A Princess for Our Time

By: Izzy Wilder

Many of us have heard the story of the princess who lost her slipper, or the princess cast in a sleeping spell, or the princess under the sea, but have we ever had a princess of women, a princess of activism? Meghan Markle may be the closest thing we have to that right now. Markle, a graduate of Northwestern University and the newly-engaged fianceé of Prince Harry, has been appearing all over the recent news for her activism that began when she was just a young girl. Markle is both a celebrity and a feminist; in a recent post by CNN, writers Lisa Respers France and Judith Vonberg talk about how “Markle has used her platform as a TV star to champion gender equality, clean-water campaigns, pet adoption, and the eradication of modern day slavery.”

A video of Markle speaking at the 2015 UN Women’s Conference has been recently circulating on Facebook. During her speech, Markle talks about a life-changing event that occurred when she was just eleven years old, “Where in my hometown of Los Angeles, a pivotal moment reshaped my notion of what is possible.” Markle describes watching a soap commercial during elementary school that had a tagline that said: “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.” Two boys responded to the commercial saying “Yeah, that’s where women belong -- in the kitchen.” Markle describes how shocked and angered she was at the commercial and her classmates’ responses. When she got home from school, she talked to her dad about it, who encouraged her to write letters. Markle decided it would be most effective to write letters to Hillary Clinton, the First Lady during the time, to Markle’s news source Linda Ellerbee, Gloria Allred, a feminist attorney, and the soap manufacturer. Markle not only received encouraging responses from all three women, but also persuaded the soap manufacturing company to change its slogan from “Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans,” to “People all over America...” Even at eleven years old, Markle had a sense of the cultural prejudices that disadvantage women, and the tenacity to fight these prejudices.

In addition to her long-standing activism, Markle is a particularly inspiring figure because she has forever dealt with adversity due to her race as a half-black woman. Markle’s father is Caucasian, and her mother black. Race as a social-construct has been a topic of contention for as long as humans have existed. There have been many mixed posts on social media, such as Twitter, as to her recent engagement to Prince Harry, and how her race plays a role in its reception. Many people are celebrating the fact that Britain may have a black princess, while others consider her race a “‘disgrace’ to the British monarchy.” Still others consider her either too black or not black enough. Markle herself identifies as half-black and half-white; why does there need to be any further clarification? According to Elle Magazine, Markle was asked to check one box that accurately described her race. Markle ended up not checking a box, out of loyalty to both her parents, and when she told her father what happened, his response was “If that happens again, you draw your own box.” Markle has remained firm in her belief that “ You create the identity you want for yourself.” Prince Harry has been fully supportive of this idea, and has himself come forward and asked the media to end the “wave of abuse and harassment.”

Markle is much more than just future royalty. It is her resolve to fight sexism, her unwavering belief in the freedom to self-identify, and her environmental consciousness that make her a  true princess. Markle is a multi-faceted inspiration for women of all ages. She is not yet an official princess, and perhaps she never will be (due to the British line of succession), but she is as close to a feminist princess as we have right now, and we could all take something away from her determination.