Why the response to this photo of Kate Middleton pulling a pint is so troubling

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Hannah-Rose Yee
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The world has much, much bigger things to worry about than a woman in a dress, serving a beverage.

You know how the saying goes: what happens on a royal tour most definitely does not stay on a royal tour.

Everything that unfolds when members of the royal family go on work trips to different locations around the world does so in the reflected glow of countless flashbulbs and smartphones. Thus it ever was and thus it always shall be.

That’s how we know that, on the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s recent trip to Belfast to visit charitable organisations and meeting inspirational young people, Kate Middleton and Prince William visited a local pub. While there, Kate stepped up to the bar and pulled a near-perfect pint of beer for some lucky punter.

It’s the kind of gimmicky thing that the royal family often do while at official events. Remember when Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles got up close and personal with an eagle in 2015? Or when, while on tour of Australia, Camilla brandished a knife in jest at her husband on a visit to a winery? Or when Prince Harry tried to stick his head into a shark mascot’s outfit in South Africa? Tours are full of fun photo opportunities. That is at least partially the reason for their existence.

But of course, the response to the images of Kate pulling a pint wasn’t simply to laugh and then move swiftly on to more important things. It was to make headline news out of the fact that Kate pulled that pint… In a designer dress no less.

“Kate Middleton glitters in green dress pulling pints with Prince William,” the Mirror wrote. “Kate Middleton pulls pints in £2,600 outfit as Prince William looks on,” added the Express. From The Sun, there was this: “Laughing Kate Middleton pulls a pint in £1,600 Missoni gown as she visits Belfast with Prince William.” (There appears to be some debate over how much this ‘glittering green’ designer dress actually costs. We assume a royal commission will be convened to investigate this matter shortly.)

Kate Middleton pulled a pint in Belfast

Riveting stuff, isn’t it? It’s up there with ‘Meghan Markle closes a car door’ when it comes to gripping breaking news. Alert the Pulitzer Prize judges, because we think we may have found this year’s winners for best foreign correspondence.

In all seriousness, we need to talk about how the media responds to reports of the female members of the royal family – and it is always the female members of the royal family – doing things.

If Meghan Markle closes a car door, social media erupts. If she sits on a chair, everyone is up in arms. If she touches her stomach, the world grinds to a halt and civilisation as we know it crumbles.

Now, Kate Middleton does an activity in an outfit and it becomes global news. While in Belfast, Prince William also pulled a pint, and he also wore a funny helmet and balanced on a big log, but you don’t see anyone making breathless headlines out of that story, do you? 

Man serves beer in suit

But Kate pulling a pint in a designer dress? Stop the presses!

What, out of the words grouped together in that sentence, is so shocking we wonder? It can’t be the wearing of a designer dress, considering this is something Kate does all the time. Is it the pulling of a pint, because as some social media users stressed it reinforces the fact that the royals are “just like us”?     

Or is it actually the combination of the two things? “Person pours a drink whilst wearing clothes,” as one social media user summed it up. 

This is not news. Kate pulling a pint in a dress is not news in a world in which Trump’s former lawyer Michael Cohen has sworn under oath that the President knew about his son and company’s involvement with Russia, something that Trump has always denied and could potentially kickstart impeachment proceedings

Kate pulling a pint in a dress is not news in a world in which the inevitable onslaught of Brexit moves ever closer. It is not news when the March 4 Women is taking place this weekend. It is not news when a record-breaking number of women of colour won awards at the Oscars.

Kate pulling a pint in a dress is also not news when the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in Northern Ireland for the express purpose of shining a spotlight on the work being done in the areas of mental health, safety and support for the next generation. 

The important awareness that Kate is raising around the mental health issues facing young people in Northern Ireland has been completely obscured by this rabid fascination around her wearing a dress and pulling a pint.

We’ll say it once more for the people in the cheap seats: this is not news. The Duchess of Cambridge’s job is to visit companies, institutions and charitable organisations doing great things so that she can better understand the work that they do and support them. Because we do not live in a nudist colony, this job necessitates the wearing of clothes.

That’s it. That’s the whole story. We need to stop treating it like the second coming of Watergate whenever a female member of the royal family wears clothes while on the literal job.

Not just because it’s a reductive and misogynistic way of talking about Kate and the work that she does. But because the world has much, much bigger things to worry about than a woman in a dress, serving a beverage. 

Images: Getty


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Hannah-Rose Yee

Hannah-Rose Yee is a writer based in London. You can find her on the internet talking about movies, television and Chris Pine.

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