10 hot stories, including Meghan and Harry on tour, the new super-flattering skirt length to try and is Ariana feeling the pressure?
Five months after marrying, Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have embarked on their first major tour. But that wasn’t all: a royal baby is on the way, too. Harriet Kean reports…
AS MEGHAN MARKLE embarked on her first royal tour of Australia last week, with Prince Harry, news broke that she was pregnant with her first child. Just two days earlier, the couple had reportedly shared their happy news with ‘selected members of the royal family’ at the wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank. According to a source, the announcement ‘wreaked havoc’ with the princess who, it was widely reported, felt ‘upstaged’. ( The Duke and Duchess of York continued to tweet about their daughter’s wedding, prompting speculation that they, too, were less than impressed with Meghan’s timing.)
But despite widespread raised eyebrows (one person wrote on Twitter, ‘Sorry, Meghan did WHAT at the royal wedding?’), for others it was yet another sign that the new duchess is rewriting the royal rule book. For further evidence, see news that Meghan baked banana bread as a gift for Australian farmers and that she will give her own speech this week – rare for a new royal; it was almost a year after becoming a duchess that Kate Middleton gave her first solo speech.
For those who know Meghan, this confidence isn’t a surprise. Gigi Perreau – Meghan’s drama teacher, who made headlines when the duchess spotted her among the 100,000 spectators lining the route at her wedding in May – told Grazia
the # metoo hashtag is one year old. ‘ This is it,’ people proclaimed when the movement started. ‘ The reckoning on sexism that we’ve been waiting for since forever.’ But #Metoo was never going to be a solution, it merely exposed the sheer scale of the problem.
Two stories last week highlighted just this. First, a highly critical independent inquiry revealed the House of Commons to be a workplace in which sexual harassment and bullying have long been ‘tolerated and concealed’. Labour MP Teresa Pearce then drew gasps from Parliament when she detailed how a colleague had been sexually harassed and was treated by management as ‘the problem rather than the victim’.
No wonder, then, that a recent study conducted by the TUC in partnership with The Everyday Sexism Project found that more than half of women, rising to nearly two-thirds aged 18 to 24, feel they have experienced sexual harassment at work. Meanwhile, the latest figures from the Young Women’s Trust ( YWT) found that 32% of young women still don’t know how to report sexual harassment at work – and 24% say they would be reluctant to anyway for fear of losing their job.
Alice*, a 23-year-old accountant at a top 20 international firm, is one such. Almost a year ago, she was sexually harassed by a male colleague. ‘ We were in the pub having drinks with our team,’ she explains, ‘and suddenly he just reached up inside my skirt and grabbed me. We were surrounded by [mostly male] co-workers… they all saw and did nothing’.
Alice quickly decided to leave the pub. But, she says, her colleague wasn’t finished. ‘He followed me all the way home, he wouldn’t go away. Luckily, I was living in a block of flats with a concierge who let me in and told him to get lost.’
The incident happened on a Friday and Alice says she couldn’t face leaving her flat all weekend. ‘I remembered it all so vividly, I think I was in shock. I had some non-work friends over and they
immediately knew it was assault.’
Today, Alice is still in her job. She no longer feels she can socialise with her colleagues and the man who assaulted her has frozen her out of office conversations. She has since found out that he has done the same thing to ‘at least two, possibly three other girls’. She thought about reporting him but, when she spoke to ‘someone more senior’ and asked for their advice, they told her not to. ‘ They said I should keep quiet because speaking out would be detrimental to my career progression,’ she explains, but points out that she’s not sure saying nothing has exactly been great for her career either. ‘Deep down, I know the people who saw it think it was my fault.’
The #Metoo movement has provided Alice with some solace – ‘you can read about other women’s experiences’ – but, at the same time, she says the whole thing saddens her. ‘A guy I know made fun of it when it was on the TV and, to be honest, it made me feel sick. We’re trying to do this thing, everyone’s saying, “Look how great it is,” but some people are still laughing at us. At the end of the day
power is money, and where there’s money people will get away with it – that’s my experience anyway.’
Sadly, Alice’s story is far from unique. Niamh* works in the media. She was subjected to a campaign of sexual harassment from a male colleague that many of her co-workers dismissed as ‘ banter’. The colleague in question would make comments designed to make her feel awkward, ‘such as asking me if I liked anal sex’. At the time, Niamh explains that she was freelance so she didn’t feel she could report what was happening ‘in case I could no longer get work at the company’.
Niamh feels like what happened to her fell into a grey area. ‘I wasn’t physically harassed, but I do feel there was a campaign of denigration against me. I was made to feel so uncomfortable that I just didn’t feel I could stay in the job’.
What’s most shocking about these stories is that they aren’t really shocking at all. When it comes to sexual harassment at work there’s been no great realignment in offices around the country, there’s still an attitude that ‘ boys will be boys’ – and those young women who find themselves on the sharp end of those boys’ behaviour are made to feel expendable.
Women share their stories, they speak of their trauma and tell of how they worry that reporting sexual harassment will affect their career. Meanwhile, some perpetrators think everything is business as usual because they know that, when all is said and done, they’ll be able to dismiss it as ‘ banter’ and get away with it.
L-R: the couple join ‘Fluoro Friday’ at Bondi; dancing on the beach; Meghan embraces Luke, five; tenderly touching her stomach; her former drama teacher, Gigi Perreau
Global defiance: a Women’s March in New York earlier this year (above) and a #Metoo demo in Berlin last year