Meghan Markle‘s female bodyguard has naturally undergone scrutiny that can fairly be described as sexist.
On Monday, Day 8 of Meghan and Prince Harry‘s 16-day royal tour of Pacific Commonwealth nations, the unidentified bodyguard was photographed rushing the pregnant duchess out of a crowded marketplace in Suva, Fiji, curtailing the 20-minute visit because of a “security risk.”
Although the security officer was doing her job, some chose to focus on her appearance. The Daily Mail described her as “armed and in killer heels,” noting that the bodyguard “cut an unusually glamorous figure for a police officer, in black culottes and beige heels, a smart black jacket and striped top concealing the gun and Taser that most protection officers normally carry.”
“Her long, blonde hair was artfully twisted and clipped from her face,” the British outlet droned. “And on Friday she was dressed down in flat pumps while she oversaw operations on Bondi Beach as the couple met surfers.”
Radar Online called her a “mystery blonde” who “dresses appropriately” when navigating tricky territory such as Bondi Beach, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex met with surfers to discuss mental health issues. The U.K. Express described the officer as “glamorous,” while the Dutch website RTL Nieuws condescendingly titled its news report “Girl Power!”
The guard — Kensington Palace won’t release her name for security reasons — was reportedly hired several months ago and oversees the entire police detail for Meghan and Harry, having replaced his former head of security, Sargeant Bill Renshaw. She’s also not the first female royal bodyguard. In 2010, Kate Middleton employed Sergeant Emma Probert, who reportedly trained Meghan’s hire and was similarly objectified in the media.
“One way for people to process women holding traditionally male jobs is to emphasize their feminine attributes,” Margaret L. Signorella, a professor of psychology and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies at Pennsylvania State University, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “It makes the concept of a strong woman more digestible.”
Calling out her blond hair or stilettos isn’t a conscious attempt to degrade the bodyguard but rather an ingrained response of a society that overvalues beauty and undervalues women in powerful positions — think Charlie’s Angels or Lara Croft, according to the experts.
“Even in the absence of sexual cues, such as with Meghan’s bodyguard, women can’t escape these gender stereotypes, so we do mental gymnastics to hypersexualize them,” Christia Brown, a professor of developmental psychology and author of Parenting Beyond Pink and Blue, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We’re obsessed with gender and categorization, so if we’re not casting women aside for being old and irrelevant, we’re fetishizing them to marginalize their power.”
Women in positions like the bodyguard’s are often under pressure to present themselves as strong yet likable and are judged for being too much of the former. Signorella points to a 1970s cologne advertisement with the tagline, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in the pan, and never let you forget you’re a man.”
“The standard for women is still, ‘Be pretty and achieve greatness — but don’t make anyone uncomfortable,'” she says.
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