Princess Diana said strong women are seen as a threat. Meghan and Oprah prove they are.
Like millions of others, I tuned in last night to watch Oprah Winfrey's interview with (former) Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. Although watching "The Crown" has admittedly piqued my curiosity about the Royal Family, I've never had any particular interest in following the drama in real life. As inconsequential as the un-royaling of Harry and Meghan is to me personally, it's a historically and socially significant development.
The story touches so many hot buttons at once—power, wealth, tradition, sexism, racism, colonialism, family drama, freedom, security, and the media. But as I sat and watched the first hour of just Oprah and Meghan Markle talking, I was struck by the simple significance of what I was seeing.
Here were two Black women, one who had battled sexism and racism in her industry and broke countless barriers to create her own empire, and one who has battled racism and sexism to protect her babies, whose royal lineage can be traced back through 1,200 years of rule over the British Empire. And the conversation these women were having had the power to take down—or at least do real damage to—one of the longest-standing monarchies in the world.
It's not that I have some desire to take down the Queen—both Harry and Meghan were very clear that Queen Elizabeth has been good to them—but the institution of the monarchy and the various branches of that institution are steeped in colonialism, racism, and sexism that has long been glossed over in the name of reverence and respect for royalty. What force could possibly make a dent in such an institution?
Apparently, Meghan Markle. But she's not doing it alone.
As Oprah asked her about the things we're all curious about, I thought with awe about the generations of Black women who had fought and endured in order for these two women to be sitting there, alone in front of the cameras, with the wrapt attention of millions. That history was palpable throughout the interview.
Dear .@Oprah ... two words for you tonight. THANK YOU! - on behalf of every person who has endured silent pain, Bla… https://t.co/TFYaBVGliS— Jotaka Eaddy (@Jotaka Eaddy) 1615178814.0
When Harry joined in, backing up what Meghan said and sharing his own perspective as a lifelong member of the Royal Family, another woman entered the picture. One thing that came through most clearly in the joint interview was that Harry is so his mother's son.
Princess Diana rocked the royal boat by not conforming to what the palace wanted her to be when she was married to Prince Charles. She stood up for herself, and though much of the world loved her for it, the hounding of the paparazzi and the lack of support from the Royal Family was incredibly difficult.
"I think every strong woman in history has had to walk down a similar path," Diana said. "And I think it's the strength that causes the confusion and the fear. Why is she strong? Where does she get it from? Where is she taking it? Where is she going to use it?"
Diana's butler has pointed out how similar Meghan is to Diana in personality, going so far as to say he thinks the two would have clashed if Diana were still alive because they are both strong, independent women. He said that similarity is what drew Harry to Meghan. And now Harry has given Meghan the support and defense that his mother never got from the Royal Family.
Diana set the stage for that. She left money for each of her sons in her will—despite the fact that they were royals and would financially always be taken care of—which Harry says enabled the couple to pay for security for their family after the Royal Family cut off security following their stepping back from senior Royal Family member duties.
"I think she saw it coming." Harry said. "I certainly felt her presence throughout this whole process."
So we have a strong woman who isn't willing to put up with the constant attacks from the British press, who bravely asked for help when she became suicidal, and who walked away from the bullshit when it became clear that a long-standing institution wasn't going to change.
We have a strong woman who built her own platform and offered this couple the opportunity to share their story on the world stage.
We have a strong woman who raised a son to celebrate strong women and who had the wisdom to prepare him for something she sensed but couldn't exactly foresee.
What I saw in that interview was the power of three women calling one of the most powerful institutions in the world to account, and the entire world listening to them. That's exactly the disruption of the status quo that such institutions have always feared. That's the threat that strong women actually pose. And it's a glorious thing to witness.
The whole interview is worth watching. If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing for free on the CBS website here.
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