Meghan Markle turns 42: We celebrate her best feminist quotes

Meghan Markle has delivered some great feminist quotes, pictured in April 2022. (Getty Images)
Meghan Markle has delivered some great feminist quotes, pictured in April 2022. (Getty Images)

Meghan Markle is celebrating her 42nd birthday, and if it's anything like recent years, any celebration for the occasion seems likely to be low-key.

After stepping back from her role as a senior royal in 2020, alongside her husband Prince Harry, and moving to the US, the Duchess of Sussex has kept a considerably lower profile.

But just because she isn't in the spotlight as much, doesn't mean the mum-of-two is going to stay silent on the subjects that really matter to her.

From her powerful speech on the importance of gender equality at a UN Women summit in 2015, to discussing the significance of women's suffrage while on a royal tour of New Zealand in 2018, the royal has long been a vocal advocate for women's issues.

So what better way to mark her birthday than to take a look back at some of Markle's most powerful quotes on feminism and women’s rights from over the years?

On women's sexuality being used against them

Last year saw Meghan try her hand at podcasting with the release of the first series of Archetypes, which aimed to unpick labels attached to women and to try and dismantle the negative connotations attached to many of them.

The series was filled with Meghan's feminist opinions, and expertise and insights from campaigners, researchers and even from high profile figures like Mariah Carey and Serena William's who discussed the labels they felt had held them back.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05: Meghan, Duchess of Sussex makes the keynote speech during the Opening Ceremony of the One Young World Summit 2022 at The Bridgewater Hall on September 05, 2022 in Manchester, England. The annual One Young World Summit brings together more than two thousand of the brightest young leaders from every country and sector, working to accelerate social impact both in-person and digitally. Meghan is a counsellor for the organisation, alongside Justin Trudeau, Sir Richard Branson, and Jamie Oliver, among others. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)
Although keeping a relatively low-profile since leaving royal life behind, Meghan still speaks up about the causes that matter most to her. (Getty Images)

In one episode, Meghan discussed the ways that women's sexual history is regularly used against them, whilst men are praised for the same behaviour.

"I give the example of, you know, for a woman especially versus a man, a man — if he is a player or out having fun or whatever he's doing — it's often celebrated, even heralded."

Meghan noted that it's not as simple for women: "for a woman, I don't care if she's is perhaps the most successful woman in finance in her mid-50s, I promise you someone will still go, 'yeah but she was such a s**t in college.'"

"I don't understand what it is about the stigma surrounding women and their sexuality, the exploration of their sexuality that is so much more vilified than for a man," she also said.

On men being feminists too

In 2022, the US Supreme court ended constitutional protections for abortion that have been in place for nearly 50 years by deciding to overturn the landmark Roe v Wade ruling.

In response to the decision, the Duchess of Sussex and feminist icon Gloria Steinem shared their thoughts on the US Supreme Court's controversial ruling in a joint interview for Vogue.

When asked what she would say to men who support reproductive rights, Markle told journalist Jessica Yellin that men "need to be vocal in this moment and beyond because these are decisions that affect relationships, families and communities at large".

"They may target women, but the consequences impact all of us," she continued. "My husband and I talked about that a lot over the past few days.

"He’s a feminist too.

"I know that for so many women right now, there is a sentiment of despair," she added. "But again, we have to band together and not wallow. We have to do the work."

The Duchess of Sussex often speaks out about women's rights, pictured in May 2018. (Getty Images)
The Duchess of Sussex often speaks out about women's rights, pictured in May 2018. (Getty Images)

On needing female activists

July 2020: In a speech at Girl Up, a UN conference aimed at young female activists, she said: “This is a humanity that desperately needs you. To push it, to push us, forcefully in a more inclusive, more just, and more empathetic direction.

“To not only frame the debate, but be in charge of the debate – on racial justice, gender, climate change, mental health and wellbeing, on civic engagement, on public service, on so much more. That’s the work you’re already out there doing."

Watch: The Duke and Duchess of Sussex arrive at the UN General Assembly

On empowering young male feminists

March 2020: During a surprise school visit ahead of International Women's Day Markle called on teenage boys to "value and appreciate" the women in their lives, urging them to "set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way".

“I just encourage and empower each of you to really stand in your truth, to stand for what is right, to continue to respect each other, for you young men to continue to value and appreciate the women in your lives and also set the example for some men who are not seeing it that same way.”

On why feminism is about fairness

October 2018: In a speech made in New Zealand shortly after they were married, she said: “Women’s suffrage is about feminism, but feminism is about fairness.

“Women’s suffrage is not simply about the right to vote for women, but also about what that represents: the basic and fundamental human right of all people, including those members of society who have been marginalised whether for reasons of race, gender, ethnicity or orientation, to be able to participate in the choices for their future and their community.”

Read more: International Women's Day: The Royal Family's most feminist moments

Meghan, Duchess of Sussex gives a speech during a visit to the
Markle uses her platform to raise issues around women's rights, pictured in September 2019. (Getty Images)

On women supporting each other

September 2019: In a speech at the launch of her Smart Works capsule collection, Markle said: “As women, it is 100% our responsibility, I think, to support and uplift each other, to champion each other as we aim to succeed, to not set each other up for failure but instead to really be there rallying around each other and say I want to help you.”

Read more: Meghan Markle's six most significant royal moments in 600 days

JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - OCTOBER 02: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex visit Tembisa township to learn about Youth Employment Services (YES) on October 2, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa. The Duke and Duchess of Sussex are on an official visit to South Africa. (Photo by Facundo Arrizabalaga - Pool/Getty Images)
Markle says her husband Prince Harry is a feminist, pictured in October 2019. (Getty Images)

On why men should show vulnerability

March 2019: In a panel debate after she was given her commonwealth role, which marked International Women’s Day in 2019, she said: “I’ve said for a long time, you can be feminine and a feminist.

“You can be masculine and a feminist, and I think in terms of masculinity you understand that your strength includes knowing your vulnerability.”

She later said: “Your confidence comes in knowing that a woman by your side, not behind you, is actually something you shouldn't be threatened about but, opposed to that, you should feel really empowered in having that additional support. That this is really about us working together.

“That's what gender equality means for me, and having men part of that conversation saying there's nothing threatening about a woman coming up to the same level. It's our safety in numbers. This is our power and our strength as a team. And that's gender neutral, if you really think about it. So I hope that men are part of the conversation. My husband certainly is.”

Read more: Meghan Markle urges girls to 'chase convictions with action' in powerful speech

When she played Rachel Zane, Markle took a stand against all the towel scenes she had to do. (Getty Images)

On period shame and education

March 2017: In an article for Time magazine she wrote: “As a female in India, the challenge of survival begins at birth, first overcoming female feticide, then being victim to malnourishment, potentially abuse, and lack of access to proper sanitation facilities. Why, if she is able to overcome all of these challenges and finally get to school, should her education and potential to succeed, be sacrificed because of shame surrounding her period?”

“To break the cycle of poverty, and to achieve economic growth and sustainability in developing countries, young women need access to education. When we empower girls hungry for education, we cultivate women who are emboldened to effect change within their communities and globally.”