How Female Members Of Parliament Are (And Have Been) Supporting Meghan Markle

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Holly Lynch tweet and Meghan Markle

Meghan Markle has long been lambasted by the mainstream British media on shaky premises.

Following the onslaught of powerful reactions people around the world shared after hearing Markle and Prince Harry share their side of the story during last week's well-received interview with Oprah Winfrey, some high-ranking British officials, including members of Parliament, have been motivated to take action in her defense.

Holly Lynch, Labour Party MP for Halifax and the British shadow immigration minister, was one of the first to take public steps to address the situation.

In 2019, Lynch published an open letter professing support for Meghan, signed by 72 additional female MPs from across parties.

The letter, which was addressed to the Duchess of Sussex, expressed solidarity with her “against the often distasteful and misleading stories” being published about her and defending her right to privacy.

Lynch also addressed the “outdated, colonial undertones” of many of the stories. “As women members of parliament from all backgrounds,” she continued, “we stand with you in saying it cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.”

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From the moment Markle was first revealed as Prince Harry's potentially serious romantic interest, she fell under heavy media scrutiny.

As a biracial American, Markle was largely rejected by British tabloid news sources as a legitimate potential member of the British Royal Family from the get-go. The hounding only grew harsher after her wedding, despite the Queen herself accepting Meghan's new position, granting her the title of Duchess of Sussex.

Much of the coverage was blatantly racist. Some headlines compared Meghan to a “gangster,” while other articles criticized her mother’s hair and background in a thinly veiled attack on her race.

The Duchess was also disproportionately criticized for everything from her past relationships to her fashion choices.

Famously, even her penchant for avocados during her first pregnancy came under fire from the press, despite Kate Middleton having been adored for the same.

Lynch explained the connection MPs who signed the letter felt to Markle her and her situation.

“Although we find ourselves being women in public life in a very different way to you, we share an understanding of the abuse and intimidation which is now so often used as a means of disparaging women in public office from getting on with our very important work,” Lynch wrote.

Lynch says that at the time it was first published, Markle called her personally to express her gratitude for the show of support.

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During their interview with Oprah, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex discussed their feelings about the skewed media coverage Meghan received in far more raw, candid detail than ever before.

The couple admitted that the “constant barrage” of bad press was among the top reasons they chose to step back from their formal roles in the royal family.

Meghan also explained how negative media coverage led to a dangerously steep decline in her mental health, to the point where she began to experience suicidal thoughts.

“I just didn’t see a solution,” Meghan told Oprah. “I would sit up at night and I was just like ‘I don’t understand how all this is being churned out.’”

The couple complained that they had not received the same defense as other members of the royal family from defamatory press coverage. Meghan also explained the difference between these instances during the interview.

“If a member of his family will comfortably say, 'We've all had to deal with things that are rude'," Markle noted sharply, "rude and racist are not the same.”

“And equally, you've also had a press team that goes on the record to defend you, especially when they know something's not true. And that didn't happen for us,” she added.

Harry himself brought up Lynch’s letter when he pointed out that concerned members of Parliament had provided more support for the pair than his own family.

“I guess one of the most telling parts, and the saddest parts, was over 70 … female members of Parliament, both Conservative and Labour, came out and called out the colonial undertones of articles and headlines written about Meghan,” he told Winfrey. “Yet no one from my family ever said anything over those three years. And that hurts.”

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UK shadow business minister Lucy Powell, who signed the original letter, said she was “surprised but pleased” to hear it mentioned in the interview.

The former royals’ statements showed Powell that standing up for her beliefs had been worthwhile; as although it was not successful in changing the press coverage, the message meant something to Harry and Meghan.

“It shows that people need to speak up and call things out when they are wrong, and not stand by,” Powell said. “It matters when we do.”

The letter's co-signers are now speaking out again following the interview in hopes of further progress.

Lynch told The Guardian the letter “clearly did not make the significant difference to the conduct of some members of the British press that we had hoped that it would.”

She stated that further discourse would be necessary among the signers of the letter to determine their next steps in combatting unfair press coverage.

“We are going to come together to explore what the next steps might be in order to call on the government to take further action to ensure those people with a voice on print and broadcast media are using that influence responsibly,” Lynch said.

She and other MPs plan to push for a larger debate surrounding media racism to be held at the British houses of Parliament. According to Lynch, the issue transcends Markle's experience.

“It’s not only about stepping in to try and protect the Duchess of Sussex,” she told CBS This Morning, “but to all those young women who have been feeling utterly let down by the nature of those headlines.

Prince William responded to his brother and sister-in-law’s Oprah appearance for the first time on Thursday, as he and Kate were approached by reporters while visiting a school in east London.

In response to a reporter’s question, William admitted that he had not yet spoken to Harry regarding the interview, but said he intended to do so.

"And can you just let me know, is the royal family a racist family, sir?" the reporter asked, to which the future King of England responded, "No, we're very much not a racist family."

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There appears to be significant evidence to the contrary, however, as the Sussexes are far from alone in noticing the obvious media racism that the royals failed to address.

Nor are they alone in calling it out, as Holly Lynch is just one of many voices adding to the conversation.

Meghan’s story inspired Vivian J.O. Barnes to write the script for "Duchess! Duchess! Dy=uchess!," a short play being produced virtually by the renowned Chicago-based Steppenwolf Theatre Company.

The 35-minute production, which began streaming on March 10, portrays a conversation between two fictional black female members of the royal family and is centered around themes of sexism, racism, and media bias.

“The play explores the bigger question of what it means to be a Black woman entering institutions that seem eager to have you but aren't necessarily built to support you, how you start to adapt in order to survive once you're inside of them, and the impact of bringing other people like you along,” Barnes explains.

The Washington Post reports that Barnes was stirred by the noticeable discrepancy in press coverage between Meghan and other parties related to the royals.

After Meghan entered the picture, the playwright observed, “the coverage is very different and very racist and invasive in a very different kind of way.”

Other prominent women have come out in support of Meghan, including Beyoncé and Serena Williams.

Beyoncé shared a message to Meghan on her website following the Oprah segment, thanking her for her “courage and leadership.”

“We are all strengthened and inspired by you,” the famed singer wrote.

Tennis superstar Serena Williams, a close friend of Meghan’s, also publicly admired the duchess for her brave stance.

“Meghan Markle, my selfless friend, lives her life - and leads by example- with empathy and compassion. She teaches me every day what it means to be truly noble,” Williams wrote in an Instagram post on March 8th.

“I know first hand the sexism and racism institutions and the media use to vilify women and people of color to minimize us, to break us down and demonize us,” the athlete added.

“We must recognize our obligation to decry malicious, unfounded gossip and tabloid journalism. The mental health consequences of systemic oppression and victimization are devastating, isolating, and all too often lethal,” she wrote, seemingly in reference to Meghan’s experience of suicidal thoughts.

Williams also expressed her wish that the children of the world would grow up in a society “driven by respect.”

“Keep in your memory the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control,” she encouraged. “Against such things there is no law.”

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Allie McGlone is a writer who covers a variety of topics for YourTango, including pop culture and entertainment.