Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have been living their best life these past few months, first on their royal tour in South Africa and now back home in London. Sadly, all the tabloids can focus on is Meghan’s reproductive status.
Did you see the photos? Of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry at the Festival of Remembrance? They look so happy. So in love. And, if you’d believe the feverish tabloid speculation, Meghan is so pregnant.
Oh yes, we’re serious. All it took to kick the baby rumour mill into motion once more was for Meghan to step out with Prince Harry wearing an Erdem dress with a flared skirt, and for her to – very briefly, at one point in the evening – rest her hand in the tri-state area of her stomach.
“The Duke and Duchess of Sussex caused a stir on Friday as they were spotted at an event at Westminster Abbey,” the Daily Express wrote. “Meghan was spotted often resting her hands on her stomach,” they added, noting with Sherlock-ian glee that this was something Meghan had done during her first pregnancy.
Thankfully, other social media users have been quick to shut these rumours down.
“And what about Meghan even looks pregnant? She looks great and looks happy,” one Twitter user wrote. “Do ppl need to be the shape of twigs to be considered fit? Wtf. She’s slim as it is. The public attempt to drive public figures into eating disorders to simply feel better about themselves.”
But we can’t help but feel a sense of whiplash that we’re back here, again, so soon. We went through the same tabloid dance in September when Meghan, Prince Harry and baby Archie toured South Africa and the pregnancy rumour mill kicked into overdrive. And we felt the same frustrations now as we did then that the tabloid media continue to view a woman’s value in society through the prism of her womb.
Let’s take a walk down memory lane to September, shall we? You might remember Meghan to stepping out with Prince Harry while introducing the couple’s baby to renowned anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
You might not have heard about this, of course. You may well have been too busy cheering over Meghan’s feminist speech, or sustainable fashion choices. Or, let’s face it, you were probably preoccupied zooming in on Archie’s face and smiling soppily at his gurgles (this is his first public outing since his birth, after all). Rest assured though folks, if you were too distracted by all this, others have been hard at work perpetuating the idea that Meghan is brewing baby number two.
So what’s the evidence? Well, there’s loads apparently. One tabloid publication has assiduously decoded the various possible meanings behind Meghan’s non-verbal cues, in particular her clasped hands.
“Meghan is often seen with her hands either covering, touching or loosely clasped in front of her belly and this is often seen as a clue of a pregnancy,” the publication wrote. It’s surely only a matter of time before the takedowns of Meghan’s wicked belly-covering, bump-cradling behaviour start up again.
Then there’s Meghan’s “advanced age”. Yes, the media is still hung-up on the fact that Meghan has had a baby in her thirties, and if some people had their way, women who reproduce at that stage in life would be tarred, feathered, and branded with a sign reading “Geriatric Mother”, as the medical profession used to do years ago. Apparently, because Meghan is now in her late 30s, aka “past it”, it’s a sure-fire confirmation that the couple are “keen to have their second baby quite quickly, thanks to Meghan’s age”.
Thirdly, we have Meghan’s much-discussed wardrobe. On the royal tour, the Duchess’ clothing choices have been subject to an absurd level of scrutiny, even more so than usual. Media outlets have obsessively analysed Meghan’s decision to recycle some dresses that she wore when she was pregnant with Archie last year, as if that were definitive proof that baby number two is on the way.
Could it possibly be that a woman is simply enjoying her wardrobe? Is a woman with a totally normal post-partum body allowed to recycle her clothes? It seems not. In the judgemental words of one publication, Meghan’s “maternity closet”, including a striped maxi dress and a denim wrap dress “isn’t doing anything to calm the speculation.”
The pregnancy chatter isn’t consigned to Meghan alone. One tabloid publication boldly predicted that Meghan, Princess Eugenie and the Duchess of Cambridge will all welcome babies in 2020, fuelled in large part to Kate Middleton’s new haircut that’s being hailed as a “distraction move” to deflect attention from her reproductive status. Yes, really.
Here at Stylist.co.uk, we’ve often written about the deeply problematic media narratives surrounding the Duchess of Sussex. There is a special level of vitriol reserved for Meghan that can be observed in every single toxic headline criticising her hair, her etiquette, her decision to protect her newborn baby from the press at his own christening. These constant takedowns, as Prince Harry noted in an unprecedented royal statement, boil down to an insidious level of racism and sexism, which Meghan receives on a daily basis simply because she is a biracial woman.
While the tabloid rumours about Meghan’s potential pregnancy may seem like harmless chatter, the frequency with which women are objectified in the media is anything but. Instead of headlines focussing on the Duchess’ global philanthropic work, Meghan’s worth is weighted directly in the contents of her womb.
It’s 2019. We aren’t living in The Handmaid’s Tale (yet). Meghan may or may not be pregnant. But whatever way, it’s really none of our business. Instead of focusing on Meghan’s body, her wardrobe choices, and her relationship with Prince Harry, we’d all do well to remember that women are worth more than their ability to bear children.