On Friday, the September Issue of the British edition of Vogue went on sale. September is a notoriously big time of the year for the world of fashion and the illustrious magazine’s coverage of this month typically warrants a lot of attention. There’s even an entire issue about Anna Wintour and American Vogue prepping for this publication. After many months of rumors, it was revealed that UK Vogue’s 2019 September issue would be guest-edited by Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex. The cover, centered on the theme of Forces For Change, included 15 prominent women from the worlds of fashion, politics, entertainment, and activism, including Greta Thunberg, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and Jane Fonda. The issue includes an interview with Jane Goodall, conducted by Prince Harry, and pieces on Meghan’s work with the charity Smart Works, of which she is a royal patron. Overall, the issue, which seems to be selling well (I had to go to four shops before I found a copy), is a perfectly pleasant read that is in fitting with the current era of Vogue as well as Meghan’s own interests and agendas.
So, of course, the British press is angry about it.
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We are proud to announce that Her Royal Highness, The Duchess of Sussex is the Guest Editor for the September issue of @BritishVogue. For the past seven months, The Duchess has curated the content with British Vogue's Editor-in-Chief Edward Enninful to create an issue that highlights the power of the collective. They have named the issue: “Forces for Change” For the cover, The Duchess chose a diverse selection of women from all walks of life, each driving impact and raising the bar for equality, kindness, justice and open mindedness. The sixteenth space on the cover, a mirror, was included so that when you hold the issue in your hands, you see yourself as part of this collective. The women on the cover include: @AdwoaAboah @AdutAkech @SomaliBoxer @JacindaArdern @TheSineadBurke @Gemma_Chan @LaverneCox @JaneFonda @SalmaHayek @FrankieGoesToHayward @JameelaJamilOfficial @Chimamanda_Adichie @YaraShahidi @GretaThunberg @CTurlington We are excited to announce that within the issue you’ll find: an exclusive interview between The Duchess and former First Lady of the United States Michelle Obama, a candid conversation between The Duke of Sussex and Dr Jane Goodall, inspirational articles written by Brené Brown, Jameela Jamil and many others. Equally, you’ll find grassroots organisations and incredible trailblazers working tirelessly behind the scenes to change the world for the better. • “Guest Editing the September issue of British Vogue has been rewarding, educational and inspiring. To deep dive into this process, working quietly behind the scenes for so many months, I am happy to now be able to share what we have created. A huge thanks to all of the friends who supported me in this endeavour, lending their time and energy to help within these pages and on the cover. Thank you for saying “Yes!” - and to Edward, thank you for this wonderful opportunity.” - The Duchess of Sussex #ForcesForChange
That’s right, it’s time for another round of the world’s most soul-sucking and repetitive game show, What Is Everyone Blaming Meghan Markle For Now?! I should get some theme music for this.
We always knew Meghan getting involved with Vogue would rile up the usual crowd. When the cover was revealed, Dan Wootton of The Sun went on a long rant about how Royals just don’t guest-edit magazines (except for when they do). The current angle of attack is that Meghan shouldn’t have collaborated with such an exclusionary publication like Vogue because it doesn’t connect to ‘normal people’. Camilla Tominey of The Telegraph — and also the royal reporter who first broke the story of Meghan and Prince Harry dating — claimed she was being ‘patronizing’ with the cover. And then she pulled this nonsense.
"I wonder whether Meghan was conscious of the bias she showed in choosing 15 ‘forces for change’ for the Vogue cover, all of whom were women, of which only five were white?" writes @CamillaTominey https://t.co/FSGmJINa4Z— The Telegraph (@Telegraph) August 3, 2019
There you go, friends. Meghan is being misguided and elitist and not a true voice for change because she didn’t let any white men on her Vogue cover. Not only that, but most of the women weren’t white? This is unacceptable. What’s next? Equal pay? Tominey then tried to change gears by claiming that her article was actually calling out the lack of inclusion in the magazine’s history. Her article does not do that.
No, I'm questioning why a woman of colour would throw such fulsome support behind a magazine which doesn't properly represent women of colour. https://t.co/asdDZBfXvW— Camilla Tominey (@CamillaTominey) August 3, 2019
This isn’t the first time Tominey has tried to stir up some really hostile race-related hatred towards Meghan. In reporting on the cookbook Meghan worked on with Al Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre to raise funds for victims of the Grenfell Tower fire, Tominey linked the community kitchen, and by extension Meghan, to terrorism.
Putting aside the patronizing whitesplaining of telling women of color what does and doesn’t properly represent them, this is further evidence of Tominey’s lack of knowledge in the current era of British Vogue. Edward Enninful took over the job of editor-in-chief in 2017, following on from Alexandra Shulman, who held the post for 25 years. Shulman had infamously said that she didn’t ‘think fashion is institutionally racist in the slightest’, and that her tenure being defined by an almost entirely white team and white women on the covers wasn’t evidence to the contrary. Enninful is a gay black man from working-class roots who has committed to diversifying Vogue, both on the page and off. In that aspect, what he has created with Meghan for this issue is pretty similar to the work he’s done at the magazine since taking over.
The British press is currently screaming about Meghan’s Vogue cover for being ‘too political’ because it includes a climate change activist, or ‘too woke’, which you can read as ‘too diverse’. If they’d read the issue, then they would have seen a pretty standard edition of Enninful-era Vogue. That’s not a bad thing, of course. Enninful’s work is dynamic, varied, very much in line with the magazine’s ethos but for the current age. The women on the cover of the Forces For Change issue are more likely than ever to be seen in the pages of Vogue now than they were even three or four years ago. It’s exciting to see women like Laverne Cox, Greta Thunberg, and Sinéad Burke on the cover of a magazine that used to represent elitism and shirked at the idea of opening its doors a little wider.
There’s little in the magazine itself that’s truly radical, but what do you expect from a Conde Nast publication working in collaboration with a member of the British Royal Family? The women featured on the cover get a brief paragraph or two on their activism and the issues they support but nothing especially substantive. Granted, these aren’t necessarily ‘safe’ causes for a royal to support — Britain is currently rampant with transphobia so seeing Cox be supported by Meghan does have its power — but by the way the British press is talking about it, you’d think she’d thrown her weight behind the decriminalization of sex work or gun control. But that gets to the heart of the problem here: Meghan is an easy target for the press, in large part because she is a black American woman, but also because she hasn’t shut up and followed the stifling rules demanded of women who marry into the Windsors. She plays an active role in her patronages in a way that requires her to have a voice. Royals exist to be a decoration but tradition dictates that we demand a certain level of labor from them, but nothing too controversial or flashy. Meghan was already a celebrity when she married Harry and she knows how to play that game effectively. She’s done so with real skill since becoming a Duchess, grabbing attention and using the tools at her disposal to get the most out of the limitation of her position. But the press doesn’t really want her to do that. They want her to wear nice clothes and cut ribbons and shake kids’ hands but not say anything.
As always, with stories like this, whenever Meghan is being dragged by the press for no damn reason, assume the palace is trying to cover up something much nastier and their favored journalists are helping man the shields. We still haven’t heard from Prince Andrew in a while. Isn’t that convenient?
Death to the monarchy but protect Meghan at all costs, and we’ll see you next time for another spine-tingling edition of What Is Everyone Blaming Meghan Markle For Now?!
Header Image Source: Getty Images.