Meghan Markle has vowed to “hit the ground running” by embracing the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in her royal platform. But her enthusiasm has been a stark contrast to Kate Middleton‘s silence on women’s issues.
On Wednesday, Markle, her fiance Prince Harry, Middleton, and Prince William made a joint appearance in London to promote the Royal Foundation including the duke and duchess’s Heads Together mental-health cause.
While acknowledging her royal-in-training status, Markle said, “For me, it’s very important to want to hit the ground running even if you do it quietly behind the scenes, which is what I’ve been doing…you’ll often hear people say, ‘Well you’re helping women find their voices’ and I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find their voice. They have a voice. They need to be empowered to use it and people need to be encouraged to listen. And I think now in the climate that we’re seeing so many campaigns, MeToo and TimesUp, there is no better time than to really continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people really helping to support them….”
— Channel 4 News (@Channel4News) February 28, 2018
Thus far, Middleton’s only nod to the women’s movement has been a debatable style statement. On February 18th, at the BAFTAs (the British Academy of Film and Television Awards), the duchess, who is seven months pregnant, defied the unofficial all-black dress code in support of the #TimesUp movement, in favor of head-to-toe green. She wore an emerald-colored Jenny Packham gown with a black sash, suede Prada pumps, and diamond-and-emerald jewelry. While some pointed to the belt as a silent nod to the cause, many viewed the entire look as a snub.
On balance, I think the Duchess of Cambridge was right to wear whatever colour dress she wanted last night. The #TimesUp movement is long overdue, but she shouldn’t have been pressured into wearing black. That said, I would like to see Kate campaign more on strong female issues. pic.twitter.com/Axys4Yr7Au
— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) February 19, 2018
— Sal (@httpsxlmx) February 18, 2018
— Nikki Long (@Nikki_L87) February 18, 2018
The implication of Middleton’s dress was even more glaring given that Prince William, the president of BAFTA, penned a forward about sexual harassment in the evening’s program.
“Levelling the playing field and ensuring a safe, professional working environment for aspiring actors, filmmakers and craft practitioners — regardless of their background and circumstances — is vital to ensure film remains accessible and exciting for all,” the prince wrote. “As president, I am proud of the leadership BAFTA have shown on this; in a year which rocked the industry as many brave people spoke up about bullying, harassment and abuse despite the risk to their professional careers and reputations.”
It’s true that palace aristocracy typically avoids topics associated with sex, royals cannot wear black except while in mourning, and as future queen consort, Middleton must support palace-approved causes and to “remain strictly neutral with respect to political matters.” But according to Kelly Lynch, royal expert, and managing editor DailyBreak, Middleton missed an opportunity to make an impact.
“Kate has always played it safe in her supporting role as consort but as a modern woman in a position of power, her grace period is over,” Lynch tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Curiously, Middleton has freely worn black on other occasions — in 2013, she chose a black, knee-length Temperley dress for the annual SportsAid dinner, in 2014 while pregnant with Princess Charlotte, she wore an LBD to a charity gala, and in 2015, she modeled a black, lace Dolce & Gabbana dress at the Festival of Remembrance.
Emerald is the color of the British suffragette movement so Middleton’s message may have been soft, however according to Lynch, “If Kate is afraid to step on toes by directly addressing bolder topics, it means sacrificing what she believes in.”
Maybe Markle has been given a more lenient run at royalty due to her celebrity status and past activism — when she was only 11 years old, she penned a letter to then-First Lady Hillary Clinton, women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred, and Procter & Gamble criticizing a sexist ad for dishwashing detergent. Tween Markle took issue with the line “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans” and successfully convinced P&G to change the word “women” to “people.”
“Meghan is probably let off the hook because she’s a former actress and people might already expect her to speak out on issues close to her heart,” notes Lynch, “as opposed to Middleton who wasn’t in the spotlight before meeting Prince William.”
And she’s already broken royal protocol when it comes to her May nuptials by making a wedding speech to Harry, shunning the royal tradition of wearing pantyhose, and expressing her affection for Harry with PDA. Or, because Harry isn’t in direct line to the throne, there might be fewer expectations for Markle to adhere to tradition.
If Markle has modernized the royal family before she officially joins it, she’ll kill it as HRH.
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