Royal Central’s Editorial Assistant Jess Ilse argues that the Duchess of Sussex deserves so much better than how she has been treated in the media and online.
Last year the conversation about women changed due to a reckoning that rippled its way through Hollywood. When the dust settled – though news still breaks of a new scandal every so often – it was with women recognising their power and avowing that they’d never be passive players in their lives or careers ever again.
They’d find their own suns, and they’d stand in them, surrounded and held up by other women who want to achieve the same. They’d start movements to reclaim the narrative, and through these movements, #TimesUp and #MeToo, stemmed from the rampant sexual abuse and harassment of women in Hollywood, it trickled into other industries and changed the way we view women in other aspects of their lives.
In the past year, we’ve revolutionised the way we advocate for women and the way women advocate for themselves; how we report on women; how we need to build each other up and pull others up; how we let them have a voice and hear what they have to say. It took a revolution to fully understand and implement this.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear to have extended toward Meghan. She deserves so much better than how she’s been treated in the media and on social media by people who aren’t even brave enough to use their real names or a real photo of themselves (we know you’re not actually an egg, a crown, or a flower).
Meghan has been the subject of vicious racial attacks since the day her relationship with Prince Harry was revealed in 2016. Anonymous trolls hide behind fake names and hiss in the comments that, “She doesn’t belong in the Royal Family,” and we all know they don’t mean because she’s an actress. But it’s not just social media trolls. Remember that offensive Daily Mail headline published in the days after the world found out about Meghan? How the press stalked her and her mother until Harry had to release a strongly-worded statement asking them to back off?
And if we thought it would be smooth sailing once Meghan officially became the Duchess of Sussex, how wrong we were. The media and the social media trolls love to focus on the ways she just can’t get it right. Factor in the toxicity of the Markles (I can’t be bothered to type their names because they don’t deserve to have this ping in their Google Alerts) who will do anything to remain a part of the narrative and not “a footnote in one of the greatest moments in history,” and it’s been especially tough for Meghan.
Let me be clear: The Queen is not walking the hills at Balmoral stewing over Meghan’s inability to “sit properly” (whatever that means) or banning pasta from the Nott Cott pantry (because according to some websites, she has that power). The Queen has taken Meghan under her wing on engagements. She adores Harry and by extension, will want Meghan to be happy and healthy as well. This is her granddaughter-in-law, not a pawn in a game of chess.
Meghan’s happiness – like Kate’s happiness, like Camilla’s happiness, like literally every other woman in the Royal Family’s happiness – is important to The Queen.
Look, I went to journalism school. I understand the power of the media and what constitutes a newsworthy story. In this age of constant content, it’s not a marathon; it’s a sprint because everyone wants the page views Meghan can generate. But we need to let Meghan reclaim her narrative.
I saw a quote floating around Twitter the other week that basically said that if one person tells you it’s sunny and the other tells you it’s raining, it’s not your job to report both sides for the sake of balance and impartiality – go look out a window and report the truth.
Why do we need to publish the words of a half-sister when she hasn’t even spoken to Meghan in years? Why do we need to obtain copies of letters that a half-brother is sending to The Queen? Why do we need to interview a man who admits that he won’t stop verbally abusing his daughter until she caves to his demands? What purpose does this serve to anyone other than to hurt Meghan and give them all an additional five minutes of fame? How many clicks did you gain from that? How many likes did you get on that tweet? Were they worth it?
We need to focus on what Meghan is and not what trolls or detractors or her biological family say she isn’t.
Meghan is passionate. She is strong. She is opinionated. She is intelligent. She is a perfect addition to the Royal Family. She wants to change the world, and though it may be difficult to do so in the traditional sense (being a representative of the Royal Family and having to toe apolitical lines and all), by just being Meghan, she’s already well on her way to leaving an indelible mark in history.
Meghan said this at the Royal Foundation Forum in February: “[Women] have a voice. They need to feel empowered to use it, and people need to be encouraged to listen…There is no better time than to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them.”
We the media, the avid royal watchers on Twitter, those who only have a casual interest in the royals and click on stories just for fun, and everyone else with a brain stem and an opinion, need to step back and listen to Meghan when she speaks and when she acts because I can guarantee that once she’s back from holidays, she’s going to be a force for good.
We just need to let her shine.
Do you agree with Jess Ilse? Are the media and royal watchers preventing the Duchess of Sussex from being herself?