House of Cards' Claire Underwood Is a Feminist Warrior Antihero


If House of Cards is like chess, then Claire Underwood is the queen—the most powerful piece in the game. And that becomes clear in the show’s second season when all the scheming and plotting and compromises have given her a national platform for the causes that are the most personal to her: abortion and sexual assault.

Here’s your official spoiler alert.

With Frank being sworn in as Vice President, Claire’s profile was raised considerably. The couple were scheduled to sit down for a live interview with CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield, but a terrorism scare kept Frank on lockdown at the Capitol, forcing Claire to fly solo. It was a star-making turn for her.

Claire was grilled about why she and her husband never had children in the 27 years they were married and asked whether she’s ever been pregnant. Claire handled the interview with style, grace, and candor, admitting that she had been pregnant, and that she’d chosen to have an abortion. (Ashleigh, on the other hand, came across as a total abrasive asshole.)

The real story is that Chair had three abortions, two as a “reckless” teenager and one second-trimester abortion while married to Frank. They’d decided to terminate the pregnancy because he was in the middle of a campaign. Unfortunately, she knew that she’d never be able to actually explain the real circumstances—that she and Frank didn’t have the time or emotional means to care for a child.

What she knew is that she wasn’t ashamed of her choices, and wouldn’t be made to feel that way. So she needed to think quickly, in order to maintain the integrity of her convictions, but not rub people the wrong way with her truth. So she came up with a version of the truth that also touched on a deeper injustice in Claire’s life.

Pressed to clarify the circumstances of her abortion, Claire told Ashleigh that was raped by a boyfriend while in college; the man is now a military general whom Frank recently had to honor at a public appearance. Claire even named him during the broadcast. It caused at least one other woman—also a member of the military—to come out of the woodwork and tell her story about how she was raped by the same man, who was her superior.

Claire’s story is mostly true; she was raped by her boyfriend who would go on to become a general. Decades later, Claire would have to watch Frank pin stars on her rapist. Of course, the general didn’t actually impregnate Claire as she says he did (not that he would necessarily know either way) — as soon as Claire admitted that she was raped, that was the story the press would run with. The supposed pregnancy was a moot point; the rape is the real reveal. And with a small, maybe irrelevant falsehood, Claire was able to expose a greater, far more important truth: A decorated military general was a rapist. In the context of House of Cards’ amoral, political spin machine, the end justifies the means.

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Share Tweet Submit Pin