When Meghan Markle took the stage on Wednesday alongside Prince Harry, Kate Middleton, and Prince William, she broached a subject that the royals in the room had yet to directly address in public: the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements. The soon-to-be royal discussed what people are getting wrong about women’s empowerment and how these movements helped steer the conversation in the right direction.
“I hear a lot of people speaking about girls’ empowerment and women’s empowerment—you will hear people saying they are helping women find their voices,” she said at the event highlighting The Royal Foundation. “I fundamentally disagree with that because women don’t need to find their voices—they need to be empowered to use it and people need to be urged to listen.”
“Right now with so many campaigns like #MeToo and Time’s Up, there’s no better time to continue to shine a light on women feeling empowered and people supporting them,” she continued.
Her outspoken support of the movement draws a stark contrast between the actress and her future sister-in-law Kate Middleton, who skipped the unofficial all-black dress code at the BAFTAs earlier this month and instead wore a dark green dress with a black sash.
The royals are reportedly expected to abstain from making political statements, which could explain why the duchess didn’t wear black to the award show. But publicly supporting Time’s Up on stage is even more of a statement than choosing a black dress, so why did Markle feel comfortable doing so?
The fact that she’s not yet a royal could factor into the occasion, as the former Suits star won’t officially become a part of the family until her wedding on May 19. But as Harry’s fiancée, the rules should still apply, which means that her activist background is more likely the cause of her comfort in speaking out about the issue.
Long before Meghan met Harry, the American actress began her career as a women’s rights activist. At just 11 years old, she appeared on Nick News to protest gender inequality. Markle was asked to watch a few commercials for a school assignment, and realized a common theme: women were portrayed as belonging at home and in the kitchen.
“I don’t think it’s right for kids to grow up thinking these things, that just Mom does everything,” she said. “It’s always Mom does this and Mom does that.” Markle was particularly offended by a commercial that said, “Women are fighting greasy pots and pans.” She wrote a letter to Proctor & Gamble, who listened and changed their wording to include men as well.
“If you see something that you don’t like or are offended by on television or any other place, write letters and send them to the right people, and you can really make a difference for not just yourself but lots of other people,” she said.
That was just the beginning of her history of advocacy. Markle became a UN Women’s Advocate for Political Participation and Leadership, traveling around the world to empower girls and women to embrace their potential as leaders.
“I am proud to be a woman and a feminist,” Markle said in a speech at a UN Women conference in 2015, explaining what exactly that means. “A wife is equal to her husband, a sister to her brother. Not better, not worse. They are equal.”
“UN Women, as you guys know, has defined the year 2030 as the expiration date for gender inequality. And here’s what’s staggering: The studies show that at the current rate, the elimination of gender inequality won’t be possible until 2095,” she said. “This has to change. Women make up more than half of the world’s population and potential, so it is neither just nor practical for their voices, for our voices, to go unheard at the highest levels of decision-making.”
Markle also has a history of getting political. In a 2016 interview, before she was engaged to Prince Harry, the actress branded President Trump a divisive misogynist, even joking about staying in Canada (where she was filming Suits) if he won the election.
“If that’s the reality we are talking about, come on, that is a game changer in terms of how we move in the world here,” she said on The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore. “Yes, of course, Trump is divisive,” she added. “I think it was in 2012, the Republican Party lost the female vote by 12 points. That’s a huge number and with as misogynistic as Trump is and so vocal about it, that’s a huge chunk of it.”
While Markle’s public admonishing of President Trump will likely stop when she becomes a royal, her advocacy for women’s rights and empowerment won’t. The star has promised to “hit the ground running” in support of the cause after her May 19 wedding to Prince Harry. “I’m learning as much as I can to help maximize the opportunity,” she said on stage Wednesday.
Markle’s outspoken advocacy shows no signs of slowing down.