In a time when we seem to revere members of the royal family before almost simultaneously dismissing them, both Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton's 'likability' seems to harness on their being able to maintain a friendship with one another. It's a dangerous narrative, writes Jennifer McShane.
Only three days after Meghan Markle announced her engagement, a singular question was posed in the in newspapers, on websites: who did it better? The stage was set for Meghan Vs Kate. Two women, "normal" enough women, who became real-life princesses before our very eyes. Who looked better? Who had better hair? Who smiled more? Who kept to royal protocol? Who simply seems more genuine? Even typing such questions sounds ridiculous, but that's how it has been ever since.
A constant barrage of examing every choice both Meghan and Kate make and comparing and contrasting until their names blur and actions seem to lose meaning. They're not even individuals anymore; you can say "Meghan vs Kate" in a single breath, and everyone will know who you mean, just as everyone will note that you must pick one above the other. It's exhausting. It's unfair. And it's gotten much worse this week since the royal sisterhood appears to be frayed at the edges.
In a trope as old as the royal family itself, there can only be room for one princess at Kensington Palace, you see; one must be the 'ugly' stepsister
It has engulfed the internet; rumours of Kate in floods of tears and Meghan throwing apparent tantrums over an emerald tiara and a bridesmaid dress for a three-year-old. In a trope as old as the royal family itself, there can only be room for one princess at Kensington Palace, you see; one must be the 'ugly' stepsister – at least, that seems to be what parts of the press want you to think. It's gotten so bad that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry have resorted to moving out of Kensington Palace, 300 miles away from Will and Kate. Reportedly. Because we know if none of this occurred. It's probably a throwaway comment, taken out of context and blown way out of proportion, yet it's all I seem to read about.
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It seems Kate has won this round, so to speak, saying "sweet things" about Meghan's pregnancy while the tide has turned for the Duchess of Sussex. She is difficult. She does her own thing too much. She's the reason Kensington palace staff have walked out. But this wasn't always so. Remember when this all began? Markle is going to be a genuinely modern princess thanks to her marital status, age, race, job and coat. Meanwhile, the original modern princess, Kate Middleton, is a bore who wears the same thing too often.
As if that weren't bad enough; favouring one woman so publically while expressing obvious disdain over another, now it seems they've both been taken down a likability peg or two due to their inability to behave like BFFs.
A sinister narrative
The dark, very sinister undertone to all this, is the inherent message that there's something very wrong, so very unlikeable about two sisters-in-law who don't get along like a house on fire and that don't act, think, speak and look the exact same way. So some feel compelled to point out their differences, and do so with a sneer. We wouldn't expect this in our everyday life - people are imperfect individuals who won't always see eye-to-eye - so why do we demand Kate and Meghan conform to such a warped a view? Notice that, naturally, Prince William and Prince Harry are not subjected to this. They remained universally praised as unique individuals. Both women are subjected to daily bouts of racism and classism by parts of the media. If this is all meant to be a bit of fluff in the lighter corner of the internet, it doesn't feel like it.
These articles and coverage might seem innocuous enough, given that, in an effort to forget that Trump exists, we are fascinated with the royal family and have been for years. But it's only adhering to a hugely stereotypical, damaging narrative that sees both women emerge the 'losers' - if we can even use that terminology - as they continue to be pitted against one another. It's as if we want them to be rivals, because that's the way society continually validates women - on how jealous they are of each other's successes. This is nothing new, but, at this level and in 2018, it's getting tired - and it's no longer trivial.
In pitting in one woman against the other, we all lose - and Kate and Meghan don't win either.
And they never will, not if this keeps up.