Sarah Ferguson has a message for the trolls behind those tabloid headlines, and it’s one we all need to sit up and pay attention to.
While we don’t have time to go over all the awful tabloid headlines she’s been subjected to over the years, there’s been a key recurring theme: that Meghan “doesn’t get along” with her sister-in-law, Kate Middleton. That she has “driven the Duchess of Cambridge to tears” on multiple occasions. That the two women can “barely stand to be in the same room together”.
These “feud” reports are all based on speculation and rumours, of course, but the public has lapped them up all the same. Indeed, there are even those on social media tweeting about microscopic moments – such as a glance, a smile, a wave – between the two duchesses, and insisting that they’re “proof” of the women’s underlying hatred for one another.
This seemingly relentless catfight narrative was addressed in VICE TV’s Meghan Markle: Escaping The Crown, in which a number of experts discussed the many factors leading to Meghan and Harry’s departure from the UK.
As Ash Sarkar, a journalist and lecturer, pointed out: “Everyone loves a cat fight, and it’s even better when one woman is the good princess and the embodiment of all that is righteous and virtuous in the world.
“By definition, the other one is the evil princess.”
It’s a narrative which Sarah Ferguson – who, like Meghan, saw herself constantly compared to and pitted against the late Princess Diana – knows all too well.
“Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt,” she previously wrote in an emotional essay for Hello.
And now, in a new interview with Australian Women’s Weekly, Ferguson has addressed those trolls behind the Meghan and Kate feud rumours directly.
“Social media has become a sewer where people say things they wouldn’t dream of saying face-to-face,” says Ferguson. “Women are [increasingly] pitted against other women. Trolling online is vicious and hurtful. We have to stand against it.”
She continues: “Let’s all try to treat each other a little more gently and be kinder. Let’s all try to think before we post.
“Before starting an argument online, take a deep breath and try to respect someone else’s position. Where we see others behaving unacceptably, let’s call it out.
“It’s an old motto but a good one – if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”
She’s right, of course. And, while we’ve said it before, we’ll say it again now: this toxic narrative – which suggests catfights are the rule, and trustworthy female friends “the exception” – needs to end. Because not only is it childish and unhelpful: it’s sexist, too.
As Sheryl Sandberg put it: “Women aren’t any meaner to women than men are to one another. Women are just expected to be nicer. We stereotype men as aggressive and women as kind. When women violate those stereotypes, we judge them harshly.”
So, before we share another story about a so-called feud, let’s stop and think for a moment. Do we need to peddle that bullshit, really? If we do, what message will it send about and to women? To impressionable young girls, even?
Because, until we take responsibility for the stories we engage with, and the language we use on social media, the tabloid narrative will not change.