Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Meghan Markle: ‘We’ve forgotten our humanity’ on social media

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  • By Leisha Chi-Santorelli
  • BBC News Culture

Video caption,

WATCH: “The bulk of the bullying and abuse I was experiencing… was when I was pregnant”

The Duchess of Sussex has criticised the “seemingly endless toxicity” of social media, revealing she was targeted with “bullying and abuse” while pregnant with Archie and Lilibet.

Meghan was the keynote speaker on a high-profile panel marking International Women’s Day at the annual SXSW festival in Austin, Texas.

She said she now keeps her distance from such comments for her wellbeing.

Prince Harry was in the front row of the audience watching the event.

Meghan said people have “forgotten our humanity” in certain parts of the media and digital sphere.

“The bulk of the bullying and abuse that I was experiencing on social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili”, she explained.

“You just think about that and really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful – it is not catty, it is cruel.”

The event was titled Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On And Off The Screen.

The 42-year-old former Suits actress also discussed issues ranging from the importance of diverse representation to portrayals of motherhood in film and entertainment.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Panellists from left to right: Journalist Errin Haines, Meghan, former news anchor Katie Couric, actress Brooke Shields and sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen

Meghan said she found it “disturbing” that women were “spewing” hatred at each other online, adding: “I cannot make sense of that.”

“If you’re reading something terrible about a woman, why are you sharing it with your friends?” she asked.

“If it was your friend, or your mum or your daughter, you wouldn’t do it.

“I think that is the piece that is so lost right now (with) what is happening in the digital space and in certain sections of the media – we have forgotten about our humanity and that has got to change.”

At fellow panellist Katie Couric’s urging, Meghan also re-shared how a letter she sent aged 11 to consumer goods giant Procter & Gamble led to a sexist advert promoting dishwashing liquid being changed.

Meghan said that experience showed her the power of speaking up and advocacy. “Your voice is not small, it just needs to be heard,” she told a live audience.

Actress Brooke Shields, also on the panel. joked: “This is one of the ways we’re different, when I was 11 I was playing a prostitute,” referring to her background as a child actor and role in 1978 film Pretty Baby.

The SXSW keynote panel event was also simultaneously streamed on YouTube, with most of the comments about Meghan being overwhelmingly positive.

The Duke of Sussex and Meghan have come under heavy criticism, particularly in the UK tabloid press, after they stepped back from the Royal Family.

Scrutiny of the couple intensified following a revealing interview on Oprah and a Netflix documentary.

The couple’s public appearances have been less frequent since they moved to California and set up the Archewell Foundation. Meghan was last in England in September 2022.

Image caption,

Prince Harry in the audience at the event

There has been significant online speculation about a possible return to the UK to mark the 10-year anniversary of the Invictus Games – set up in 2014 by Prince Harry.

Meghan’s latest appearance comes during a difficult period for the Royal Family as the King undergoes cancer treatment and the Princess of Wales recovers from abdominal surgery in the UK.

They have been put further under the microscope by the appearance of Kate Middleton’s maternal uncle, Gary Goldsmith on Celebrity Big Brother.

On Friday evening, he became the first housemate evicted from Celebrity Big Brother on ITV.

Speaking after his eviction, Goldsmith backed the one-time Dragons’ Den contestant Levi Roots to win, adding that his niece would “100%” support his choice.

“[Roots] is somebody who puts other people first and that’s our Kate,” he said.

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