Markle in her own words

In 2014, Meghan Markle at­tended the One Young World sum­mit in Dublin, where she penned a mis­sion state­ment on gen­der equal­ity for the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent. On the eve of her wed­ding to Prince Harry, we re­visit Meghan’s salvo, viewed through the prism of #MeT

Irish Independent - - News -

In 2014, a lit­tle-known US ac­tress named Meghan Markle was go­ing places. Her char­ity work had brought her to the at­ten­tion of the UN and she had been asked to present at the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s HeForShe event on gen­der equal­ity. Seated in an in­ner cir­cle com­prised of global heavy­weights rang­ing from the UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral, Ban KiMoon, to the head of Unesco, she lis­tened to Bri­tish ac­tress Emma Wat­son give her pow­er­ful speech on gen­der equal­ity.

“It was a mo­ment as in­spir­ing as it was be­wil­der­ing,” Markle sub­se­quently wrote in an ar­ti­cle for Week­end mag­a­zine in the Ir­ish In­de­pen­dent. The ac­tress was in Dublin at­tend­ing the One Young World sum­mit that same year. “There in the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil room, I think some­thing in the ethos changed. I think the world shook a bit, yes, but so did Hol­ly­wood and what it means to be an ‘It Girl’… She is ‘it’ — has it all, looks the part, and walks a red car­pet with the same rou­tine fa­mil­iar­ity as most of us or­der our morn­ing cof­fee.”

Markle’s state­ment was pre­scient. Fast­for­ward four years and what had be­gun as a tremor has forged a seis­mic shift in gen­der pol­i­tics in Hol­ly­wood and around the world. Gross sex­ism in the US film in­dus­try has been ex­posed with the Har­vey We­in­stein scan­dal and #MeToo has be­come a global move­ment for equal­ity — not just in Hol­ly­wood but in ev­ery in­dus­try, work­place and home.

Markle’s world has been shaken too. A blos­som­ing ro­mance with Bri­tain’s Prince Harry has turned her life up­side down. To­mor­row, she will marry said Prince, con­sol­i­dat­ing a union that has caused her to change her na­tion­al­ity and re­li­gion, end her act­ing ca­reer and with­draw from the char­i­ties that had brought her to­gether with the UN four years pre­vi­ously.

What Markle will do next is any­one’s guess. Will she be­come blanded out as a wav­ing royal or find new ways to be an am­bas­sador for ef­fec­tive change? Here, we re­mem­ber Markle as she was in 2014:

“Gen­der equal­ity issues are noth­ing new to me. I wrote a story on my web­site, The TIG (thetig.com) about the first mo­ment I be­came a fem­i­nist; a piv­otal event in ele­men­tary school when a few class­mates purged some of their in­ad­ver­tent misog­yny on me: “Women be­long in the kitchen,” they said. I was 11 years old and their words made me tur­tle.

“I felt small. I felt con­fused, see­ing as I come from a lin­eage of house­keep­ers and do­mes­tics

— I thought of my grand­mother see­ing a floor-to-ceil­ing win­dow and stand­ing gob­s­macked at how long it would take to clean it. My grandma didn’t see the world through rose-tinted glasses. She saw the world through smudged glass. That is what she knew, and much of what I knew of her and — quite frankly — it was enough.

“As was work­ing in a kitchen or be­ing a stay-ath­ome mom, bal­anc­ing the weight of the world with grace and re­silience, a child tug­ging on your pant leg and a spoon in hand for stir­ring the not so prover­bial pot. Suf­fice to say, I saw noth­ing wrong with women be­ing in the kitchen, nor car­ing for the home. Be­cause the fact is, there is ab­so­lutely noth­ing wrong with that. “Echo­ing back to this day in class, it was the as­sump­tion — the sin­gle minded quip that rolled so eas­ily off my class­mates’ tongues — that trou­bled me. It still does. Ear­lier this year, when a pro­fes­sional base­ball player, Daniel Mur­phy, took two games off to be on a brief pa­ter­nity leave, he re­ceived a back­lash. Gen­der stereo­types were clearly in play — he needed to be on the field, while his wife needed to be at home. Or so said pub­lic opin­ion. How rare is it for men to be asked in a job in­ter­view how they will jug­gle fam­ily and kids with work? Mean­while, I can’t think of a woman in the cor­po­rate world who isn’t bur­dened with that ques­tion at ev­ery turn. ‘Oh, you have kids? How will you man­age?’

“When I was asked to join the panel of One Young World 2014 in Dublin, I was over the moon. My day job is work­ing on a TV se­ries called Suits, play­ing a strong and lay­ered fe­male char­ac­ter, whose self­i­den­ti­fi­ca­tion is not wrapped up solely be­ing in the kitchen, nor sim­ply be­ing the girl­friend. Both of those facets of ‘Rachel’ ex­ist, but as with real life they are just a cou­ple of pieces to the very com­plex puzzle.

“The op­por­tu­nity to head off to One Young World to be part of a dis­course for young women to feel em­pow­ered to know that their worth, their reach and their level of op­por­tu­nity is what they make for them­selves is in­valu­able. And per­haps the more vi­tal piece of this puzzle is the knowl­edge that the young men at One Young World see this too.

“They see a world where their wives are not the women be­hind ev­ery great man, but rather be­side them; a world that echoes the mod­ern his­tory of Ire­land, helmed by women such as Pres­i­dent Mary Robin­son and Pres­i­dent Mary McAleese and now the first fe­male Am­bas­sador to the US for Ire­land, Anne An­der­son. Women can do it all.

“I re­cently met the for­mer pres­i­dent of Fin­land, Lady Pres­i­dent Tarja Halo­nen, back­stage be­fore our event at the UN. A staffer came in and asked if she needed any­thing — wa­ter, a pen... the usual sus­pects of such events.

“Lady Pres­i­dent asked for one thing: lip­stick. To be a fem­i­nist, to be a lady, to be a pres­i­dent, to be a woman does not mean fight­ing against the stereo­type of gen­der roles, but em­brac­ing the idea that one can rule a coun­try and wear lip­stick; be a bread­win­ner at work, and a bread baker with her kids at home.

“I don’t see the world through rose-tinted glasses, nor through smudged glass as my grand­mother did, but I do see the world — fully, beau­ti­fully, and most im­por­tantly, clearly.”

World at her feet: Will Meghan be just an­other wav­ing royal?

Equal­ity: Meghan at­tend­ing the One Young World event in Dublin

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