The Sussexes have *officially* been out of the royal family for just over a month, and it seems like not even time out of the spotlight and a move across the world can stop haters from doing what they love to do most: drag Meghan Markle. On May 6, in celebration of their son Archie’s first birthday, the former royal couple shared a sweet video of themselves reading Archie one of his fave books via Save the Children UK’s Instagram account. In the video—which the couple recorded to help raise money for the organization’s #SaveWithStories campaign, an initiative that supports children impacted by COVID-19 pandemic—Markle reads Archie his fave book, Duck! Rabbit!. Behind the camera, you can hear Prince Harry laughing as Archie squeals, fiddles and tosses another book on the ground, all while his mom laughs along and tries to get him to pay attention—you know, normal baby things.
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If you’re wondering what issue people could *possibly* have with this lovely video of a mom and her child, you’ve obviously never met the internet; or more specifically, the people on the internet who continuously (and for honestly no good reason) love to hate on Markle for daring to marry into the royal family and then live her life. The audacity!
Shortly after the video was posted, trolls and mom-shamers alike came out in full force, slamming Markle for appearing on social media (because she and Harry have expressed their desire for a private life), criticizing her out for reading to the camera (as opposed to, they say, directly to her son), calling her “unmaternal” and “phony,” and dragging her for having Archie—a literal BABY—on-screen without pants. One of the most vocal criticisms came from American author Emily Giffin, who wrote the novel Something Borrowed. Giffin shared screenshots of several of her private conversations containing comments on the video to her Instagram stories, saying: “It was uncomfortable. She’s such a phony,” before posting a screenshot of the video with the words “Happy Birthday, Archie. Go away, Megan” written overtop.
Man oh man does “Something Borrowed” author Emily Giffin hate Meghan Markle pic.twitter.com/bjnoDNTY9p
— Kaitlin Menza (@heykmenz) May 6, 2020
Which just seems super un-necessary and incredibly harsh. Also, let’s be honest: If Markle *hadn’t* been on-screen with her son, critics would have been livid, saying that she’s a neglectful mother or that Archie wasn’t properly propped up. It’s seriously a lose/lose situation for the former duchess (and a level of scrutiny she faced before even becoming a mom) and the negative online treatment of Markle is not OK—like at all. So, in honour of Archie’s first birthday, let’s do a little royal fact-checking of the criticisms thrown at Markle, shall we?
Meghan and Harry said they wanted a private life
One of the main criticisms of the video has been that taking part in it seemingly goes against the need for privacy that Markle and Harry said prompted them to step back from royal life. Implicit in these criticisms is the idea that by posting this literally two-minute-long video of her with her son, Markle is seeking attention and fame, and that bit about wanting privacy was a big sham.
Did anybody else find it odd that the couple who wants privacy for their family posted a video of their kid for the public on his bday? pic.twitter.com/j4eAM3VM32
— Nicole Arbour (@NicoleArbour) May 7, 2020
To which I have to say: THE VIDEO IS FOR CHARITY. First of all, Markle and Harry didn’t post the video themselves; it was shared by Save the Children UK. The couple worked with the organization in order to help raise money for the organization’s #SaveWithStories campaign. This isn’t just Harry and Megs popping up on a newly created @sussexstuff Insta account and sharing Archie content in an effort to gain new followers; it’s literally for a good cause.
And even if the couple *did* want to create their own personal social media account and post BTS videos of their cute AF fam, so what? This is something writer Bolu Babalola so aptly articulated in a tweet thread, asking “do people know what privacy means?” Because it’s pretty clear a lot of Meghan critics don’t.
“It is not synonymous with secrecy,” Babalola tweeted about Meghan and Harry’s desire for privacy. “It is control and discretion over what you want to show and how much you expose. [It’s] setting your mode of self-protection.”
Also do people know what privacy means?? It is not synonymous with secrecy. It is control and discretion over what you want to show and how much you expose. It setting your mode of self-protection. But anyway that's not what they're bothered about, hate is chewing them alive
— Bolu Babalola (@BeeBabs) May 7, 2020
Which is 100% accurate. When the couple made their January announcement that they’d be stepping down as senior members of the royal family, it wasn’t because they were stepping out of the spotlight altogether, but rather that they were removing themselves from an extremely public role in which they were susceptible to immense scrutiny and unable to control how much of themselves they shared with the public. Not to mention the fact that Markle was repeatedly subjected to extremely racist comments and abuse. In making their announcement, the couple emphasized that while they wanted Archie to grow up knowing the royalty into which he was born, the move would also “provid[e] our family with the space to focus on the next chapter, including the launch of our new charitable entity.”
They weren’t stepping back altogether, just trying to take control of their lives and their priorities, and that includes deciding how much or how little of their personal lives to share with the public.
Meghan is focusing on the camera and not on her son
Again, there’s a pretty simple answer to this: THE VIDEO IS FOR A CHARITY.
Yes, Markle is reading to her son, but the whole point of the video is to film it for charity. So doesn’t it make sense that the former actor would look outward towards…I don’t know…the audience the video is meant for. Trust that Markle would have also received backlash if she was focusing *solely* on Archie. Remember, she can’t win.
Archie isn’t wearing pants
I’m sorry, but Archie is a one-year-old infant. Have you ever tried to wrangle a tiny bébé and their sausage-like little gams into even tinier pants? It’s like trying to stick toothpaste back in the tube: messy and not going to happen. Because FYI, babies love being naked! Little Arch is in the privacy of his own home with his parents and he’s a baby—let him do what he wants!
Plus? We’re in quarantine! You’d be lying if you didn’t acknowledge that there have been *several* days in isolation where you’ve also been WFH in your best undies. Because honestly, who has the time or energy.
Meghan Markle seems un-maternal
One zinger courtesy of Giffin and her rude AF BFF is the criticism that Markle seems “unmaternal” in the video. First of all, what does that even mean? ICYMI, motherhood—and the way people interact with and exemplify it—is not the same for everyone. Just because one person reads into something or views a certain action or way of being as maternal, doesn’t mean it’s the same for everyone–and vice versa. Because people show their love in different ways.
And also? Who is Giffin (and anyone) to judge how maternal or un-maternal someone is based on a 2-minute video? What’s so un-maternal about it? The way Markle lovingly smiles at her son, kisses his cheek and jokes with him? Yeah, she’s the absolute worst. *Eye roll*
Read this next: Meghan and Harry Are Officially Just Celebs
So what was Emily Giffin’s problem, anyway?
After her initial tirade, Giffin returned to Instagram later on May 6 to post an apology of sorts (her profile has since been made private). Sharing a photo of herself with two cut-outs of Meghan and Harry, Giffin wrote: “I enjoy following celebrities and analyzing them with my readers. I post dozens of IG stories a day in a very honest, unfiltered way, as if I’m confiding directly with close friends…To be clear, I absolutely loved that a biracial, American woman was marrying into the Royal Family. It seemed a wonderful, happy thing for everyone. I celebrated their wedding by hosting a gathering here at my home and posting many, many photos. Further, I was appalled by any signs of racism against her.”
Giffin then went on to say that she recently changed her opinion on *both* Harry and Meghan after their decision to step down as senior royals, and that she was disappointed by both their actions.
Hmm…funny how there was absolutely *no* mention of ill will towards Harry in her recent posts. In fact, in a comment on the video, Giffin asked of Markle: “Why didn’t she film and let Harry read?” She went on to explain that in doing so, Meghan would have taken attention away from herself. Which seems like *a lot* to discern from the video that was shared.
Listen, Giffin may very well think that her comments and viewpoint have nothing to do with race, but the truth is that it’s impossible to remove racism from these criticisms. Because the fact of the matter is that Markle wouldn’t be under such intense scrutiny if she were a white woman. Just look at how beloved the Duchess of Cambridge—Kate Middleton—is! There’s a long list of instances in which the sisters-in-law are not held to the same standard for very similar actions. Take for example, the criticisms around Markle’s pregnancy. During her pregnancy with Archie, Markle was repeatedly criticized for “showing off” and obsessively cradling her baby bump (umm…ok?), while Middleton was praised and seen as maternal for it. The only difference between the two in this instance is the fact that Middleton is white and Markle is not.
What’s that old saying? If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all? Yeah, seems pretty applicable here.