Meghan Markle is being somewhat heralded by the internet as bringing feminism to the royal wedding. She’s described here as “defying convention”, here her wedding dress is called “everything people had hoped”, and here she’s making a “bold feminist statement”. And, yes, I would like to credit her for the feminist additions to the wedding, namely: wearing a plain and not princess-y dress (designed by the first female artistic director at Givenchy, Clare Waight Keller), walking half the aisle alone, being “accompanied” instead of “given away”, traveling to the event with her mother instead of her father, and removing “obey” from her vows (in step with Diana and Kate).
First, I’d like to come right off the bat and say that this isn’t a criticism of Markle. I think she’s done damn well. She’s breaking many a stereotype by even having a royal wedding in the first place — a mixed-race, divorced, non-virgin princess bride is a huge step in the right direction. In the 30s, King Edward had to abdicate the throne to marry Wallis Simpson because she was divorced. In the 50s, Princess Margaret wasn’t allowed to marry the divorced Peter Townsend (P.S. double standard much?!). In the 70s (i.e. pre-Diana), Princes Charles wasn’t allowed to marry Camilla Bowles because she didn’t “appear virginal”. Markle is absolutely annihilating those old ridiculous rules and the hate that she’s receiving from the interwebs is pretty awful. I salute her.
The Royal Family is known for its conventional dress code, in which the women should appear demure and not expose too much of their bodies, including shoulders. Markle’s change in personal style since her engagement has inspired numerous articles, like this one and this one. Basically, she used to wear thigh-length skirts and tank tops; now she doesn’t wear either. Obviously, her clothing choices are her call. However, I don’t think it’s just a coincidence that her style has become more conservative A.H. (after Harry). In the reality of her life, Markle can only push the envelope so far–lest the Royal Family withdraw their support and her relationship is no longer sanctioned. But the mere fact that being a member of the Royal Family comes with some sort of demure dress code, or else, is pretty whack in 2018.
Now to the point: isn’t it just a little bit messed up that wearing a plain, white, long sleeved and demure dress is some great feminist statement? Yes, it’s a step in the right direction, but Markle is described as having “defied gender-based conventions about what a woman in her position should wear on her wedding day”. Well, kind of. But also no. Defying gender-based convention would be wearing something other than white, or a suit, or even something exposing her arms. Is the difference between Duchess Catherine’s dress and Markle’s dress that big? Sure, there’s a difference. But if 0 is total submission to the royal wedding dress rules and 100 is wearing a tight black catsuit, Markle is maybe at a 5. Wake the f*** up people! It’s still expected that women (not just royals) wear white at their wedding; that they cover up their bodies; that they follow some sort of old-fashioned code. Marriage has a history fraught with abuse — let’s remember that marital rape wasn’t a crime in all 50 US states until 1993. So it seems a little bizarre to be so caught up in enforcing wedding tradition when marriage itself is quite a different beast these days.
Women don’t need permission from their fathers to marry, so why should they be walked down the aisle and “given away” by them? They certainly don’t need protection either, there’s literally no reason for a bride to travel to the wedding with her father other than tradition. Wives are no longer (for the most part) required to be subservient to their husbands, so why would the word “obey” be in vows these days anyway? See what I’m saying? These things should be no-brainers and the fact that we are all “woohoo” about it only serves as a reminder (at least to me) of how far feminism has to go.