Image via Mark Jones / Wikimedia commons
Anyone else tired of headlines about the details of Meghan Markle’s birth? I know I am. This week, the news has come that Meghan and Harry won’t tell the public when their baby has arrived – instead, they’ll be announcing it in their own time. Cool. But does anyone else feel like this doesn’t really constitute news?
The harassment of Meghan, Britain’s first black royal, is undeniable – Catherine Bennett described it as “a national sport that shames us”, whilst black women have been calling it out since news of the couple’s relationship first broke. But what better illustrates Meghan’s unfair treatment than the way the press handled the most recent controversy surrounding Kate and Wills?
In recent weeks, the reporter rumour-mill turned towards the adjacent royal couple, with whispers being reported in multiple tabloid outlets. But I can’t help but wonder – where’s this energy for Meghan?
Meghan has been subject to ruthless negative press attention, from her choice to have a home-birth, touch her baby bump or to bare her shoulders – to the implication that her handwriting makes her a narcissist, and that her eating avocados is to blame for murder and drought. Sometimes a girl just wants to eat avo toast in peace.
What’s more, women of colour in the media are asked to be complicit. Myself and so many others on the gal-dem team are constantly asked to go on TV and on the radio to talk about Meghan (I’m talking multiple times per week). Often it’s framed as if we should be grateful for the opportunity. It’s tiring because while we’re trying to signal blast issues that have a widespread effect on women and non-binary women of colour in the UK, from austerity to Grenfell to the rise of the alt-right, Meghan Markle is what mainstream outlets want us for.
We’re not interested in (or authorities to speak on) the circumstances of her birth, what kind of toast she fancies at brunch, or whether she writes in caps or prefers her letters joined up; and we don’t really understand why broadcasters, the tabloid press, and a large chunk of the general public are either.
What we do care about however, is the constant harassment and vilification of a black woman by the press – and the huge difference in the way two parallel royal couples are treated in coverage. The media circus surrounding Meghan goes on and on, and it’s a story black women are tired of watching.
If Meghan doesn’t want her birth to be public, honestly, that’s fair enough. Royals births are treated as a public spectacle – and regardless of how sympathetic we are to that it’s important to acknowledge the theatrics would likely be significantly worse for Meghan.
Imagine Harry and Meghan not wanting this… spectacle pic.twitter.com/mKJnSUQfNy— Justin Myers (@theguyliner) 12 April 2019
Yes, Kate faced press scrutiny, and apologists often draw attention to the harassment of Diana too, but it’s worth pointing out that misogynoir plays a unique role in Meghan’s experience. Cosmo reported today that Meghan and Harry have allegedly been nicknamed by the press as the “NIMBYs”. The term is supposedly an acronym for “Not in Meghan’s Back Yard” – a dig at her clamp down on the sustained campaign of harassment she’s been on the receiving end of. But can you blame her? How she wants to have a baby falls squarely within her right to privacy and right to family life, but she’s already been criticised to no end as a result of it.
On the Jeremy Vine show, GMTV presenter Anthea Turner described Meghan’s claim to privacy as a “snub” to both the media and the general public, whilst commentator Carole Malone speculated that Meghan was “upset at…the way she thinks the press have treated her”, in a way that implicitly questioned her perception. Later in the same conversation, journalist Anne Diamond added that Meghan had no right to privacy, because the pair “belong to us”.
“I now feel a bit affronted.”— Jeremy Vine On 5 (@JeremyVineOn5) 11 April 2019
Anne and the panel are not amused that Prince Harry and Meghan have chosen to not announce when their baby is born, calling it a “snub”.
But do you think it’s any of our business?@TheAnneDiamond | @AntheaTurner1 | @TheCaroleMalone | @jemmaforte pic.twitter.com/8NdhT76CZo
I don’t want to be a royal reporter, but it’s hard to stand by and watch hypocrisy from outlets that often make vague claims to being invested in race. These same platforms also ask for the labour of women of colour journalists to be complicit in a sustained, coordinated public attack on a black woman. Let us, and let Meghan rest.
We know the royals can make it rain legal letters when they want to, and the media take them seriously. Which begs the question: when will the royals, and the media, protect Meghan?