Issy Murray questions why tabloids and other British media outlets seem to be unfairly targeting Meghan Markle, especially in the wake of her new ITV interview.
In the face of such intense media scrutiny, Meghan Markle has shown inspiring courage and poise; however, in a recent interview with ITV, she has revealed the extent of the hurt it has caused her, particularly as a woman who is relatively new to the British public eye, as well as being a newlywed and a recent mother. So, in a country obsessed by the Royal Family, why is it that Meghan has become a victim of such disparaging reports?
When you consider some of the other members of the Royal Family and their corresponding controversies, British reports on Meghan remain unparalleled in magnitude, despite being of much less serious content. If we take tabloid headlines commenting on the recent exposure of close ties between Prince Andrew and Jeffrey Epstein for example, these are noticeably less scathing than those which Meghan is subjected to. The Sun’s headlines about Prince Andrew include ‘End of an Era’, ‘Not So Randy Andy’, and ‘Royal “Stitch-up”’, all arguably inappropriate for the scale and gravity of the situation. Conversely, Meghan is subject to titles such as ‘Windsor War’, ‘HRhysteria’, ‘” She’s a Witch”’, all of which are taken from only this month. The differences are noticeable not only in terms of how harsh they are, but also in their volume and their content as Meghan’s headlines attack her for much more trivial things and much more frequently than any other family member.
Tabloids focus on inventing conflicts between female members of the Royal Family, observing that she’s wearing the same items of clothing as she has before, occasionally interjecting with mentions of her private family life, essentially calling her a bad mother. It’s difficult to argue the media’s dissection of Meghan and her every waking moment is due to her simply being a member of the Royal Family because she is alone in how often and how harshly she is judged.
22% of tweets referring to “Meghan Markle” or the “Duchess of Cambridge” had an angry tone – in comparison to just 3% for Kate Middleton
It’s conceivable that part of the explanation for this treatment is Meghan’s gender, as much of what she is exposed to in terms of criticism can only ever be applied to women. The constant commentary on what she is wearing, the analysis over her parenting abilities, the invention of cat-fights between her and any other woman in the public eye – these are all responsibilities women are burdened with, but men are not. Harry notes the similarities between how Meghan and his late mother, Princess Diana, have been reported on in the ITV interview in which both he and Meghan appear. Harry has had first-hand experience of the consequences of extreme media pressure given how his mother was treated, and him expressing his concern over Meghan should be a wakeup call to how women are unfairly treated by British media, especially tabloids, and will hopefully raise awareness of the repercussions on their mental wellness.
However, Meghan appears to be singled out even more so than other female Royal Family members. It is Meghan’s identity as a mixed-race woman which in the eyes of British tabloids opens her up to further criticism. These micro-aggressions leach from the press into the public, as shown by Sky News’s analysis of Meghan’s trolling online, the results of which show that “22% of tweets referring to “Meghan Markle” or the “Duchess of Cambridge” had an angry tone – in comparison to just 3% for Kate Middleton. A further 10.86% of tweets about Meghan Markle also expressed disgust.”
This is evidence of a definite difference in the amount of hate Meghan receives comparatively to her white sister-in-law. The racial microaggressions often turn into explicit racism when trolls online become involved. An example of this is the BBC’s consistent naming of Meghan and Harry as a ‘modern couple’, which many have rightly questioned as being reference to Meghan’s mixed-race heritage. Magazine Grazia points out that upon their first interview post-engagement, with the BBC’s Mishal Husain a live twitter feed exposed some of the racist comments the public were spouting out about Meghan. Of all the negative comments, those that stood out as being racially charged included calling Meghan a ‘biracial commoner’, the ‘whitest blackgirl’, and people also wrote ‘jungle fever’. She was also subject to hashtags including: #DuchessofDeception #DuchessofDeceit and even #megxit, for no apparent reason other than her racial identity.
As a nation, we need to question why we are giving so much negative attention to Meghan Markle and not applying the same critical lens to those like white males in power, whose evils are far worse than wearing the same dress more than once. More importantly, we should be questioning why our media feels the need to attack those more vulnerable than most, like new mothers, and how these attacks can negatively impact a person’s wellbeing and mental health. Above everything else, Meghan Markle is a human and deserves to be treated as such.