People on Twitter are convinced that Meghan Markle is pregnant thanks to Princess Eugenie’s wedding, and someone needs to stop the world, because I want to get off.
Meghan Markle has been making headlines again this week. This time, though, the tabloids aren’t losing their s**t over something she’s done (remember that fateful day an etiquette expert accused her of sitting on a chair incorrectly? What a time to be alive!). Instead, they are busy speculating over something the Duchess of Sussex hasn’t done: namely, fulfil the duty of women everywhere and produce a bloody baby.
Don’t believe me? Plug Meghan’s name into Google and check out the slew of headlines it pulls up. Here are just a few of my favourites (and by ‘favourites’, I of course mean the ones that caused my soul to wither and die):
Throw in the fact that Meghan arrived at Princess Eugenie’s 12 October wedding wearing a buttoned-up navy blue Givenchy dress and coat, and you have a sure-fire recipe for ‘baby bump’ speculation on Twitter.
Something about Meghan's outfit choice makes me think she's pregnant and hiding a baby bump. It's so conservative.— Global Citizen Boitumelo (@B_Masihleho) October 12, 2018
The implication is all too clear – as is the fact that bookies are genuinely accepting bets on a royal baby announcement: Meghan is, essentially, a walking talking womb. And the only viable contribution she can make to our society is to spread her legs and bring forth a child (preferably a boy) for her husband, Prince Harry.
May the Lord open, I guess.
It is a deeply archaic attitude – particularly when you consider the fact that this is 2018 (otherwise known as ‘the year of women’). Sure, back in the Fifties, women were primarily housewives and getting married and sprogged-up was typically the end goal. However, things have changed dramatically since then: female entrepreneurs alone were responsible for a massive £3.5 billion contribution to the UK economy in 2015, with the proportion of women starting a business nearly doubling from 3.7% in 2009 to 7.1% in 2012.
And it’s not just our careers that are booming: women are increasingly seeking solo travel experiences, too. Single women are buying homes at twice the rate of single men (and they have been for at least a few years now). More women are on track to be elected mayor in the top 100 cities across the USA than ever before. We are speaking up, speaking out, and rallying against injustice. We are, to put it bluntly, getting s**t done.
It makes sense, then, that more of us are choosing not to have children. However, unlike men, many child-free women find ourselves under a harsh spotlight, often being approached by concerned friends and family, who genuinely think it’s OK to ask us deeply personal questions about our reproductive choices. Even perfect strangers get in on the action: just a few months ago, I found myself being informed that my biological clock was tick-tick-ticking by some asshole I’d had the misfortune to find myself seated opposite at a wedding.
Worse still, though, is the fact that every single bloody day sees women bombarded with news stories about how we can maintain our ability to reproduce – via IVF or egg freezing, for example – couched in language suggesting this is the main value of a woman’s existence. That womanhood is somehow synonymous with motherhood.
Of course, there’s no getting away from the fact that Meghan has married into a hereditary monarchy. After all, this is an institution which has seen, in the past, women executed for failing to provide their husbands with ‘an heir and a spare’ However, she’s so much more than sexist headlines would have you think: Markle is a philanthropist, writer and fashion designer. She has penned countless essays about racism, human rights and the perils of fame. She refuses to bend to royal rules, and is making her own up as she goes.
She is, in short, her own person – and she is absolutely worth so much more than the sum of her ovaries.
It’s a drum I have banged relentlessly in the past, but I will continue to do so until someone sits up and takes notice: people need to stop with their outrageous, intrusive, and insensitive questions about what should be a deeply personal subject. There are so many reasons why women may not have children; either they don’t want them, or can’t have them, or haven’t found the right person to have them with. Maybe they are putting their career first. They may be grieving a miscarriage, or having relationship problems, or unable to finance an extra mouth. They could be under a lot of stress. The timing might not be right. They could be on the fence about whether they want to bring another human being into the world. They may have read that the best way to help the environment is not to have children. They may love their lifestyle too much to share it with another, smaller (and more demanding) person. The very idea of a baby could literally force them to come out in a cold sweat.
The list goes on and on, forever and ever. And each reason is as valid as the last, because a woman’s reproductive choices are absolutely her own.
Maybe Meghan is pregnant and doesn’t want to talk about it just yet: there are lots of reasons, after all, that may make someone reluctant to confirm their pregnancy (and even more so when you’re a member of the royal family). Maybe she just likes wearing coats indoors. The one thing there is no ‘maybes’ about, though, is the fact that we need to stop with the incessant quizzing, comments about the biological clock, and thoughtless attempts to “help” women find a means of starting a family of their own. To turn our backs on the zoomed-in photos of celebrity stomachs, and the non-stop baby bump speculation. To listen to ourselves when we start talking about another woman’s choices.
Above all else, we need to stop assuming that a woman’s primary goal in life is to breed.
Blessed be the fruit? More like blessed be the f**king day that we finally acknowledge that a woman’s life is pregnant with possibilities, whether she has children or not.
This article was originally published in September 2018. Since then, Meghan has confirmed that she is pregnant – but the point still stands: it is never OK to speculate about someone’s reproductive status.
With that in mind, here is a tip for you all: unless you can see the baby making its way out of the womb, do not ask a woman if she is pregnant. Ever. It doesn’t matter if she says she feels nauseous in the mornings, or she is wearing a baggy empire-waisted outfit, or she is avoiding alcohol. It especially doesn’t matter if her belly has popped so far that you have to back up 10 steps so that she can turn around.
Why? Because it is absolutely none of your business, unless she decides to make it your business. So please wait for her to confirm her news, in her own time, and in her own way. Thanks.