No longer silent, or si-lenced (in best Oprah voice, of course), Meghan, Duchess of Sussex is officially back in the spotlight! And this time it’s on her own terms, using her own voice, through her new podcast.
Archetypes is a 12-episode series on Spotify that promises to delve into the harmful “labels and tropes” aiming to tear women down. You know the ones. Bossy. Hysterical. Diva.
“Some of these words, these labels, are harsh. They’re abrasive. And I want to get to the bottom of where they come from, why they’ve stuck around for so long and importantly, how we can move past them,” Meghan says in her first episode where she chats to BFF and tennis legend Serena Williams as well as Dr Laura Kray, a professor and researcher in gender topics at the University of California, Berkley. Together, they unpack the word “ambitious”, the negative connotations behind it and remind us that embracing our dreams and striving to achieve is actually a good thing.
Here are four lessons we can all take away from Meghan’s new podcast:
1. Ambitious women are awesome
Read most papers and it’s pretty clear the word “ambitious” has been weaponised against both Meghan and Serena to take on a more ruthless meaning.
“I don’t ever remember personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ‘ambitious’ until I started dating my now husband,” Meghan says. “So, since I’ve felt the negativity behind it, it’s really hard to un-feel it. I can’t un-see it either, in the millions of girls and women who make themselves smaller – so much smaller – on a regular basis.”
During their chat, the duo remind us to reclaim the word. To embrace who we are. And to not make our selves smaller. Because without ambition, would Serena have been ranked No.1 for 319 weeks by the Women’s Tennis Association? Would she have won 23 Grand Slam Titles? Or 14 major doubles titles?
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2. Beware of the double standard
Both Meghan and Serena highlight how ambitious women are often framed in a negative light by the media.
“There’s one article that said this guy was passionate and I had a meltdown,” Serena says. “I was like, wait, how do I have a meltdown but this guy’s passionate?”
And no, it’s not just a one-off thing that happens to legendary female tennis stars. There’s a whole body of research that shows identical behaviour is rated more negatively when it’s a woman who’s being ambitious than a man.
“So an ambitious woman is power hungry, is manipulative, is not trusted, whereas an ambitious man is seen as ‘I want to emulate him. He’s a role model’,” Dr Kray explains.
Can you imagine the changes we can make if we’re aware of these double standards, instead of mindlessly consuming them?
3. Ambition and motherhood can co-exist
When Serena’s daughter, Olympia, was almost one, she broke her wrist and ended up in hospital. Serena stayed up with her all night, then played at the French Open the next day running on 30 minutes of sleep.
It’s a story she hadn’t shared until now because of the double standards Serena’s felt as an ambitious working mother. As Dr Kray goes on to explain, women who return to work after having kids and attempt to perform at the highest level are “violating people’s expectations” of what their priorities should be – their children. Men on the other hand? “It benefits them career-wise when they have kids” either through increased pay, promotions or support.”
So a little less judgement perhaps for the mamas with big careers ? A little more understanding? Oh and if you’re wondering, yes Serena did win her match!
4. It’s important to give each other a break
Sharing a story about facing royal duties while still shaken from a fire in her son Archie’s nursery, Meghan highlights how a deeper understanding of women as living, breathing, feeling humans may help challenge archetypes.
“Part of the humanising and breaking through of these labels and these archetypes and these boxes that we’re put into is having some understanding on the human moments behind the scenes that people might not have any awareness of and to give each other a break.”
‘Archetypes’ is out now on Spotify.
(Feature Image Credit: Naresh 777/ Shutterstock)