Tom Slater

The infuriating truth about Harry and Meghan’s activism

The infuriating truth about Harry and Meghan's activism
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‘Why do you lot hate Harry and Meghan so much?’ It’s a question the formerly royal couple’s supporters often ask whenever the pair trend on Twitter, as a clip of the Sussexes’ latest pronouncement, or news of their latest corporate deal, goes viral.

They think they already know the answer of course: it is sexism, racism or probably both. Meghan is a woman of colour who dares to speak out about equality and this infuriates gammons and ‘anti-woke’ commentators alike.

But the answer is actually very simple, and has nothing to do with Meghan’s skin colour or sex. Harry and Meghan are profoundly annoying. They are virtue-signalling made flesh. They are poster children for a strange new kind of ‘activism’ that manages to be cringey, preachy, narcissistic, faintly ridiculous and incredibly remunerative at the same time. And that really gets people’s backs up.

Just take the announcement this week of their new deal with Procter & Gamble. Harry and Meghan’s Archewell Foundation has announced it will be going into partnership with the American household products giant to ‘elevate the voices of adolescent girls’ in the fight for ‘gender equity’. Apparently this will ‘focus on gender equality, more inclusive online spaces, and resilience and impact through sport’.

The Archewell Foundation is the non-profit arm of the Sussexes’ burgeoning empire, alongside their ‘creative activations’ – i.e., eye-watering deals with Spotify and Netflix. For the Sussexes, their non-profit and for-profit work is all aimed at ‘unleash[ing] the power of compassion to drive systemic cultural change’.

What this partnership with Procter & Gamble is precisely aiming to do isn’t spelled out. The press release talks of 'elevat[ing] the voices' of women and girls and ‘building a better online environment’ alongside more concrete things like backing Paralympic sport. But no doubt it will offer the couple an even bigger platform on which to proffer their wispy platitudes about ‘compassion’ to an adoring media and bemused public.

This particular partnership apparently holds a certain sentimental value for Markle. Indeed, her first foray into ‘activism’ involved complaining to Procter & Gamble as an 11-year-old – about a sexist dish-soap advert which proclaimed that ‘women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans’.

She wrote to Hillary Clinton, a kids-TV network, famed women’s rights lawyer Gloria Allred, as well as Procter & Gamble itself. As a result, the precocious preteen got herself a TV interview, a letter from the then first lady, and P&G even changed the ad. 

Markle recounted all this, visibly swelling with self-pride, in a speech at a UN Women’s Conference in 2015. Now this plucky women’s rights activist is joining forces with that corporate behemoth to liberate women the world over somehow.

At what point progressive politics became about complaining about offensive adverts as a child and then dining out on the story for two decades is not entirely clear. But that, regrettably, is the world we now live in. Virtue-signalling has become conflated with progressivism. Activism is now not so much what you do or set out to achieve, but who you are. The professed aim of helping others has for many become just a convenient means to talk endlessly about oneself.

And as progressive politics has become all about platitudes, it has also become incredibly lucrative. The bosses at places like P&G can feel good about themselves by bunging cash at the odd initiative or tweeting the odd hashtag, cleansing themselves of capitalist guilt without really having to give anything up.

Harry and Meghan embody all of this. And that’s why people find them so annoying.