femfacts
07 Jun 2019

A duchess’s place is in the wrong

Whether you’re a Royalist or Republican, it’s impossible to ignore the toxic blend of misogyny and racism -- or “misogynoir” -- that chases Meghan Markle, particularly from former journalist Piers Morgan.

Guest Mavens
Sian Norris NewsMavens, Europe
A duchess’s place is in the wrong - NewsMavens
Megan Markle, Wikimedia Commons

Ex-editor of The Daily Mirror and Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan has repeatedly used his Daily Mail column to attack the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle, the first woman of color to join the modern British Royal Family.

His articles blend sexism and racism in a classic case of “misogynoir”.

This year alone, he has called Markle “self-indulgent”; a “diva” who is obsessed with self-publicity, criticised her for “abandoning her family” for celebrity, nicknamed her “Megan Antoinette” for her spending, and blamed her for “taming” Prince Harry from posing with a “party-loving swagger” to wearing a “woke halo.”

What’s the claim?

Morgan’s recent criticism of Markle is headlined:

Hypocrite Harry should take off his fake halo before Meghan ‘wokes’ him into right royal ridicule

Morgan starts by celebrating the formerly party-mad Prince who famously played naked billiards and got drunk with fellow wealthy lads, before bemoaning his transformation into a spokesperson for mental health charities, progressive values, and ending climate change.

While his article takes issue with Harry’s views on – among other things – young people’s futures, Morgan lays the blame for Harry’s new “wokeness” on his wife, claiming that:

since meeting his American actress wife Meghan Markle, he seems to have renounced his devilishly playful side and morphed into a squeaky-clean, teetotal, kale munching fitness freak.

Morgan goes on to say:

By letting his wife change him in such a dramatic and unsettlingly PC-crazed way, he’s doing himself no favours at all.

In an earlier article, Morgan portrays Markle as being “aggressively self-promoting” and complains that:

Old-fashioned decorum is now frowned upon, a stiff upper lip even more reviled, and silence most definitely not considered golden.

In this he compares Markle unfavourably to the Queen and the Queen Mother, who he sees as behaving in a more correct manner.

Morgan also attacks Markle over her relationship with her estranged father.

In one article, the headline reads:

Sorry George, but Meghan’s no Princess Diana and it’s not the media that’s vilifying her -- it’s her own family who she abandoned for celebrities like you

Morgan argues that:

“she’s a ruthless social climber”

who:

“dumped [her family] all like a sack of rancid potatoes, lest they poison her perfect new privileged royal well.”

Referring to a letter leaked to the press from Markle to her estranged father, Morgan writes:

“it was all about HER feelings, HER marriage, HER life, HER pain.

But what about her dad’s feelings -- HIS life, HIS pain?”

In articles more generally attacking the Duchess, he returns to his criticism of Markle’s relationship with her father, talking about the “father she’s shunned” and how the empathy she encourages Prince Harry to promote doesn’t seem “to extend to people like his broken-hearted father-in-law Thomas Markle, who’s been left to swing in the wind of media scrutiny, and been ghosted by his daughter”.

What are the facts?

Meghan Markle is not responsible for her husband’s behaviour -- good or bad. It’s not unusual for single men who went out drinking and partying in their twenties to settle down into a more sober and sensible lifestyle once married with children in their thirties. Morgan seems to want to portray Markle as some kind of succubus draining Harry of all his laddish potency -- isn’t it more likely that he just grew up a bit?

Piers Morgan blames Meghan Markle for making Prince Harry “woke” and being “touchy-feely”, writing “this guy was a British Army officer for God’s sake!

This ignores how, as a member of the British Army, Harry would have plenty of good reasons for caring about mental health -- after all, the rates of PTSD for men serving alongside him in Afghanistan are high.

It’s surreal to see a columnist criticising members of the Royal Family for doing what the Royal Family has always done – adopt charitable causes and promote them by addressing members of the public. Morgan doesn’t moan about the Queen being a Patron to dozens of charities, or criticise Prince Charles for his work with the Prince’s Trust charity.

Even if Meghan Markle was responsible for her husband’s calmer behaviour, it can’t be claimed that she introduced him to the “woke” causes Morgan mocks. Both Harry and Prince William have promoted mental health awareness since becoming adults. Prince Charles, Harry’s father, has also spoken out about climate change.

Then there’s the focus on Markle’s “diva behaviour” and extravagant spending.

It’s no secret that the Royal Family like to splash around taxpayer’s cash.

The idea that Markle is more extravagant than Prince Charles, who has a servant for putting toothpaste on his toothbrush, or the Queen Mother who ran up a £7 million overdraft at Coutt’s Bank, is a clear example of misogynoir. The implication is that, while spending money on houses, horses, servants and Burberry trench coats is correct royal spending, Markle’s own habits are over the top and “diva-ish”. The undercurrent is that her spending is vulgar, and lacking in class.

Of course, Republicans are right to point out that the Royal Family are kept in luxury by a tax paying population where 14 million are living in poverty. But Morgan is not a Republican. He calls Meghan Markle’s spending hypocritical in that she spends money while also promoting charity. But that accusation of hypocrisy is not extended to the Royal women and men he deems to behave in a proper manner -- the extravagant Charles and Queen Mum included.

The most upsetting accusations from Morgan, however, relate to Markle’s relationship with her father, with whom he urges her to reconcile. He characterizes Thomas Markle as “heart-broken” and “shunned”, and has interviewed him on Good Morning Britain.

In his most recent article, Morgan writes that Markle “should not be too stubborn to seize” an olive branch from her father, and talks of “the torment the estrangement is putting Thomas through”.

Meghan Markle has no obligation to have a relationship with her father. No woman should be forced into a relationship with any man and demanding she heal the estrangement is to disrespect every woman’s right to set her own boundaries in her relationships.

No-where in the linked to columns does Morgan mention why the estrangement might have occurred, or question the appropriateness of Thomas Markle’s bizarrely public harassment of his daughter. Instead he promotes a version of male entitlement: that no matter how badly a man behaves and no matter how much upset he causes, he maintains the right to access a woman’s space. Whatever one thinks of the Royal Family, no woman should have to agree to a relationship with a man they do not wish to have contact with.

Morgan’s treatment of Markle’s estrangement with her father is bullying, pure and simple, and shows a total disregard for women’s autonomy.

Conclusion

Despite complaining about Markle’s self-publicising and “diva” behaviour, Morgan seems more than happy to devote many column inches intently analysing the Duchess’ behaviour. He singles her out for specific criticism – including that of hypocrisy. However it is Morgan who is the hypocrite, in that the behaviour he condemns in Markle he overlooks in other Royals.

Morgan attacks Markle for “taming” her husband and criticises her for influencing his views on young people, mental health and climate change. While it would be to her credit to encourage the Royal Family to be more open to talking about this, Morgan’s critique ignores that Harry was interested in all three of these issues before meeting his wife.

Finally, Morgan’s attacks on Markle for making the decision to refuse contact with her father are incredibly harmful – suggesting that women have no right to set boundaries in their relationships and arguing instead for male entitlement to women’s spaces, bodies and minds.

Morgan’s repeated treatment of Meghan Markle represents biased reporting, manipulation of facts, clickbait, and intersectional discrimination.

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