'House of Cards' and Gender Equality

03/04/2015 02:53 pm ET | Updated May 04, 2015
Joel Ryan/Invision/AP

Spoiler Alert. Stop reading if you have not yet seen season three of "House of Cards"

At the end of "House of Cards," Chapter 32, Francis tells Claire, "I should've never made you Ambassador," and Claire forcibly quips back, "I should've never made you President." While the words might seem small, they carry a wide range of meaning and history.

Francis' remarks show his gendered bias; he believes that Claire owes him her position. Yet, he forgets, all too easily, that he owes his position to Claire. These same principles are echoed throughout our daily lives. Francis directly put Claire in her position, but Claire indirectly put Francis in his, as well. We forget that indirect actions often have the same impact as direct actions. This concept is readily seen in regards to our modern-day perceptions of power and gender.

In society, as it is currently conceptualized, men are more likely to make direct actions than their women counterparts. Due to this, we often think that men posit more control. Take, for example, a man making a decision about whether or not to buy a new refrigerator: his wife insists that they need a new one, and because of this, he buys a new refrigerator. The power to make the decision of buying the new refrigerator would likely be attributed to the man. Yet, in reality, the action, and thus the power, is the indirect effect of the woman's decisions.

"House of Cards" subtly reminds us that often, the indirect actions of women possess as much power as the direct actions of men. We're reminded that the ways we perceive people's actions are important. We're reminded that Claire's actions had as enormous of an impact on Francis' life as he had on hers. While Claire doesn't hold our conception of traditional power, she might just hold more power than Francis, himself, does, and "House of Cards" makes us readily aware of this fact, exposing our oft unbalanced perceptions.

Now, you're probably asking why this is important. Part of the work to increase gender equality is directly related to our understanding of those inequalities. In order to make a more equal society, we need to, first, recognize the inequities. We need to more readily recognize the contributions of women -- the indirect actions -- as just as important as the direct actions of men. "House of Cards" brings society one step closer to that recognition.