Over the last couple of years, we have all witnessed the “exodus” of Prince Harry from the British Royal family. The world has watched with keen eyes as he has bravely chosen to reject the traditional expectations, placed upon a male heir to the British throne.
Instead, we have seen Prince Harry carve out a completely new path for himself and his wife while shattering centuries of draconian, systemic sexism, bias, and mental health stigma.
Harry has refused to remain silent in the face of injustice and discrimination. Instead of quietly doing “what was expected of him” and just smiling for the cameras, while accepting a life of suffering behind the scenes, where his every move was dictated and controlled; he spoke up, he spoke out and he took massive action to liberate himself and his wife from “a toxic situation”.
Stepping Back, or Stepping Up?
In January 2020, Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle released a statement on their joint Instagram account – Sussexroyal, advising that they would be stepping back as senior members of the Royal family.
In the lead-up to this point, Prince Harry had been very vocal about the “abuse and harassment” that the couple had been facing from the media, and Harry even released an official statement where he publicly claimed that he had serious concerns for his partner, Meghan Markle’s safety. In the statement, Harry’s communications team said that “a line had been crossed”:
“…Meghan Markle has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of this has been very public – the smear on the front page of a national newspaper; the racial undertones of comment pieces; and the outright sexism and racism of social media trolls…”
However, despite Harry’s public request for the media to cease and desist with their abusive and discriminatory treatment of himself and his partner, not much changed, and the couple found themselves hounded, with journalists even attempting to illegally break into Meghan’s home.
This combined with friction behind the scenes, and what the couple perceived as further mistreatment from within the Royal family, led Prince Harry to decide that enough was enough, and publicly declare that he and his wife would be stepping back from the Royal family.
Gender Bias, Mental Health Stigma & Media Harassment
Prince Harry has spoken openly about his struggle with mental health and how the constant intrusion and attacks from the media have contributed to this. But instead of being supported and applauded for his honesty in sharing his vulnerability and mental health struggles, Harry was mocked and belittled even more so by the media, with some even calling for him to stop “whining and moaning”.
Piers Morgan took a specifically harsh attitude towards the Prince, calling him a “shameless, deluded woefully-entitled hypocrite”. And it doesn’t stop there; in fact, Piers Morgan has made numerous public attacks against the Prince and his wife, even labeling him “the Petulant Prince”.
Honestly, this just makes me really sad and angry, to see a young man being publicly bashed and degraded for speaking out about the unfair harassment he has faced, and the negative consequences it has had on his mental health.
This is a prime example of why men in our society today feel “unsafe” and uncomfortable speaking up about their mental health; because if this is how the Prince of England is treated for opening up about such a personal topic, what can the average man expect to face?
And just to keep things in perspective, let’s remember, contrary to being called “the petulant Prince”, Prince Harry is an ex-soldier who served in the army for 10 years, he completed two tours in Afghanistan, saw active service, and rose to the rank of Captain.
Furthermore, Prince Harry has always been heavily involved in charity work, he has represented and fought for numerous good causes including mental health awareness, homelessness, orphaned children, wounded veterans, the environment and much more.
And yet, he has been attacked and humiliated in the press for being open and transparent about the reality of living life as a Royal.
There is a common narrative in Britain that claims that the Royal family is “too far removed from real life” and that they don’t know what it’s like to face the struggles of the average “commoner”; how could they while sitting in gilded palaces waiting on their next private jet to the Caribbean?
Prince Harry Disrupting Gender Norms
And yet, here we have a young Prince publicly stepping outside the boundaries of class, outside the traditional expectations that the Monarchy places upon a male heir, and disrupting the “status quo” of how “he should behave”, instead of keeping quiet with “a stiff upper lip” Harry chose to speak up and speak out against something that was and is deeply wrong; racism, sexism, discrimination, and mental health stigma.
Isn’t this surely what “the people” want? A high-ranking Royal who instead of behaving like a statuesque, robotic relic, shows that he has real opinions, emotions, feelings, and even mental health struggles?… just like everyone else? Then why instead of being applauded and supported for this has Prince Harry been lambasted, attacked, and ridiculed?
Is it because society struggles to see men as victims? And is it because of gender stereotypes that promote phrases like “man up”? Unfortunately, I think the answer to these questions is YES!
And what I find even more disturbing in all this is the behavior of the British press towards the Prince, especially given the history that they have with his mother…
Has anyone forgotten that Prince Harry’s mother, Princess Diana was literally hounded to death by the paparazzi in Paris? In fact, the media and paparazzi were even named by a Judge in an inquest into her death as contributors to the fatal car crash that killed her.
I feel that the Prince has had to wade through a toxic system that is completely devoid of empathy and understanding for someone who lost their mother as a young boy of 12, and who was then expected to grow up and say nothing when he saw history repeating itself.
A Positive Disruptor for Masculinity
Hasn’t Prince Harry actually done everything that traditional expectations of masculinity asked of him? And still, he is attacked, belittled, and shamed by the media. It seems like Prince Harry is “damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t ” – just like most men in society today.
No doubt if the Prince had said nothing and let the papers make racial slurs against his mixed-race wife, and hound and follow her every move, he indeed would have faced a backlash for that too. But here we have a man who has actually “done the right thing” by societal standards – and who has stood up to protect his wife and young family from mistreatment, racism, and discrimination.
If this signifies anything – it’s bravery and it’s courage. Prince Harry has had the courage to stand up against corrupt and bullying media, which also played a significant role in his mother’s untimely death. Furthermore, he has broken away from the shackles of the traditional expectations placed upon a male heir to the throne, both by society and the Monarchy; instead, he has chosen to create a new life that is more in line with his own authentic values and beliefs.
He has removed himself and his family from a toxic situation and brought them to a country where his children can be safe, and raised in a healthier environment.
Prince Harry has set a wonderful example to a whole new generation of young men and boys of what modern masculinity looks like. He has demonstrated strength in his vulnerability and led by example to show the world that you can still be a soldier and cry, you can be the Prince of England and still have mental health issues, and you can be an heir in line to the British throne, and still, show that you have emotions and feelings.
Harry is an agent for change. And he stands out as a beacon of light to an entirely new generation of boys and men. He has shown how things can be done differently, and how men can create their own definitions of masculinity.
Harry is out here disrupting traditional, outdated expectations of the male gender, and he’s demonstrating that men do not have to conform to the draconian bullshit expectations placed upon them. He’s carving out a new life and a new path for himself and his family in a safer environment, while continuing to help vulnerable people in need through his charitable work; so if that’s not an Amazing example of modern masculinity, then I don’t know what is.
I applaud you, Harry! Keep going and keep disrupting!
- prince-henry-talking: DoD photo by EJ Hersom