Notes From the Margins…

Meghan Markle’s Vogue

  • August 01, 2019
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It’s safe to say that readers of the Infernal Machine probably don’t come here looking for coverage of the Royal Family or fashion.  Despite my own well-deserved reputation for discreet sartorial elegance, I generally don’t read Vogue magazine unless I come across old copies at the dentists.   It’s true that I was surprisingly engrossed by the documentary on Anna Wintour and the September issue that my daughter once dragged me off to, but that was the exception that justified the rule.

No doubt Miranda Priestley would berate me for my indifference to the subtle cultural shifts going on behind the glossy pages, but that’s an ignorance I can live with.

These caveats aside, it’s impossible to ignore the distinctly rank odour exuding from the UK media in response to Meghan Markle’s editorship of the Vogue September issue.   Until now I have been vaguely aware that the UK rightwing press – in England at least that’s pretty much all the press – don’t like Markle, and that many of its readers don’t like her either.

I’ve occasionally come across depictions of her as a ‘golddigger’; references to her troubled father; condescending suggestions that Markle was not ‘one of us’; and suggestions of  a ‘feud’ between Markle and Kate Middleton.  The people who make observations like this rarely seem to have any trouble accepting the ‘commoner’ Kate Middleton as ‘one of us.’ Nor do they seem unduly troubled by someone like Prince Andrew, whose close friendship with a convicted pedophile and his role as an arms dealer has never invited the kind of morbid scrutiny directed at Markle.

It’s difficult to separate such hostility from Markle’s mixed-race heritage that once led the Daily Mail  to describe her as  ‘(almost) straight outta Compton’ (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), and which inspired former BBC DJ Danny Baker to post an outrageously racist tweet suggesting that she and Harry had given birth to a chimpanzee.

All of this has clearly been intensified by the fact that Markle is a woman who has opinions –  opinions that are liberal and progressive – and which do not belong in the reactionary feudal themepark in which royal women are expected to breed, look pretty, and patronize the occasional uncontroversial charity.

Princess Diana broke this mould – up to a point.  But even when she was supporting de-mining campaigns she was always ‘one of us.’

Now Markle, the golddigger who came over ‘ere and married our prince and became a duchess (the cheek!)  has had the temerity not just to edit Vogue, but to use it as a platform to express her opinions, and rightwing commentators across the nation have been dribbling spittle all over their keyboards and reaching deep into their bottomless reservoirs of spite and condescension.

Much of this rage has focused on the front cover.  Markle broke convention by not appearing on the cover herself.  Instead she asked Vogue to photograph what she called ‘women of change’.  These women include climate change activist Greta Thunberg, Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Jane Fonda, New Zealand premier Jacinda Ardern, disability campaigner Sinead Burke,  and supermodel-turned-mental health campaigner Adwoa Aboah.

Many of these women are women of colour, and they are also on the liberal-left activist spectrum.   Now some may have reservations about ‘change’ coming from rich royals living in taxpayer-funded luxury, and might point out the limitations of a magazine selling expensive clothes to rich women to remind readers ‘to use their own platforms to affect change.’

But Markle’s sincerity is clear, and the cover is a striking and moving celebration of the women who have inspired her, many of whom do not fit conventional stereotypes of what women should be.

All of them, in their different ways, have done some remarkable things, and the same cannot be said of most of those lining up to attack Markle.  In his Sun column, the bloated racist Rod Liddle has called the cover ‘vomit-inducing’.  A man who once punched his pregnant girlfriend and abandoned his wife for another woman while on honeymoon excoriates Markle for not celebrating the Queen, who Liddle describes as ‘a woman who knows the meaning of dignity, responsibility and duty and is the perfect role model for Meghan herself.’

Dignity, responsibility and duty are not words that one normally associates with Liddle, for whom ‘vomit-inducing’ is definitely more appropriate.  Demonstrating once again the extent to which the Sun has become a variation on a  BNP leaflet, Liddle condemns the ‘ultra-woke couple’ Meghan and Harry for announcing their decision to have only two children, and asks ‘How about you encourage birth control in Sub-Saharan Africa, where the problem really lies?’

No nudge nudge wink wink required for that one.  Elsewhere in the more highbrow Times, Melanie Phillips has denounced Markle’s ‘woke’ cover as ‘shallow and divisive’ – which is a bit rich coming from one of the most notorious bigots in the UK media.  Another mainstream commentator who has eagerly embraced alt-right terminology, Phillips accuses Markle  of ‘virtue -signalling’ and ‘reflecting the shallow aspirations of a social justice warrior.’

Dame Phillips waves a stern finger to remind Markle that ‘as a member of the royal family, she now needs to be apolitical and no longer make herself the centre of the story.’ Even Markle’s silver mirror image is just ‘egotism …clothed as altruism.’

Meanwhile, over at the Daily Mail, Sarah Vine,  Michael Gove’s Poundland Lady MacBeth, can be found accusing Markle of hypocrisy, disdain for the British people and a failure to understand the profundity of royalty and public service etc, etc. If you married Michael Gove, you clearly didn’t win life’s lottery, and the same could be said of Gove himself, though he may have felt differently when the cocaine was flowing.

In any case, Vine’s article is steeped in the kind of nouveau riche spite, condescension, and jealousy that would give any psychiatrist or social scientist a field day.  Don’t expect me to link to this obnoxious drivel, but the following extract should give you the flavour of fruit that has most definitely withered on the vine:

A guest editorship of Vogue featuring a list of inspirational women, half of whom no one’s ever heard of, many of whom are just celebrities, and all of whom have been seemingly chosen more for what their inclusion says about you than anything else.  Meanwhile, you fail to nominate the one truly inspirational woman in your life, the Queen, whose years of selfless devotion to this country knock all of the others into a cocked hat.

I hate to break it to Lady MacGove, but Markle is the one who decides which women have inspired her, and just because Vine hasn’t heard of the people she’s included, doesn’t mean that others are not aware of them, and more people might now be more aware of them, thanks to Markle’s cover.

There is so much more where this came from, from Toby Young, and of course from Spiked, which inevitably describes Markle as ‘the worst kind of snob.’

Of course she is.  You nailed it guys, as usual.  And  there is Piers Morgan, proving once again that hell hath no fury like a celebrity-narcissist spurned, working himself up into a rancid lather at Markle’s ‘shameless hypocritical super-woke issue.’

All this is disgusting and contemptible.  And the fact that some of the nastiest people and newspapers in the country all hate Megan Markle tells us more about them than it does about us.

And it also tells us something about the wider cultural war being waged by the hardright, which  is transforming the country into a bleak reactionary backwater in which everything liberal, left and ‘woke’ is always bad, and everyone who expresses such views is always a hypocrite and an ‘elitist.’

And that’s why I’ve written about Vogue and fashion today, and don’t worry, because it probably won’t happen again.

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    2nd Aug 2019 - 4:42 pm

    Brilliant! Even the sarcasm translates all the way across the atlantic from north to south.

  2. J Johnson

    3rd Aug 2019 - 7:38 am

    Now that’s going to sting. acerbic, witty and spot on. Thanks I needed this

  3. Bridget Weir

    3rd Aug 2019 - 9:24 am

    Absolutely LOVE this article. So good to see someone that sees the UK press for what they are!

  4. julie

    3rd Aug 2019 - 1:44 pm

    my head was nodding in agreement as i read along, you articulated my thoughts into words. Thank you!

  5. Baylor

    4th Aug 2019 - 9:05 pm

    This was a fantastic read, thank you for being a sane voice on MM. Just to be that guy, the New Zealand Prime Ministers surname is Ardern. And she’s a boss.

    • Matt

      4th Aug 2019 - 9:19 pm

      Thanks. And no problem about being that guy. I’ll correct.

  6. Poesy

    5th Aug 2019 - 2:40 am

    It’s Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

    • Matt

      5th Aug 2019 - 6:54 am

      Thank you. I think you read an earlier version. I had already corrected.

  7. C C Cedras

    5th Aug 2019 - 12:54 pm

    Thank you, I needed that. Camilla Tominey is another vile, racist #@$+%. I believe MM’s issue of British Vogue is selling/will sell like hot cakes, forcing Condé to print more, and THAT will rile up the hard right all over again. Maybe you will be forced to do a follow up … 😉

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About Me

I’m a writer, campaigner and journalist.  My latest book is The Savage Frontier: The Pyrenees in History and the Imagination (New Press/Hurst, 2018).  The Infernal Machine is where I write on politics, history, cinema and other things that interest me.

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