If you Google "husband defend his wife" in any variation, you'll find an assortment of results that suggest this is an actual thing people have to ask. Not so for the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, however. Prince Harry's defending Meghan Markle ahead of filing a lawsuit against Associated Newspapers has won hearts and made waves.
Much as when Alexis Ohanian stood up for Serena Williams over an allegedly racist cartoon published by the Herald Sun in 2018, people all over are praising Harry for sticking up for his wife, for speaking out when she was being bullied and treated poorly, for saying "enough is enough" when it comes to the well-being of the woman he loves. And I love it, but the praise for Harry shouldn't be that heavy. Defending your wife when she is attacked by the press internationally, through pregnancy and early parenthood, should absolutely be the low bar set for those who want to marry.
This confuses some people. The internet is rife with tweeters trying to make sense of how a strong, independent lady can open her own door, thank you very much, but might still expect a man to come to her defense when the pitchforks arrive to carry them off like Goody Proctor in The Crucible.
As one such lady, Meghan has shown that she can open her own doors (as well as close them!) and battle the press practically single-handedly over attacks from her estranged father and half-sister, random gossipers, and British plague Piers Morgan.
It is an act of love, but it's not a rescue mission.
Harry's defense comes not because she can't handle all of it, not because she can't power through and be the empowered, confident woman doing good for the world that most know her to be, but because Prince Harry is her damn husband. And fairytale wedding or not, castle to call home or a one-bedroom apartment, sticking up for your spouse is a huge part of marriage.
Of course I'm glad that men with powerful voices, and equally powerful women, are speaking out and saying "enough" on behalf of their partners. It is an act of love, but it's not a rescue mission.
Women are used to being marginalized, and women of color, like Meghan and Serena, especially. We're used to having our voices ignored and overlooked while, unfortunately, our husbands often have their opinions and actions held in a higher regard.
A few years ago, at an Oktoberfest celebration, a girlfriend and I sat down at a table to wait for our partners — her boyfriend and my husband — as they grabbed food and drinks for the four of us. Almost immediately, a group of men came over and asked if we wanted to join them for dinner. We declined, but they persisted, continuing to talk to us even after we said we weren't interested, and also that we had partners with us. (In that order.) Before we could protest, they had already sat at the table with us, continuing to talk as if we had invited them, and didn't let up until our partners arrived.
When we talk about that night, it still infuriates my husband. For one, he hates that I was put in an uncomfortable situation by men who didn't care about my own feelings, and two, he hates that the men didn't let up until he was there to tell them to go away.
Women are strong and relentless and not as easily intimidated by criticism as men. We're used to it — men are not.
It's not that a husband's words hold more weight than their partner necessarily. It's that society doesn't give a sh*t about women, doesn't care what they have to say. The world talks about women having agency over themselves, of feeling empowered in their own thoughts and ideas, but any woman in a conference room full of men can tell you that she's never truly heard until a man agrees with her.
At the point Princess Diana escaped a loveless marriage to a man who never really wanted to marry her, she was indefensive. And Harry speaking out for Meghan, reminding the world that he won't let what happened to his mother happen to his wife, isn't just bucking the trend of media attacking women — it's his commitment to his wife in action.
Chances are, Meghan was the one trying to calm Harry down in the wings. Women are strong and relentless and not as easily intimidated by criticism as men. We're used to it — men are not. And it reminds me of Chrissy Teigen having to publicly assert that she is a separate person than John Legend, and that asking him if he's bothered by the things she says is the ultimate form of sexism. Nobody asks if Meghan Markle is bothered by things Prince Harry says or does or wears. Nobody looks to Williams to ask her if what Ohanian told the media was OK by her. And nobody wonders if my husband's football tweets are approved by me. (They are not.)
So when strong, empowered, confident women disrupt the delicate balance that people like Piers Morgan are used to (the balance being where everyone who has a different opinion than him shuts up), it's no wonder we have to call in our husbands. There have been several times where I've posted something passionate on Facebook — something about gun control or immigration or how I feel about Trump voters — and looked to my husband to preemptively apologize. Not for who I am or what I've said, but because I know he'll hear about it, in some capacity, from someone else.
But my husband says what all husbands should say: "Don't be sorry, babe. It doesn't bother me at all."
And until it hits that fever pitch — when a husband is legit worried about his wife's safety because of the criticism she's facing — it won't. But then all bets are off. Because love is a powerful thing, and Prince Harry has shown it. This is more than a beautiful wedding photo or the way he looks at her just days after giving birth to his son — this is love put in four-wheel drive. And everyone should probably back off.