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“The dark subtext to those Meghan Markle security reports”

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
Published
Meghan Markle in a red coat

There’s more to those Meghan Markle headlines than some members of the media would have you believe…

Over the past few months, it’s become increasingly apparent that certain tabloids have a very big problem with Meghan Markle.

In screaming headlines, we’ve seen the Duchess of Sussex lambasted for daring to wear dark nail polish. For wearing too much black. For being visibly pregnant. For wearing a bra. For sitting on a goddamned chair. For having too much energy (dubious sources claim that Palace staff have dubbed her “Hurricane Meghan”). For having a partner who loves her and wants her to be happy (Prince Harry supposedly uttered the words “what Meghan wants, Meghan gets” during preparations for the royal wedding, sparking a severe case of handwringing across the country). For sending seven texts a day to her employees (is that lots? I probably send double that to my team’s WhatsApp channel). For being “too American”. For waking up early. For having a “formidable work ethic” (how f**king dare she want to work hard and make a difference, eh?). For being, above all else, a “difficult woman”.

No wonder, then, that Meghan is now being blamed for the resignation of her bodyguard.

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The unnamed Metropolitan Office has “quit after being in the job for only about six months”, according to scandalised journalists. They were also quick to note that she’s the “third close aide [of Meghan] to quit in three months”: the couple’s personal assistant Melissa Touabti departed Kensington Palace in December, and private secretary Samantha Cohen also announced she was leaving her role after 17 years with the Royal Family (it’s worth noting that she was only ever intended to fill the position on a temporary basis).

However, while most contented themselves with merely insinuating that Meghan was the driving force behind these departures, the Mail Online (of course) took things one step further, claiming that her “dictatorial behaviour” has driven a wedge between her and Palace staff. That her desire to be seen as “one of the people” had made things unduly difficult for her security team. That she finds the constant presence of her bodyguards to be incredible “constraining”.

This is, of course, in spite of the fact that the bodyguard is understood to be moving on from the Metropolitan police entirely, and that a spokesperson for Scotland Yard has explicitly denied any sort of personality clash with Meghan. But why let any of these boring details get in the way of a juicy story, eh? And why mention that Prince Charles and Camilla have seen their personal assistant resign as well? Or that Kate Middleton, similarly, lost two members of staff shortly after she married Prince William in 2011? Or that, y’know, people leave jobs sometimes and it’s literally NBD?

Exactly.

It’s clear that Meghan, and all she represents, frightens certain individuals. Indeed, in the last few years, research has found that, for women, there’s nothing quite as terrible as being seen as cocky or too confident. And it seems as if our reasoning for this is rooted in some logic, despite being horribly depressing: women who are assertive or forceful (aka intent on pursuing their dreams and achieving their goals) are perceived as 35% less competent than non-assertive women, according to a 2015 VitalSmarts study. And one Stanford University paper, which compared employees with certain masculine traits – like being “aggressive, assertive, and confident” – with feminine traits such as “acting like a lady”, found that a woman can’t step outside of her traditional role without making waves, or experiencing a backlash.

“To be successful, you must be assertive and confident, but if you are aggressive as a woman you are sometimes punished for behaving in ways that are contrary to the feminine stereotype,” the researchers theorised.

The situation is even worse for women of colour. “Black women are not supposed to push back and when they do, they’re deemed to be domineering. Aggressive. Threatening. Loud,” Trina Jones, a law professor at Duke University, told the BBC in regards to black women’s depictions in media (think Serena Williams, Michelle Obama, and Maxine Waters). 

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With this in mind, it makes sense that so many people balk when Meghan refuses to bow down to the rules – and that so many people experienced an irrational hatred of her from the very moment she confidently sat down for her engagement interview with Prince Harry. They would have preferred her to bashfully bat away compliments, to let him do all the talking for her, to insist she’s far more mediocre than the world gives her credit for. To be cowed, simpering, and full of self-loathing. To flush red with embarrassment whenever she was asked her opinion on the matter of her impending marriage. To begin every single sentence with an apology.

“In our culture, there is this unspoken rule that women are supposed to be modest,” Alyson Lanier, a psychotherapist and life coach in Wilmington, North Carolina, tells Women’s Health

“If we accept a compliment fully, the fear is that it’s going to come off as bragging.”

Of course, they say that well-behaved women seldom make history. This must mean that hella difficult women are a force for change. They have ideas of their own. They set their own schedules. They hire the staff they want. They expect better. They have their own opinions. They stand their ground in a cultural climate eager to tear them down. They go after what they want. They even (try not to faint, dears) wear what they want. 

That they pose a danger to the status quo, and must be stopped. 

So what’s the easiest way to do this? Construct a narrative which employs all of the deeply sexist semantics of modern-day language to ensure that the world knows, once and for all, that this woman is Bad News. That she isn’t confident or self-assured. That she is arrogant, cocky, bitchy. That she is not a “woman’s woman”. That she is Duchess Difficult.

To be honest, all of these ridiculous headlines about Meghan’s so-called bad behaviour have done nothing more than prove that the media is afraid of her – and that, in my opinion, gives her power. I, for one, can’t wait to see what she does with it.

Image: Getty

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of Stylist.co.uk, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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