Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry hasn’t happened yet, but that hasn’t stopped people from judging the bride-to-be for her wedding-day choices.
Australian feminist Germaine Greer is already criticising Markle’s religious ceremony and predicting that her marriage will end in divorce. The betrothed have even come under fire for their wedding cake.
Markle certainly isn’t the first woman to be condemned by others, including feminist leaders, for their personal choices. Hillary Clinton recently changed her Twitter bio after the feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie criticized her for starting it with the word “wife”.
Greer and Adichie’s statements were profoundly anti-feminist. Women shouldn’t be forced to explain or apologize for their relationship-related decisions – and it’s wrong to criticize them for the personal choices they make.
According to the Harvard Study of Adult Development – one of the most rigorous and lengthy examinations of human beings – good relationships are the key to health and happiness. They even make our brains sharper. So women shouldn’t be shamed for celebrating their marriages. And having relationships doesn’t diminish our contributions to our professions or communities; indeed, the study suggests it enhances them.
The whole point of feminism was to give women the freedom to make their own decisions. We now seem mostly to agree that women shouldn’t be told how to lead their lives by men. Why should being told what to do by other women be different?
That’s because different choices make sense for different women. At my wedding, my husband and I walked down the aisle together, which I thought symbolised the decision we’d freely made to enter into marriage. I didn’t think it was appropriate for my father to give me away because I didn’t think he’d owned me in the first place.
On the other hand, Markle has chosen to be walked down the aisle by her father. Maybe for Markle – who was raised by her mom – the act will symbolise replacing a man she didn’t get to choose with one she did. Whatever the reason, she doesn’t owe me any explanation.
Markle should make decisions that will make her – not Greer or anyone else who isn’t involved – happy on her wedding day.
Of course, Greer suggested that Markle’s Church of England ceremony reflected the wishes of the royal family rather than those of the bride, who was raised Catholic. That’s certainly possible. But compromising on some things to have a good relationship with her future family doesn’t mean Markle is not a feminist.
Another problem with much of the judgment coming Markle’s way is the retrograde focus on her appearance. This is especially anti-feminist because men are rarely assessed based on their physical features or sartorial choices.
In her bestselling book The Female Eunuch Greer asked: “What more could women want? Freedom, that’s what. Freedom from being the thing looked at rather than the person looking back.” Greer might have reread her words before disparaging Markle’s “cow turd hat”. Public discussion of Markle would be more appropriate if it focused on what she does – for example, her work with World Vision Canada to raise awareness of the importance of clean drinking water around the world.
To be sure, Markle must have known that marrying into the British royal family would make her a source of great public interest. But that doesn’t mean she should live her life based upon other people’s beliefs.
Clinton, on the other hand, has chosen to be a political figure and presented herself as a role model for other women. But being proud of her relationship doesn’t make her any less of a good example.
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