihero’ and ‘one of TV’s most feminist offerings.’

If feminists are claiming characters such as Claire Underwood, it is evidence yet again of why the movement should be put out of its confused misery. But even from a feminist perspective Claire should be rejected on two main grounds.

First, Claire is from a very wealthy family and her father’s money helped propel her husband into politics. Essentially it was a business deal between father and husband for Claire to be married off the Frank. He would get the money, but he had to take the daughter also. Surely the feminists should be reaching for their smelling salts on that one.

Second, and crucially all of Mrs Underwood’s power comes from her husband. Her status and position depend entirely on him. Gaining power through your husband’s position is a cardinal sin of the sisterhood but this point seems to have been roundly ignored by the feminists (they seem to be blindsided by the joy of her having had three abortions, oh and then lying about it on national TV. Even her press secretary pleads with her to ‘stick to one’). So, no, Mrs Underwood is not a feminist even on feminist terms.

Even if we accept that Claire can do what she wants with her own pregnancies she also has no qualms with destroying other women’s pregnancies either. In one of the earliest episodes she cuts off a crucial drug to a pregnant ex-employee. She looks her straight in the eye and tells her she is willing to have her child “wither and die inside her” womb if that is what it takes to get expectant mother to withdraw a damaging discrimination law suit. Nice.

In fact Claire just uses women for her own ends entirely. In the first series, she also turns a blind eye to her husband having an affair with a much younger and impressionable woman. Now where I have seen that before?

The other ‘strong female character’ is Jacqueline Sharp the House majority whip. Feminists like her because she made her way through the military – the ultimate patriarchal machine. While in the military she killed – we presume lawfully for now – women and children. This was done by the safety of a missile strike (so no threat to her own person) she ordered during the war.

Underwood asks her how she ordered them knowing many innocent women and children would perish in the attacks. She replied, “I had orders to eliminate the enemy,” she says, rationalizing the civilian casualties. “I watched apartment buildings, entire villages, gone, like they were never there.” It really says a lot if we want more women in the military so they can kill lots of women and children. Women killing women – feminist utopia.

Ms Sharp also has no problem wrecking the lives of a mother and her daughter who has cerebral palsy, as well as her mentor’s career in order to further her own. She is troubled by this and undergoes a painful tattoo as punishment. Because that makes it all better.

The point of House of Cards is that if these characters are the reason we want to see ‘more women in politics’ I would happily remain ‘unrepresented’ forever. On this issue the feminists are inconsistent. On one hand we are told we need more women in politics to make it more consensus driven, less nasty and all round more fluffy and huggy.

On the other hand feminists tell us women are just as ambitious as men. But ambition in politics necessitates “ruthless pragmatism” back stabbing, and general unethical behaviour. Behaviour displayed by characters such as Claire Underwood and Jacqueline Sharp, in fact. Thanks, but no thanks.

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