Harry and Meghan / Wikimedia Commons
At the end of this month, Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan Markle will renounce their titles in favour of becoming financially independent.
In layman’s terms, the couple are quitting their royal jobs. Britons have responded to the news in the vitriolic manner reserved for very few people aside from Markle. How dare the uppity foreigner disrupt royal tradition? How dare she steal our beloved prince away from his family?
My only question is why Markle waited so long to leave — and that’s quite easily answered.
When you fall in love with a prince and inherit generations of tradition and expectations, you probably feel obligated to do the job well. But, for a strong-willed feminist like Markle, the situation was clearly untenable.
Half the population was rooting for this mixed-race modern family to shake some of the cobwebs from the castle, and the other half wanted to boot Markle back to Hollywood. Markle could never catch a break. I thought she did a phenomenal job being Duchess of Sussex, yet it seemed every month something vapid like her nail polish, eating avocados, or touching her baby bump made global news.
Like, what? Why?
If I was a woman who’d dedicated years to the fight for gender equality and women’s empowerment, such criticism and superficiality would be infuriating. For a woman with shining philanthropic and activist ventures, media outlets sure had endless disparaging things to say. Of course... I don’t want to say that the public’s discomfort with Prince Harry’s marriage to a biracial woman comes from a place of racism... oh wait.
I do want to say that. The double standards between Kate Middleton and Markle are shocking, and the only discernible difference between the two capable women are their ethnicities. Even worse is when Markle can’t escape that criticism by avoiding social media and news platforms — because it’s much closer to home.
Markle has felt unwelcome in her own supposed family for a long time; perhaps she never truly felt welcome in the first place. After Prince Harry and Markle’s decision to split their time between the U.K. and North America was leaked to British media, Markle took some time off in Canada. It was near painful to watch Markle be cold-shouldered by her siblings-in-law at a recent royal appearance last week and has also been reported that, “There is so much bad blood in that family — it’s toxic. If relationships had been better, things would have been different.”
During her stay in Canada, Markle has been using the current hubbub to draw attention to the things that truly matter. (Speaking of: surely Prince Andrew having tangible ties to a convicted paedophile is more worthy royal news?) By now she knows well that the spotlight follows her everywhere, and has focused her attention — and thus the spotlight — on various women’s shelters and centres like The Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre in Vancouver, a leading voice in the fight against violence against indigenous women and girls.
Markle is showing the world that being royal (or marrying well) is not the only thing women should aspire to. I remember when she was compared to a Disney Princess at her wedding — and while Markle is beautiful, she would never be content being someone’s ‘little wife,’ nor trade her voice for a man, nor toil her life away for uncaring ‘family’ members.
What women should strive for is freedom, respect and wellbeing — not status and glamour. There’s a number of better things to be than a princess: a vocal activist, an empathetic friend, a present mother — take your pick.
Markle is doing it all.Support Villainesse