9 Feminist Moments From 'House Of Cards' Season 4 That Show Claire's Powerful Rise
House of Cards has always had a cast of complicated, strong women led by Robin Wright's Claire Underwood. The latest season of the Netflix series has stayed committed to portraying empowered women with plenty of feminist moments in House of Cards Season 4. While some of my favorite female characters like Kate Baldwin and Jackie Sharp didn't get as much screentime this season, Claire's journey for the power she deserves made for a season that women everywhere can be proud of.
As an Underwood, Claire's desire for power is truly selfish, and often, it's hard to root for her as a feminist. Yet she empowers other women through her successes, something that House of Cards' female viewers can certainly get behind. The Underwoods may be terrible people, but Claire's personal story, with Frank finally treating her as his equal and her somewhat coming to terms with her mother, is feminism as its finest.
As the long wait for Season 5 begins, here are the nine most feminist moments of Season 4 of House of Cards. (Spoilers for all of Season 4 follow.)
1. Doris Jones Defends Her Position
Although Claire's ascent to power is one of the biggest feminist plots of House of Cards, that doesn't mean she doesn't step on a few women to get where she wants. Claire reminded viewers how awful she could be when she pretty much demanded that Texas Congresswomen Doris Jones support her to take over her position, instead of endorsing her own daughter Celia. Claire isn't afraid to take down anyone, man or woman, but Doris and Celia proved to be worthy opponents. Doris, who marched for civil rights with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., denied Claire's request and ended up getting exactly what she wanted by partnering up with Frank. You're not the only badass woman around, Claire.
2. Leann Harvey Accepts Claire's Job Offer
After being threatened by the President of the United States to not take a job, many people would understandably find work elsewhere. Yet, that's not what Leann — new Season 4 character portrayed by Neve Campbell — did. Claire approached Leann to become her campaign manager for Congress, but Frank called her and told her not to speak with Claire again. Leann was hesitant to get involved, but eventually did not crack under Frank's pressure and became part of Claire's team — this time in her effort to run for Vice President. Even cooler? Claire was the one to convince Leann to change her mind by telling her how together, they could "make history."
3. Claire Takes On Petrov
I wasn't 100 percent confident in Claire when she flew to Germany while Frank was waiting for a liver transplant to strike her oil deal between Russia and China. Yet once she got face-to-face with Petrov, she ended up beating him in the struggle for power. While Petrov might have credited Claire's attractiveness for the reason he agreed to meet with her, it wasn't her looks that got the best of him and made him sign the trade agreement that she'd created.
4. Heather Dunbar Stays On The Moral High Ground
Just the existence of Heather Dunbar on House of Cards makes my feminist heart happy. In Season 4, she increased my respect for her when she did not lie to the Attorney General about meeting with Lucas Goodwin before he attempted to assassinate Frank. Although her campaign manager Cynthia Driscoll tried to convince her to lie to save herself, Heather knew the whole reason she was running for president was because she was fighting the corruption that Frank represented. While telling the truth ended up ruining her chances of becoming president (for now), her staying true to herself and not succumbing to pressure makes her a feminist role model.
5. All The Women Who Run For Office
Claire, Cathy, and Heather were all considered viable options for vice president or president (in the case of Cathy, she was considered for both), and what's amazing about that is that the show didn't have its characters make a big deal about all of these women in potential powerful positions. Frank even mentioned that Cathy would be good on his ticket because she was female. And while being the token woman is still sexist, it recognizes a shift in the public's acceptance (at least in the U.S. of House of Cards) of women in leadership roles.
6. Jackie Forgoes Her Career For Happiness
Feminism is about women being given — or fighting for — the same rights as men. A lot of time, that battle may have to do with the right to do a certain job and be given equal pay, but also has to do with making personal choices. As a Congresswoman, Jackie Sharp had achieved professional success, but wasn't going after what made her happy. That's why I was so proud of her when she finally decided she should be with Remy and tell the truth about Frank's manipulations toward the end of Season 4. Revealing her affair with Remy (since she was a married woman) and turning on the President were acts of political suicide, but Jackie realized her happiness wasn't tethered to her career in Washington, D.C. anymore.
7. Claire Defends A Woman's Right Not To Have Children
Frank and Claire's political opponent Will Conway and his family stayed at the White House when Frank took up Will's offer to help with a terrorist hostage exchange. At this time, Conway's British wife Hannah asked Claire, "Do you regret it, not having children?" She instantly apologized for being too personal, but that wasn't going to fly with Claire who replied, "Do you ever regret having them?" Although Claire was intentionally being harsh, she proved a point that women should not have to answer any questions about the very personal decision of whether or not to have children.
8. Claire Bargains With A Terrorist
Although the election hadn't taken place for Claire to become Vice President yet, as First Lady she met directly with convicted terrorist Yusuf Al Ahmadi to convince him to speak with the American ICO terrorist holding the Miller family hostage. Claire never once lost her cool with Ahmadi, even when he said he was being humiliated for being made to sit across from a woman. Unfortunately, the Underwoods' plan didn't work out and Ahmadi did not cooperate as Claire had expected. It was an important example of how sheer power isn't always enough to win, including for both the male and female Underwoods.
9. Claire Looks At The Camera
Though Season 3 showed the deterioration of the Underwood marriage, Season 4 was all about making Claire and Frank equals again. They reunited after Frank's liver transplant, and it was great to see these two diabolical masterminds working on the same side again. But the best moment came at the end of the season, when Frank acknowledged the camera, as he often has done, but for the first time, alongside his wife. Both he and Claire seemed to look directly at the camera as Frank said, "That's right, we don't submit to terror. We make the terror." This hard-hitting ending for the First Lady not only showed that Claire may be joining her husband in breaking the fourth wall in Season 5, but also that she had finally earned the respect she so deserves on the show.
In all of these moments, Season 4 showed that Claire Underwood plays second fiddle to her husband no more.