Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, two of the world’s most polarising figures, have spoken out again about the “global crisis of hate” – but is the hate directed towards them justified?
Dr Jessica Ford, lecturer at The University of Newcastle’s School of Humanities and Social Sciences believes the global vitriol towards Markle is no accident.
“Racism and sexism and misogyny are embedded within our systems of power, and one of the big systems of power that we are operating within is the media,” Dr Ford told The New Daily.
In an online discussion by Time100 Talks on Tuesday, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex said they were committed to encouraging kindness and compassion on the internet.
“This isn’t solely a mental health or emotional well-being problem,” Markle said.
This is a human problem. And what’s happening to all of us online is affecting us deeply offline.”
This comes a week after Markle admitted she had closed all personal social media accounts and did not know what people were saying about her for her “own self-preservation”.
“I’m told that in 2019 I was the most trolled person in the entire world, male or female. Now, eight months of that I wasn’t even visible, I was on maternity leave or with a baby,” she said.
“But what was able to just be manufactured and churned out, it’s almost unsurvivable, that’s so big, you can’t think of what that feels like, because I don’t care if you’re 15 or 25, if people are saying things about you that aren’t true, what that does to your mental and emotional health is so damaging.”
Though Markle remains one of the most trolled people in the world, she is also one of the most watched – but why are we so obsessed with hating her?
It’s a love/hate thing …
Markle enjoyed years of success and fan adoration as a successful actress and blogger, but it was shortly after her entry into the royal family when her public image seemed to sour.
While her 2018 royal wedding was reportedly watched by 1.9 billion people worldwide, UK tabloids had already started tearing shreds off the actress.
“It’s a form of internalised misogyny or ‘misogynoir’,” Dr Ford said.
Misogynoir refers to the intersection of racism and sexism that specifically targets Black women.
After months of negative coverage (much of which featured racist undercurrents), stories began to spread of bitterness between the brothers which only exacerbated the hate.
Was Markle the cause of the young family’s swift departure from the UK and Prince Harry’s subsequent exit from the royal family?
Or was it in response to the onslaught of harassment and aggressively negative coverage from the UK media, which also claimed the life of his mother 23 years earlier?
“We are in a system that privileges whiteness, it privileges masculinity, it privileges economic success through sheer hard work,” Dr Ford said.
Through this lens, it isn’t surprising a mix-raced woman who married into one of the world’s highest profile families found she had a target on her back.
“The royal family are a highly visual symbol of a very old, very archaic, very racist, very sexist institution – they’re a deeply conservative institution.”
Julie Inman Grant, Australia’s eSafety Commissioner, said those, like Markle, belonging to minority groups are more at risk of cyber-bullying and trolling.
“The online world can be an incredibly positive experience for many people, however, it can sadly surface societal issues like misogyny, racism and discrimination, from those who believe they are protected behind a screen,” Ms Inman Grant told The New Daily.
“Our research shows that if you are a woman, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander, identify as LGBTQI+, are living with a disability, or speak a language other than English, you are much more likely to be targeted online.”
It’s not just the media, Dr Ford said, that have a responsibility to reflect on internalised biases.
“It’s a process of learning and unlearning our biases, we decolonise our brains in the sense that we have to acknowledge that these biases exist and they are embedded in the media we consume.
“But also acknowledge that as individual actors, we are also embedded in these systems of power.”