This week, antimonarchist and feminist South Africans have had to deal with a bit of brain confusion as we’ve tried to reconcile some “good news” headlines with our own, deeply held opposing beliefs.
The first piece of news was that Miss South Africa, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters, won the Miss Universe pageant. Now, because I am a feminist, beauty pageants are not my thing.
I think that there’s a direct line between the beautiful women who participate in such events and people like Donald Trump. We objectify those women for the satisfaction of men who believe that a woman’s role is to be gorgeous and feminine and not much else. So, yup, not my thing.
BUT, you know, she’s South African, so that’s great. Also, did you hear the thing about how she punched the hijacker in the throat? That was cool. She’s more than a pretty face – she’s also got a mean left hook. AND she’s campaigning for equal pay for women, so there’s that.
And really if we can celebrate people for winning the genetic lottery of being born clever or athletic, can we not celebrate the ones who are born lovely looking as well? Believe me, it takes a lot of hard work and commitment to get natural beauty to pageant-level gorgeousness.
And so we flip-flop between our firmly held progressive beliefs and our stirrings of national pride, as Nel-Peters is celebrated around the world.
The second bit of interesting news this week was that Prince Harry has gotten himself engaged to Meghan Markle, a rather lovely, poised and interesting woman with heaps of her own agency. Again, here, we have to consider our interest in the engagement against the backdrop of antimonarchism.
Fortunately, as South Africans, we are not required to have a stance on the matter of whether unelected officials should be allowed to continue to leech taxpayers’ money – oh, will you look at that? Seems I do have an opinion.
I certainly have an opinion on whether ELECTED officials should be allowed to improve their homes to the value of R250 million with South African taxpayers’ money. So, despite the fact that I am a South African living in South Africa, I can see appreciate the argument against the royals.
However, a royal wedding is a lovely thing. There will be interesting if slightly dowdy below-the-knee-length guest outfits to look at. There will be a white dress and carriages. And the celebrity quotient should go up a notch because Markle is an American actress. Do you think Angelina Jolie will go? Or Scarlett Johannsson? There will be fascinators. I love a good fascinator line-up.
But the really interesting thing about Markle is that she is biracial. This shouldn’t really be unusual (I mean, gosh, a biracial woman is not a hard thing to come by) but in the context of the fact that she is marrying into Britain’s royalty, that’s pretty remarkable.
Let’s not forget that this is an institution that only a generation ago required another prince’s bride to have her virginity verified by her uncle before the wedding could go ahead. Ick.
So for that same family to be embracing, it would seem, a biracial American woman into their fold is a sign of progress.
And I believe that this sort of progress is indicative a broader societal advancement – and maybe in a few generations it won’t be news when a white guy marries a black woman at all, ever, in any culture. Here’s hoping.
So, while our interest in and celebration of these two news events may seem at odds with our firmly held beliefs, at the same time, there is quite a lot to think about, talk about and be hopeful about as these stories play out. Congratulations to Nel-Peters Markle and Prince Harry. I may not agree with everything you stand for, but at least you’re all being interesting while you’re doing it.