roy­als

Much has been made of the fresh new per­spec­tive that Meghan Markle brings to the royal fam­ily. But, Camilla Long asks, is it re­ally that easy? Or should we feel sorry for the star of a new hor­ror movie: The Si­lence of the Markle.

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It is less than a month since Meghan “Andie MacDow­ell” Markle joined the royal fam­ily and still I have one burn­ing ques­tion: Will the coverage of any other royal wed­ding ever, ever con­tain the phrase “san­i­tary prod­ucts” again?

You heard it, I heard it and poor, pursed, put-upon Huw “Whitey Lips” Ed­wards heard it on the BBC too. Not only would Meghan be the peo­ple’s princess, screeched 4000 com­men­ta­tors; as a pe­riod poverty cam­paigner she would be the princess of pe­ri­ods as well.

It says ev­ery­thing about the royal fam­ily’s des­per­ate scram­ble to cap­i­talise on the wild, emo­tional splurge and hys­ter­i­cal, mul­ti­cul­tural bum drama of, say, the Kar­dashi­ans that this achingly cool new Pepsi-ad pub­lic re­la­tions an­gle was piped hot onto the new Duchess of Sus­sex’s bio page on the royal fam­ily’s web­site on Monday morn­ing.

Quiv­er­ing de­tails of Princess Harry’s views on “the stig­ma­ti­sa­tion of men­strual health man­age­ment” were broad­cast along­side pic­tures of the duchess, com­plete with a bindi on her fore­head, on a “learn­ing mis­sion” to a char­ity in In­dia that of­fers girls ac­cess to tam­pons and san­i­tary prod­ucts so they can con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion. Meghan vol­un­teered on Skid Row in Los An­ge­les and in Cana­dian soup kitchens, it added. She was “proud to be a woman and a fem­i­nist”. She had a “life­long com­mit­ment” to “so­cial jus­tice” … blah, blah, blah.

Can a duchess re­ally be “a fem­i­nist”, though? I know we’re all in the grip of a lu­natic gushy royal commercial break here – in which the roy­als, never ones to miss a con­quest, have fully mon­e­tised Meghan’s oth­er­ness for their own du­bi­ous ends – but can she re­ally “fight for fem­i­nism”, as one head­line shrieked?

The very fact of her vast and feu­dal white wed­ding last month sug­gests the an­swer is no. Ev­ery­thing that hap­pened in St Ge­orge’s Chapel reeked of fem­i­nine sub­mis­sion, packed as it was with end­less sym­bols of fe­male pu­rity and pa­tri­ar­chal prow­ess – the dress, the veil, the si­lence and the cer­e­mony; the fact that it nearly ran aground be­cause some grumbly old bloke didn’t turn up.

It’s not very fem­i­nist, be­ing handed from se­nior man to ju­nior man in the time-hon­oured tra­di­tion of horses and fairs. It’s not very fem­i­nist to let your fu­ture hus­band’s fam­ily pay for nearly ev­ery­thing in spite of earn­ing mil­lions your­self, and it’s not re­ally fem­i­nist or “em­pow­ered” to give up your hard-won fi­nan­cial in­de­pen­dence in the form of your job.

And, well, I don’t want to be a dou­ble – sorry, triple – sour­puss here, but it turns out the Queen shares my con­cerns. Meghan’s bio didn’t quite re­flect the true val­ues of the monar­chy or even a vague sense of re­al­ity, so by Wed­nes­day a great jew­elled claw had swished out of the sky and pressed Mute on her “learn­ing mis­sions” and “em­pow­er­ment”.

Meghan will be as­signed an aide by the Queen to teach her one learn­ing mis­sion alone: “How to be an ef­fec­tive mem­ber of the royal fam­ily” – which is royal for: “How to shut up and smile.”

“It will be six months of lis­ten­ing,” sniffed a source. The duchess will visit char­i­ties and “pro­ceed with hu­mil­ity”. And so the si­lenc­ing of Meghan Markle be­gins.

“Hu­mil­ity” is the most damn­ing word here, im­ply­ing as it does that Meghan has not only got the wrong end of the scep­tre but is al­ready way above her sta­tion. “Lack­ing hu­mil­ity” is a qui­etly pow­er­ful misog­y­nis­tic slur in the same cat­e­gory as call­ing a woman “mod­ern” and “am­bi­tious”. “She knows her own mind” and “she’s a self-made woman” also re­ver­ber­ated around the wed­ding coverage. Of course they were meant as com­pli­ments but are dog whis­tles for: “Who on Earth does she think she is?”

It is rather sad, sug­gest­ing as it does that the Queen took one look at Meghan’s ap­pear­ance at the 70th birth­day cel­e­bra­tions for Prince Charles and con­cluded that her cloy­ing, Madonna-circa-Guy Ritchie “Who, me?” act would soon be­gin to grate.

If she were an or­di­nary woman, she could, I don’t know, run a hash­tag or write a mem­oir about the ter­ri­ble mi­cro-ag­gres­sions she has suf­fered. As a duchess, how­ever, she can’t fight back. She can only re­spond with a series of ever smaller and tighter ges­tures, her voice shut off and side­lined in a way she could never have imag­ined amid the in­clu­sive gush of the wed­ding. Soon, like Kate, she will be able to express her­self only through the medium of tights and hats. Be­cause the thing with the Wind­sors is this: they al­ways come out on top.

Ev­ery­thing that hap­pened in St Ge­orge’s Chapel reeked of fem­i­nine sub­mis­sion, packed as it was with sym­bols of fe­male pu­rity and pa­tri­ar­chal prow­ess.

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