Meghan Markle first caught our attention as Rachel on the legal drama series ‘Suits’ but throughout her career, she has also been a long time advocate of women’s rights. Now, embarking on her new role as Duchess of Sussex and the expectations that come with being a part of the royal family, she can continue to advocate for women, but it will mean a more passive approach to her activism.
Before Prince Harry put a ring on it, Markle has been an outspoken feminist and humanitarian. As a tween, she wrote a letter protesting an advertisement that stated: “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” Due to her tenacious grassroots campaign, the slogan was changed to “People all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” This was the start of Markle’s active zeal as a feminist.
Throughout her career, she continued to be vocal about issues of discrimination. During her time filming ‘Suits’ she protested about the frequency of scenes with her walking in a towel. Something that might seem trivial in her industry but reflective of Markel’s no bullshit attitude when it comes to gender inequality. “Every script seemed to begin with Rachel entering wearing a towel, and I said no, I’m not doing it anymore,” she told the British newspaper Independent.
In her lifestyle blog “The Twig” (now defunct) Markle described herself as “fiercely independent” and gushed about the pride she felt being a working woman. She has also championed women’s rights as a UN Women Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership where she has used her platform as an actress to address issues of gender inequality and racial discrimination.
While we cannot blame her for following her heart, who doesn’t want to be in love and live in a palace, we already see the repercussions of her new role. Markle has stepped away from her acting career and earlier this year discontinued her lifestyle blog — both possible signifiers of the lack of freedom that can be enforced on a Duchess. But as a 36-year-old bi-racial, kickass feminist and the newest addition to the royal family, Markle is still smashing some glass ceilings with those glass slippers.
Markle said in a BBC interview that she’s is eager for the new chapter in her life which will be “getting to know more about the different communities here (London) and smaller organizations that are working on the same causes that I’ve always been passionate about.”
And we are eager to see how she’s able to use her new platform to continue to influence change. However, given the depoliticized stance that comes with being part of the royal family, Markle will be able to advocate causes that she’s passionate about but won’t be able to publicly criticize politics or policies that foster the inequality she stands against. It’s unfortunate that this is the state of the institution she’s marrying into.
It will be interesting to observe how she will adjust under such a staunch, archaic patriarchy. One can hope that although her voice might be somewhat stifled that she will continue to push the boundaries and expectations of her new role as Duchess, continuing to be the trailblazer that she is. It definitely doesn’t hurt to have a woman in a position of influence who is passionate about bringing about change for women.