The royal wedding is over. Phew.
For a few days last week, the world stood still — gazing in awe at the grandiose spectacle of fabulous dresses, vigorously waved flags, and, to be absolutely fair, military hats not too dissimilar to what Cheryl Tweedy wore in 2009’s “Fight For This Love” music video.
But love it or loathe it, you cannot deny that royal fever has provoked a seismic shift. Meghan Markle, now the Duchess of Sussex, has got the entire British press talking about something vital: feminism.
Why? Well, the Duchess of Sussex has been officially profiled on the British monarchy’s website — and it’s pretty clear how she wants to use her new platform.
The royal profile recounts her proudest achievements, lifelong charity work, and keen interest in a variety of social justice issues, including menstrual hygiene, girl’s education, female leadership, and refugee support.
It also mentions the years she spent volunteering at soup kitchens in Los Angeles and Toronto, published days after a homelessness refuge bus was impounded by police in Windsor on Thursday.
Do any other royals have menstrual health & period poverty mentioned in their bio (including a menstrual health charity for their wedding gifts too)?https://t.co/Qev8eJD8Fr— Kate Sang 🐝🐘 (@katesang) May 20, 2018
But above all, it reiterates her commitment to gender equality — and the royal blessing that’s been given to her to fight for it. The website details her work as a UN Women's Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership, a Global Ambassador for World Vision, and as Counsellor for One Young World — and quotes a speech in which she said she was “proud to be a woman and a feminist.”
Such roles facilitated visits to Gihembe refugee camp in Rwanda, and the slum communities of Mumbai, India, to learn about menstrual hygiene. The latter led to Markle writing for Time on how period stigma and lack of access to proper sanitation can result in young girls dropping out of school — and, as a wedding gift, the couple even asked for donations to The Myna Mahila Foundation, the charity she worked with in India.
“From a young age, The Duchess had a keen awareness of social issues and actively participated in charitable work,” the profile reads. “Aged 11 she successfully campaigned for a company to alter their television advert that had used sexist language to sell washing-up liquid.
“These early experiences helped to shape her lifelong commitment to causes such as social justice and women's empowerment,” the site continues.
And, critically, it’s made a lasting impression on the front pages of the British press.
Sure, The Sun led with the couple’s first dance — the obviously excellent “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” by Whitney Houston, in case you were wondering. But then the Daily Telegraph ran a headline celebrating “Meghan to fight for feminism”, and even the Daily Mail wrote gladly about “Meghan’s Manifesto.”
Which means for one beautiful Monday morning, every corner shop in the country had the word “feminism” emblazoned across its shelves. And with two-thirds of the UK reportedly watching the wedding on TV — and (at least) a whopping 22.4 million getting up early to tune in across America — there might yet be more headlines to come.
Markle’s fight has already started. The Duchess walked herself down the aisle to meet Prince Harry, refused to “obey” her husband during the vows, and, breaking hundreds of years of royal tradition, addressed guests with a speech at their wedding reception — driving there in an eco-friendly electric car, of course.
Moreover, a decision was reached by the couple and their florist Philippa Craddock to donate all the flowers from outside the royal wedding to hospices and women’s refuges. The flowers inside St George's chapel itself were left for weddings taking place over the next week.
At a time when such important services have suffered public funding cuts in Britain worth millions of pounds since 2010, many saw it as a touching tribute.
Markle’s bouquet was then forwarded to Westminster Abbey to rest on the Grave of the Unknown Warrior — a memorial to all soldiers who died in battle without burial.
Thank you @philippaflowers and Meghan and Harry for the #royalwedding flowers. All our patients got a stunning bouquet and the hospice smells and looks gorgeous. An amazing gesture, you're all very kind ❤ pic.twitter.com/o7YbUOslxC— St Joseph's Hospice (@StJoHospice) May 20, 2018
As for the wedding itself, the sermon somehow stole the show. Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church, insisted that we “must discover the redemptive power of love”, painting a dreamlike future with lessons learnt from the horrors of the past. But we will never reach Curry’s utopia without equality — and, given that equality and feminism are one and the same, even cynics should celebrate that Markle has made it front page news once more.
Until, of course, the honeymoon headlines start circulating. Then feel free to be mildly annoyed all over again.
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