I’m not going to lie to you, dear reader; I think the British Royal Family is fascinating. Yes, I watched The Crown about eight times, and, yes, every now and then I indulge in tabloids about William and Kate. Realistically, who wouldn’t? There’s something captivating and outlandish about the British royals, who seem to live on a higher plane of existence than the rest of us (honestly, one of the royal babies could throw up on Kate and she would still look more graceful than I ever have).
While it can be fun to catch up on the lives of the Royal Family, I don’t necessarily feel compelled to read every single article written about them. Frankly, there are topics that I’d much rather be reading about; for example, I’d love to read more articles about women who are excelling in their professional fields. These women include Meghan Markle, whose career has been rapidly growing over the past few years. While she’s most know for her badass role in Suits, she has also been an outspoken feminist throughout her entire career. She’s even travelled to Rwanda as a representative for UN Women, and this year she spoke the importance of feminism on International Women’s Day. And, yes – she is, in a relationship with Prince Harry.
Meghan Markle wants to use her voice to inspire others and break barriers. In a piece written for Elle Magazine, she states: “With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.”
Unfortunately, if you’d like to read another article about Meghan Markle’s impressive career or her badass feminist endeavours, you’ll probably have a hard time finding one. If you have a second, go ahead and type her name into Google right now. I can almost guarantee that before seeing any information about her life or her work, you’ll be flooded with headlines about her relationship with Prince Harry. These range from tabloid pieces speculating about an engagement to fluff pieces analyzing the minute details of their relationship.
Here’s the thing about the intricacies of Markle’s relationship with Prince Harry: nobody cares! At the very least, we shouldn’t care as much as we do. The royal family is compelling, and I completely understand that. The problem is that Meghan Markle, who is advancing her career as both an actress and an activist, is constantly being reduced down to her relationship with Prince Harry. Even articles that do focus on Markle’s career constantly remind us of her ties to the Royal Family, referring to her as “Prince Harry’s Girlfriend” before using her actual name.
Unfortunately, Meghan Markle is far from being the only woman in the media who is reduced down to her romantic relationship. This subtle sexism happens constantly with celebrity couples, no matter how well-established or successful the woman is in her own field. Recently, Vogue Magazine shared an article on twitter which refers to Angelina Jolie as “Angelina Jolie Pitt,” keeping her tethered to her relationship with Brad Pitt despite their recent divorce.
The sexism attached to celebrity couples is even more apparent with Laurene Powell Jobs, Steve Jobs’ widow. Since her husband’s death in 2011, Powell Jobs is constantly moving forward with her own career; she’s established herself as the president of a progressive organization called Emerson Collective, which recently took over The Atlantic Magazine. While this is a massive achievement, the media still has a hard time portraying Powell Jobs as an accomplished individual. This week, publications such as Gizmodo and New York Post both referred to her as “Steve Jobs’ Widow” rather than using her actual name.
By constantly associating women with the men in their lives, the media is undermining the achievements of the women themselves. When Meghan Markle becomes “Prince Harry’s Girlfriend,” the fact that she’s a woman of colour whose excelling in her field is taken away from her. We forget about the things she’s accomplished and the values she holds, focusing instead on Royal Family drama. The same goes for Angelina Jolie, whose incredible career is always forgotten as the media turns their attention towards her former relationship with Brad Pitt. The list of women who are undermined by their relationships is seemingly endless.
“With fame comes opportunity, but it also includes responsibility – to advocate and share, to focus less on glass slippers and more on pushing through glass ceilings. And, if I’m lucky enough, to inspire.” – Meghan Markle
Here’s the thing; there are greater accomplishments than being in a relationship with a successful man. We should think of Angelina Jolie as an actress and an activist, Laurene Powell Jobs as a conscious business-woman, and Meghan Markle as an outspoken feminist. None of these women (or any women, ever) should only be recognized because of the men in their lives.