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Meghan Markle Finds It ‘Disturbing’ How Much Online Hate ‘Is Women Completely Spewing It to Other Women’

This year, Meghan Markle celebrated International Women’s Day by speaking at the SXSW Conference in Austin, Texas. At the panel, called “Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen,” Meghan discussed the negative effects that social media has on women, and the cyberbullying that she experienced from other women. Also joining the conversation was Katie Couric, Brooke Shields, and sociologist and author Nancy Wang Yuen.

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Meghan shared the story of how, when she was just 11 years old, she advocated to change a Procter & Gamble dishwashing soap commercial directed solely towards women, and she actually made a difference. She took offense to the line, “women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans” because she saw that it helped push the narrative that “women belong in the kitchen” for the boys in her class. So she began writing letters to P&G, causing them to change the line to “people all over America.”

“It’s funny to look back at it now because that was before social media where you had a reach that was so much greater. It was just an 11-year-old with a pen and paper, but it just goes to show that if you know there’s something wrong, and you use your voice to advocate in the direction of what is right, that can really land and resonate and make huge change for a lot of people,” she explained. “So, your voice is not small, it just needs to be heard.”

“When I was 11, I was playing a prostitute. I wish I had known you,” Shields jokingly said.

“A little different,” Meghan laughed.

At one point, panel moderator Errin Haines asked, “Social media really has become the place for women and girls to be scrutinized, objectified, bullied, and unfortunately I know this is something you are all too familiar with. How have you been able to manage the seemingly endless toxicity that comes at you?”

Meghan got vulnerable with her answer, saying, “Yes, social media is an environment that I think has a lot of that. You know I think, it’s really interesting as I can reflect on it, I keep my distance from it right now just for my own well-being, but the bulk of the bullying and abuse that I was experiencing in social media and online was when I was pregnant with Archie and with Lili, and with a newborn with each of them. And you just think about that and really wrap your head around why people would be so hateful. It’s not catty it’s cruel. And why you would do that, certainly, when you’re pregnant, with a newborn, we all know as moms, it’s such a tender and sacred time.”

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She then steered the conversation to mention that she finds it “disturbing” how “much of the hate is women completely spewing it to other women.” She added that she “cannot make sense of that.”

Meghan celebrated the fact that today’s panel was being live-streamed on YouTube, “because people are going to have access to hear all of this brilliance and all of this insight,” but she pointed out the dangers of the site too. “And at the same time, it’s a platform that has quite a bit of hate and rhetoric and incentives [for] people to create pages where they can churn out very, very inciting comments and conspiracy theories that can have a tremendously negative effect on someone’s mental health, on their physical safety.”

The duchess also expressed the need to support mothers. She is supporting a study into the representation of motherhood in the media.

“My husband and I, our foundation the Archewell Foundation, helped to fund it because from our standpoint—and certainly from mine—it felt vital to see the information,” Meghan recalled. “It’s just always loved understanding women and our stories and our lives experiences and our shared experiences. I was really curious to see what the report would uncover.”

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“The way we see ourselves is reflected accurately or sometimes to our disservice, inaccurately,” she added. “From a philanthropic standpoint there is obviously a lot of work to be done supporting moms. You can start with paid leave.”

In an effort to make further progress with the portrayal of mothers on screen, the Sussexes’ production company, Archewell Productions, is working to ensure that they are “responsibly filling in the roles of moms and women in a way that is accurate.”

“I’ve said this for so many years and I hope it starts to land, but I think we can all agree that representation matters,” the actress expressed.

“As I was saying earlier when you’re a new mom, it’s a really vulnerable time. The effect that social media can have on new mothers, even just the lack of sleep because they spend all this time scrolling, but it can also be really dizzying for them to see this portrayal of motherhood that looks so perfect when we all know it’s not perfect. We all know that it’s messy. I’m fortunate in that, among the privileges I have in my life, I have an incredible partner,” Meghan said, motioning to her husband, Prince Harry, who sat front row in the audience.

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“My husband is such a hands-on dad and such a supporter of me and my family. That I don't take for granted. That is a real blessing. But a lot of people don’t have that same level of support,” she continued. “So I think for us, it’s about putting safeguards in so women, and moms especially, can not feel like they’re even more vulnerable when they go online.”

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