Meghan Markle recounts childhood story at SXSW women's media panel: 'Your voice is not small'

Left: Meghan Markle as a teenager, Right: Meghan Markle speaking at SXSW on International Women's Day

Today, in honor of International Women’s Day, Meghan Markle, Brooke Shields, Katie Couric, and sociologist Nancy Wang Yuen headlined a panel at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX. 

The opening day panel — titled “Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen” — was moderated by journalist Errin Haines and centered on representation of women in media. 

“I’m so excited to be here, and to be with such incredible women,” the Duchess of Sussex said at the top of the SXSW panel. “So much brilliance on this panel, and just such an amazing way to celebrate International Women’s Day.” 

Throughout the panel, Markle and her co-panelists touched on the portrayal of women in entertainment, how far media representation has come, and how far it still has to go. 

At one point, Couric encouraged Markle to share a childhood anecdote about writing strongly worded letters to manufacturing company Proctor & Gamble at just 11 years old. 

“I don’t know if everyone’s heard it, but it’s such a great story — at a very young age — what you did,” Couric prompted. 

“I’d seen a commercial on TV for a dishwashing liquid that’s like… ‘Women all over America are fighting greasy pots and pans.’ And the boys in my class at the time said, ‘Yeah, that’s where women belong, in the kitchen,’” Markle recalled. 

“And at 11, I just found that infuriating and wrote lots of letters and put pen to paper, and they ended up changing the commercial to ‘People all over America.’” 

Markle said that it’s funny to look back on her story now, when social media seemingly has a “greater reach” than a kid with a “pen and paper.” 

“But it just goes to show that if you know that there’s something wrong and you’re using 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,” Markle concluded. “Your voice is not small, it just needs to be heard.” 

On the same day of the panel, Moms First and the Geena Davis Institute released a report titled: “Rewriting Motherhood: How TV Represents Moms and What We Want To See Next.” The study was backed by the Archewell Foundation, a nonprofit run by Markle and her husband Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex. 

When asked about the study at the panel, Markle said that it sought to hold media companies accountable for gender gaps in representation. 

“On a personal level, I’ve just always loved understanding women and our stories and our lived experiences and our shared experiences, so I was  really curious to see what the report was going to uncover,” Markle said. 

“Oftentimes as women, the way that we see ourselves is reflected back to us, sometimes accurately, and sometimes — much to our disservice — inaccurately, in what we see in media.” 

She added, “To be able to have the findings to uncover what we can do to propel that, to make sure that women are really feeling seen in a way that is reflective of who and how we are and how we move through the world felt important.”

Header images courtesy of Inside Edition and SXSW/YouTube

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March 8, 2024 2:41 PM
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