Meghan Markle is the tabloids’ favourite villain again – but why?

Written by Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

Covid-19 headlines are slowly being replaced with slurs about the Duchess of Sussex.

Let’s face facts: there are a lot of people who deserve to have their deeds and words thrust under a spotlight right now. There’s Boris Johnson, for example, who has yet to apologise for accusing care homes of failing to follow proper coronavirus procedures.

Elsewhere, District Judge Nick Watson has been criticised by abuse charities for the “lenient” sentence he handed out to former Kasabian frontman Tom Meighan – the same “lenient” sentence which allowed the musician to avoid a jail term for assaulting his partner. JK Rowling has sparked a backlash after suggesting that transgender hormone therapy is a variant of conversion therapy for young gay people. And Donald Trump is…

Well, he’s continuing his reign of awfulness. Go figure.

Like I say, there are a lot of people who deserve to have their deeds and words thrust under a spotlight right now. And yet, if you scan tabloid headlines, you’ll note that it’s Meghan Markle who seems to be facing the brunt of the bad press at the moment.

Why? Oh, lots of reasons: think sharing an Instagram update about a rescue dog, driving a “rift” between Prince Harry and his brother, living in “an eight-bedroom, 12-bathroom Tuscan-style villa”, feeling “unprotected” by the Royal Family, and being “woke” (the ultimate crime), to name just a few.

Then there’s the fact that Piers Morgan, who we genuinely thought had turned a corner of late, was just one of many (undeniably privileged) individuals who couldn’t handle Meghan and Harry’s recent video about racial injustice.

“I’ve seen less disconcerting hostage videos,” he wrote scathingly in his column for the Daily Mail. “That was my thought this morning as I watched Prince Harry staring blankly into a camera and lecturing the world – yet again – on our need to face up to our privilege.”

Then, despite the fact his not-so-subtle meaning had already been made abundantly clear, Morgan added: “As he spoke about why we all have to right the wrongs of the past, his wife Meghan stared intently at him, boring her eyes into his skull as if she was virtually transporting her own pre-programmed thought processes into his brain.”

Right. Because why listen to an important message about privilege and the #BlackLivesMatter movement when you can instead fabricate a story about a woman ‘controlling’ her husband with her mind, eh? We’ll be sure to add “hypnosis” to Meghan’s perceived list of crimes.

Setting Morgan’s rant aside, it’s worth noting that almost all of these negative articles about Meghan are, of course, cobbled together using quotes from dubious inside sources. Hardly any are grounded in fact. 

And all continue to build upon the negative image that certain media outlets have upheld of Meghan since they first learned she was dating Harry.

Is it any wonder, then, that Martin Luther King Jr III has said he is “greatly disappointed” but “not surprised” by the British tabloids’ continued ill-treatment of the American Duchess?

“I’m not surprised,” he told iNews. “It’s not like ‘oh, wow, that that’s a surprise’ because these institutions have been here forever. And the institutions have been structured in a certain way. So when you operate as Harry just happening to fall in love with someone who is not in the traditional set of circumstances, then there’s going to be pushback.

“I think that’s the process that we have to still continue to work through to rid our society of racism.”

In the UK, racism is often seen as an issue that blights other countries: that much was made evident by peoples’ reactions to the Black Lives Matter movement. And yet there’s no denying that the tabloids’ bullying of Meghan is rooted in racism. Just take a look back at the headlines commenting on Meghan’s “exotic DNA,” and how she was “(almost) straight outta Compton.” At the BBC presenter who was fired for tweeting a picture of a chimpanzee and likening it to the couple’s son, Archie. At the many, many articles which deliberately set out to highlight the dissimilarities between Kate Middleton and Meghan’s backgrounds. There have been so many of these articles, in fact, that Stylist’s Moya Crockett felt compelled to highlight the “obvious undercurrent of racism and classism” running through them.

“By drawing these distinctions between the two women’s backgrounds, these articles are sending a clear message: Kate is more or less the kind of woman you’d expect a prince to marry, and Meghan… isn’t,” she said.

Dr Shola Mos-Shogbamimu, too, has explained the role that white privilege has played in the racist coverage of Meghan and Harry’s relationship.

“If you look at a lot of the criticism she faced, a lot of the examples, it sums up to one thing: ‘How dare she? She doesn’t know her place. She’s uppity,’” she said powerfully.

“When a black woman goes with the flow and does what’s expected of her, it’s all OK. But the moment she exercises independent thought, independent authenticity, she’s a problem.”

So, sure, Meghan might not be perfect, and she might not be your favourite person. You might disagree with her decision to gracefully exit the Royal Family. You might even think Meghan and her husband should be stripped of their royal titles. All of that is fine, I suppose: you are entitled to your own opinion. But there’s a difference between having an opinion and abusing someone based on that opinion.

With that in mind, then: if you see abuse being directed at Meghan, you should report it to social media platforms. If you see baseless tabloid slander, don’t click it. And, if you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

Please. Let’s work together to end this toxic cycle now.

Images: Getty

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