News & Commentary

Faux-Feminist media falls for Meghan Markle as a Cinderella in leather

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Many lunchtimes ago, I was bidden to a basement. The year was 1997 and the catering for our all-girl do was provided by a tea urn. This was International Women’s Day—a date that will always commemorate workers, no matter how bosses try to buy it up with sparkling events. We, a union group who worked in media, had not gathered to toast our success. Instead, we’d make a list of ways our workplaces had failed us.

Shortly before we were due back at work, an older and respected journalist spoke. “I’ll tell you one indignity no woman in our industry should ever bear again,”. She was a person we’d not dared hope would elevate our meeting, much less speak at it. But here she was, about to tell us an ugly truth; one learned hard over decades.

What would she say? There could be little doubt she’d been groped in the green room and diddled on pay for years. Perhaps she’d rage about handsy managers or better salaries for high-profile lady broadcasters, or for all. Not one sister and comrade could breathe as the veteran prepared to name her pain.

“Blasted royal reporting. We women should never do this again.”

“We must never do this again. No weddings, no tours, no engagements. Let the men suffer the tedium of monarchy. I tell you. I have been describing the colour of the Queen’s frigging hat since 1967, and if me or any member of my sex is coerced again into uttering another synonym for ‘hideous lime green’, I will become a violent republican.”

This Markle sparkle smells like robo-journalism. Surely, there is no actual woman at the New Statesman called Rosamund who actually believes that a princess can “cheer up feminists”.

This was not a silly proposition, if you think about it. The organised refusal to perform one minor ladylike labour made sense. As there was no remaining local media job with the description “full-time royal reporter”, no salary would be lost. A great gain, however, could be won. With this small action, we could make a point about the division of labour by gender, race or class. We could make the case against crappy work itself. We would refuse to do this single chore; one so few people admired. Who would care? In 1997, Australians were generally agreed that royalty was worth less than the small change into which its likeness was pressed.

Then, a few months later, Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car collision. The event itself was terrible, of course. While we cannot say that the subsequent return to royal reporting, largely by and for women, was also a tragedy, it was a bit of a shame.

Diana’s death had the curious effect of renewing media interest in the Windsors. Sure, the royals were depicted in press for years as cold bastards whose failure to feel had all but led a princess to her grave etc. But over time, the much-told story of their human imperfection permitted media organisations to describe them as simply “human”. Then, as Princes William and Harry grew into photogenic men, local outlets forgot our Australian impatience with the monarchy altogether. Media found new and sycophantic ways to tell female readers that these young adults bore the flame for the Candle In The Wind.

Maybe CNN’s “Jill”, who asks if the actor will function as the royal “silent feminist”, is an algorithm.

The magic of heirs. A woman raised in aristocratic traditions, later paid in public money, who was really one of us. The fetching green hats of the Queen. We’d have believed none of these lies without media to tell them. And media would have produced few of these lies without the (coerced) labour of women.

I’m quite certain many consumers would still prefer that media not insist the Duke of Cambridge is one of us simply because he posed with a baby capsule supplied by Palace PR. I was certain that many media producers, particularly women, would prefer not to maintain these delusions. This week, as I hear the shite about Prince Harry’s fiancée Meaghan Markle, I’m not so sure.

This Markle sparkle smells like robo-journalism. Surely, there is no actual woman at the New Statesman called Rosamund who actually believes that a princess can “cheer up feminists”. The only “princess” who can cheer up legitimate feminists is surely one who eschews the title, perhaps before taking the trouble to piss on the Duke of Edinburgh and racing from Buck House screaming, “No woman may claim to be free when her comrades must work to pay for this posh rubbish lot.”

Maybe CNN’s “Jill”, who asks if the actor will function as the royal “silent feminist”, is an algorithm. Or a misogynist. Or a misogynistic algorithm. Either way, the function of a “silent feminist” seems pretty limited to me. And what does the alleged “Kristine” at Women’s Agenda hope to gain from us remaking our “image of a princess”? Is this the most utopian a purported pro-woman news service can get in the current era? Change the “image” of a fucking “princess”? Not even the princess? The thing routinely called feminism is so distant from mine it now finds victory where “Doc Martins” (sic) are seen on titled little feet. What the cock is this? I’d say a Cinderella update, just no longer in glass but in leather.

Yes. Yes. There are “many feminisms”, as I am often told. But at what point did we embrace unambitious fembots who crave no more than “edgy” shoes and concessions to freedom from the straitjacket of gender that are meaningless to all but the very rich and famous?

But, wait! The fauxmenism can get more faux. In The Daily Life, a Fairfax property whose oped section often appears aimed at young white women who will identify as feminists for exactly as long princesses do, the name “Kasey” is appended by one hot mess. You try reading it. Something something Meghan Markle is a divorcée ergo a force for positive feminist change something.

We cannot be sure this “feminism” was written by an actual human, much less a person committed to the end of punishing social constraints. I too have offered some confused rot in the time before deadline, but never quite this much. The piece, made by machine, begins with the claim that the fact of being “mixed-race” (sic) carries with it less disadvantage in royal circles than divorce—a fact plainly unknown to Prince Philip. It continues with the failure to compute the Wikipedia entry on Reformation. It then states that Markle’s marriage to this prince—one so dumb, he not only once failed to attend a “Colonial”-themed costume party dressed as himself, which would have been droll, but WORE A NAZI UNIFORM—is “certainly progress”.

Women audiences are approached as though they are children unable to “relate” to a concept like divorce unless it’s bound up in a princess story.

Then, some palaver about how being divorced is really hard, especially for women. “Kasey” says we can make divorce better through changing our attitudes, quoting inspirational women like Caitlin Moran (on an unrelated matter) to help us change these attitudes and—pretty much my fave bit—recognising that “women are bombarded with messages and advice”. Such as: change your attitude, be more like Caitlin Moran and begin to understand that the royal family is now more “socially progressive” than the rest of society.

Asking questions of institutions ought to be a journalist’s work. Asking questions of institution has so briefly been the entitlement of any Western woman. I remember the veteran woman journalist, urging us to resist the toil of the royal beat, of pretending that a lime green hat could be “socially progressive”. Of pretending that the royals were even of interest. They were not. That endangered institution exists only in the service of its own preservation. It was not the work, we thought, of feminists or journalists to help.

Now, the stuff true feminists once resisted is turned out every day. Women audiences are approached as though they are children unable to “relate” to a concept like divorce unless it’s bound up in a princess story. As for the women making the journalistic case for their own subjugation: I truly hope they are not human women, but algorithms that feel no pain. Let’s hope Kasey is as real as Cinderella. As is Rosamund, Jill, Kristine and the inspirational Ms Moran.

This is not feminism. This is the binary nightmare of a cut-and-paste past come to scare us. Role-model princesses do not serve the people. That’s not the job of the powerful. At some point our “feminist” news media became so powerful, it was no longer their job to serve the people, either.

20 responses to “Faux-Feminist media falls for Meghan Markle as a Cinderella in leather

  1. Oh, thanks!

    I vaguely remember when the Swedish royal family decided that in the future, the throne should be inherited by the oldest child regardless of their sex – revolutinary! So progressive! It’s amazing!

    Okay, we’re still taking about a society reserving enormous amounts of power and money to a person for reasons utterly beyond their control. But in the past, the condition one had to meet to access to that money and power was “you received your genetic material including an XY chromosome from the correct set of parents before anyone else did”, while now it’s just that “you received your genetic material from the correct set of parents before anyone else did”. Well, that changes everything! So much better!

    Why would we wonder why 10 million Swedes can never be King or Queen but have to cough up the money to pay for these shenanigans – it’s perfectly enough if we ask why Victoria Ingrid Alice Désirée cannot be Queen. If she can, everything is totally cool!

    What a load of rubbish.

    1. Preach, BaBr.
      This is Clinton-style progressive politics though, isn’t it? The idea of representation, whether in one’s leaders or on one’s telly, is *way* more important than reality.
      Folks genuinely do believe that somehow, equality will trickle down. Remember when everyone lost their poop over Tim Cook, Apple CEO, declaring his sexual orientation? I mean, yes, of course, we want an end to discrimination. It is a true problem. But it is one not solved for the many AT ALL by praising the CEO of one of history’s richest companies. What of the powerless people in the nations whose resources and labour this company exploits? Nice if you’re a gay bloke in Cupertino. Not so good if you’re a kid with non-normative desires in Congo.
      There is a wide acceptance that the way we presently organise things (unequally) is fine. So long as persons of different identity categories have equal rights to share in a system that itself guarantees unequal rights, we’re all good.
      Nonsense. So long as there are slaves, and there are many, none of us is free. I do not celebrate wealth and power. Even if it is held by a Sassy Lady.

      1. Amen!
        If slavery still existed in Western countries themselves (instead of “just” being kept alive elsewhere…) we’d argue how to make slaves and slave owners racially representative of the overall population.
        Don’t get me wrong, I think racism and sexism are totally real. But it’d be nice to hear someone make the point *that slavery is fucked up*.

        1. Racism and sexism are entirely real, and the same system that produces slavery (actual slavery, where bodies are abused and owned for profit) happens to find them awfully convenient.
          I doubt racism, given its capitalist origins, could ever be entirely cut out of the present order. The order needs to change. But even say it could happen. Even say white people one day took a pill and realised, finally, that race is a fiction created by the fact of racism. What then? What other group do we decide is “naturally” inferior so we can agree that the wealth of a few is an excellent idea?
          Don’t care who it is. Whether I like them or can celebrate their culture or whatever. Their enslavement is just not defensible.

  2. Perhaps the re emergence of interest in the royals comes because many women have grown past strident feminism and are now embracing a world in which not everything can be read as an assault on the fair sex.

    1. “Strident”.
      Good work avoiding any cause for your new thought, and upholding the traditions of sexist language.

  3. The job of a journalist is to fabricate a “narrative” to which facts are added where appropriate (ie where they fit said narrative).

    It’s definitely not to questions about how “…institutions ought to…” work. That’s just crazy talk!

    A good read as always, Helen.

  4. Thank you as always for your razor sharp intellect Ms Razor. Thank you for reminding me not to be beguiled by this rubbish engagement coverage. They want to ‘help’ people and create ‘change’. Change, my arse.

  5. If Kasey is a robot it’s a sneakily, mundanely insecure and fallible one. It’s website admits it can’t spell, but skites still that it’s pumped out five books.

    And a robot surely wouldn’t say anything as gormlessly obvious and useless as “inability to communicate means that you cannot convey your meaning”? Or would it?

  6. Excellent, Helen. Such squirm-inducing nonsense. I’m reminded of a 60’s movie, Morgan- A Case for Treatment, in which Morgan’s old leftist father “dreamed of dancing on the rubble of Buckingham Palace”.
    How apt, I thought…

  7. Thank you as always for your razor sharp intellect Ms Razor. Thank you for reminding me not to be beguiled by this rubbish engagement coverage. They want to ‘help’ people and create ‘change’. Well they’re certainly helping their popularity!

  8. Thanks so much for another fine rant ( hope you don’t mind ” rant”- absolutely non-pejorative). Your comments about the journobots remind me of, from many years ago, Roy and H G “advertising” their sports journo programme, where all one had to do was enter the name of the teams and the scores and it did the rest with all the endless ghastly cliches. Who would have thought they could be so prescient.

  9. Someone at Daily Life referred to ‘mixed race’? Not The Daily Mail? Or is their a difference?

    I guess that sentence really distracted me from getting angry (again) with the idea that a bunch of human beings have elevated themselves to ‘rule’ and scrape off a huge bunch of taxes for personal hse through claiming a God given right. How progressive to fawn over a anachronistic and historically brutal system of slavery and servitude. If thats what feminism is all about these days (and sassy references to ‘mixed race’) I am off to pop my head in a vat of navy strength gin.

    Also. Great work Helen. You’re the Daily Review’s best asset in my humble opinion. And I really like all the writers at TDR!

  10. Yes, thank you! The idea promulgated in much of the media that Ms Markle is somehow a symbol of… something…. in marrying into an extremely conservative rich family with fancy titles is baffling. What would be more radical is if she chose not to marry him at all – why can’t they just live together? More radical than that would be the lot of them renouncing their titles and position and taxpayer funded wealth. I have resisted clicking on most of the Markle-mania but one article I did read mentioned that she will have to give up her acting career, be more circumspect about politics and “focus on the voluntary sector” (meaning being nominal patron of charities and gladhanding at functions). Literally seen and not heard (unless in carefully stage managed interviews). How bloody depressing. Yay for girl power. Such feminist. Very progress. Wow.

    I wish the couple well, but no one can tell me this latest iteration of the happily-ever-after-princess fantasy is some massive step forward for feminism or the fight against racism, any more than “rich conservative white women on boards or in Turnbull’s cabinet” is a “major win” for poor women of colour. She’s just another member of an antiquated and classist institution.

  11. This has to be the most reasonable piece that I have read on this topic. Her marrying all is not s problem, because one can be married and be a feminist. The problem is that she is professing to be a feminist, biracial at that, and is marrying into one of the most conservative fanilies That exist. They live by an aristocracy that thrive on classism and racism that effected and still does; the lives Of both her African and Irish ancestors

    This family still has stolen artifacts and art stolen from Ireland, Africa and many other countries world wide.

    Yet, as a black women people expect me to believe that this girl is somehow “lucky” to be chosen by a man that has said racist things and dressed up as a Nazi? Funny how you hen they do this it is a youthful indiscretion.

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