Why Meghan Markle Is a Champion for All Women
March is women’s history month, and the women of decades past deserve our celebration. Without them, we wouldn’t have the right to vote, own property or have a say in our own reproductive rights. The thing is, if that’s our bar for women’s liberation, it’s really low. The life of Meghan Markle is a perfect example.
This woman, who’s as close to a real-life, modern-day princess as a person can get, has been harassed, scrutinized and picked apart by the media and the royal family alike. In celebration of International Women’s Day, Meghan Markle’s bold moves are proof of how far we’ve come. Our treatment of her is proof of how far we have to go.
Meghan Markle is a new kind of royal, and not everyone’s a fan.
Let’s roll the tapes, shall we? Meghan Markle was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, and identifies as mixed-race. At age 11, Meghan confronted Procter & Gamble about a national dish soap campaign that she believed was sexist. A few months later, the company changed its ads.
She excelled in school, graduating from Northwestern in 2003 with a double major in theater and international studies. She went on to become an actress but met initial resistance because of her "ethnically ambiguous" looks. While she waited for her acting career to take off, she supported herself by teaching bookbinding and working as a freelance calligrapher. In 2011, she landed a lead role in USA’s "Suits," which she continued for several seasons through 2017.
She met Prince Harry in 2016, and the couple hit it off instantly. Less than two years later, they were married, and the following year, they welcomed their first child. At first glance, that sounds like every American girl’s dream. After growing up with Disney, "Princess Diaries" and the "Prince and Me," we all secretly loved the idea of being a princess. Meghan Markle lived out our dreams, but as it turns out, they weren’t as idyllic as we imagined.
In the five years since Meghan Markle met her prince, she has:
- Struggled to gain acceptance from the royal family.
- Been the target of harsh criticism and constant rumors from the British press and numerous tabloids. It got so bad that Prince Harry filed a defamation suit against one of them, which he recently won.
- Had every detail of her past and personal life examined under a magnifying glass and exploited.
- Faced significant backlash over her supposed choice to break with royal tradition.
Essentially, she dared to be American, middle-class, mixed-race, feminist and human. And she was punished for it.
Meghan Markle’s split from royal life was a symptom of a society stuck in the past. During Meghan’s time as an active member of the royal family, she faced a markedly different response from the media than her sister-in-law Kate Middleton. Meghan Markle’s previous divorce was picked apart, despite the fact that it happened years earlier. Something as innocuous as rubbing her pregnant belly, a pretty universal expecting-mom habit, was called "vain," while Kate was praised for doing the exact same thing.
Tabloids constantly portrayed Meghan as a rebellious villain set on breaking from tradition. In an 84-minute interview with Oprah, which was a scandal in and of itself, Meghan insists that couldn’t be further from the truth. She did her best to support the royal family, but they failed to return the favor.
When they had the opportunity to go on public record and deny slanderous rumors about her, they declined. In the interview, Meghan Markle stated, "They were willing to lie to protect other members of the family, but they weren’t willing to tell the truth to protect me and my husband."
When she appeared on the cover of almost every British tabloid, the royal institution asked her to lay low, despite the fact that she had left the house only twice in the previous months. It was all about appearances. Speaking of appearances, there was also a discussion about how her son would look when he was born. Specifically, whether his skin would be dark. Between blatant racist and sexist remarks to controlling isolation and a lack of support from "the firm," Meghan Markle’s mental health suffered. Whose wouldn’t?
In the 21st century, we’re still prioritizing appearances over mental health and human welfare. It needs to stop.
Meghan Markle endured all of this while pregnant, breastfeeding and adapting to motherhood. She went on to experience a miscarriage as well. Miscarriages are quite common, and they often happen without any apparent cause. Still, pregnancy is a physically taxing feat, and it’s possible for stress to impact a woman’s ability to sustain a healthy pregnancy. It’s insane that in 2021 we have cause to wonder whether the world stressed a so-called princess into a miscarriage.
How we treat people has a profound effect on their well-being. A modern-day "princess" felt so alone, so mistreated, that she didn’t want to be alive anymore. This is in her own words. She was so miserable that she didn’t feel like herself, experiencing terrifying, concrete thoughts about ending her own life. She felt trapped in a very similar way many of us felt during 2020’s lockdown, isolated and out of options. She sought help and was told no repeatedly because of how it might look, even when her life was at risk.
She attended an event in a beautiful, sparkling blue gown, because she did not trust herself to stay home alone. Harry clung to his wife’s hands in love and fear, while she cried every time the cameras turned away. The pictures show only her smiles.
Meghan Markle is the kind of princess we should all support.
To say that the situation was unacceptable was an understatement. It could easily be said that it was abusive. The dark, controlling nature of royal life was thick with racist overtones. The accusation that the couple abruptly left the royal family was, according to their interview with Oprah, entirely false. And we believe them. They left because, after two years of asking for help, they received none. Harry feared that he would lose his wife due to the toxic treatment by Britain’s oldest institution — much as he lost his mother Diana. The institution was more afraid of losing the favor of the tabloids than of losing the first person of color in their family to depression.
When the couple relocated to Canada, protections for them and their son Archie were cut off. Their location was already public knowledge, so they relied on Tyler Perry’s generous support to stay safe. When death threats are a common occurrence, safety is a pretty big consideration. They later moved to California, where they’ve spent the last year restarting their lives almost from scratch.
Meghan Markle entered the royal family with the intention of being a devoted part of it. There was no sinister plan to steal a prince from his royal lifestyle. Meghan and Harry left out of necessity. In many ways, it was an escape. Leaving simply wasn’t done, but they bravely did it anyway.
Love her or hate her, Meghan Markle deserves your respect.
She had no obligation to live the life Queen Elizabeth, the media, or anyone else expected of her.
In Markle's interview, she stated that during the wedding, her wedding, it didn’t feel like her day. It was a day for the world. The expectation was that she married a centuries-long institution, but she chose to, very simply, marry the man she loved instead. She’s now raising a beautiful family with him, passing on values they truly believe in. That’s a happily ever after we should support.
Whether or not Meghan Markle is a perfectly poised picture of royalty is irrelevant. She’s human, and it’s time we treat her like it. She elected to do what was right for her and her family despite scrutiny from the media and the royal family. Despite opposition from the literal queen.
It should not need to be said in 2021 that all women deserve respect, but apparently, it does. All women deserve respect, especially women like Meghan Markle. Meghan Markle represents us all. She represents the woman who wants privacy in the days after giving birth to her first child. The woman who gets upset with her sister-in-law, then has to defend herself against a twisted version of the story making national news. She represents the women whose health and happiness came second because of damaging stigmas. She represents the woman of color who doesn’t ever get a fair shot, no matter how hard they try to do everything "right."
Like her or not, every woman can see a part of herself in Meghan Markle. That’s why it’s so important to support each other. While the royal family didn’t speak out in support of Meghan Markle, 72 female members of British parliament did. We can only hope that the next time a beautiful, strong, intelligent woman of color joins Britain’s royal family, they think twice about how they treat her. Then, they treat her right.
Related: Megan Markle Before Prince Harry and the Royal Years