With Meghan Markle and her fiance Prince Harry making their first official appearance today in the UK, don’t expect news of the happy couple to go away anytime soon. Since the announcement of their engagement earlier this week, there’s been discussion about everything from Markle’s citizenship, to where the wedding will happen and even the actress’s career that has now come to an end.
While Markle may be an excitingly unconventional bride for the royal family, some have called to question why anyone would applaud a woman for leaving her career behind to become part of (arguably) the most famous family in the world. In the Canadian magazine Chatelaine, writer Leah McLaren writes, “When an ambitious young woman gives up her thriving, hard-won career in order to be a charity wife for one of history’s most screwed up family firms, it’s a bit rich to throw a parade in the name of feminism and human rights.” But to take that perspective is even less feminist than the criticism it makes.
Even though the timing seems pretty suspicious, Markle planned her departure from her show Suits well before the royal engagement. But here’s the thing: even if she wasn’t planning to leave the acting world anytime soon, her choice to go forward marrying a man whose lifestyle is so vastly different than most shouldn’t be attacked.
Markle is a strong, feminist voice and has worked her entire career to further causes that are important to her, including working with the UN as a women’s rights advocate (much like fellow actress Emma Watson). Although she’s had to resign from the UN as well as World Vision Canada because of her new relationship with the Royal Family, the Queen’s future granddaughter-in-law is becoming even better positioned to take on new charitable endeavors.
In calling to question Markle’s career decisions (which are now deeply rooted to who she happened to fall in love with), what we’re really saying is that she shouldn’t have allowed her heart or her partner to change her career path. This isn’t something that only affects royals, however — many women take or change jobs based on their proximity to their partners and the career goals of others. Ignoring the sacrifice that it can be (or mocking it as anti-feminist or counterproductive to women) isn’t fair to the difficult choices many women make for both their careers and those of their partners.
When Prince William and Duchess Catherine announced their engagement after 10 years of an on-again-off-again romance, no one questioned Middleton’s choice to abandon a career to one day become the Queen Consort. In fact, the British tabloids went another way, calling the future Queen “Waity Katy,” essentially mocking her long-term romance with Prince William. The Duchess has an art history degree from a prestigious university (where the pair met), and there have been rumblings over the years that the couple’s split in 2005 was based in part on the pressure to let her find her own life outside of being the Prince’s Girlfriend (with a capital G).
Luckily, for Markle, her future husband doesn’t have the same rules and regulations applied to his life as her future brother and sister-in-law. What the couple does with their lives going forward is more open than the rigid traditions that Will and Kate must follow throughout the rest of their lives.
Of course, the Royal family’s protocols and guidelines may be considered outdated in the way that royal partners are expected to behave or what jobs they may or may not take, but that doesn’t mean that Markle, Prince Harry or other royals aren’t working from within the family to create lasting change to outdated traditions.
As a biracial American woman, Markle brings an entirely new set of eyes to a family steeped in colonial traditions. Instead of questioning the validity of her choice in romantic partner, what we should do is give her agency in her own choices and wait to see how she chooses to harness the power she now has at her fingertips — something she no doubt took into consideration when accepting Prince Harry’s proposal.
Because, after all, marrying a royal is a job in and of itself.
What do you think of Meghan Markle’s career shift? Tell us @BritandCo!
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