Last Weekend Toxic Men, Once Again, Coerced Women
Rapper Offset and Meghan Markle's father Thomas Markle displayed a harmful impulse to use gendered expectations for their own vindication.
Scott Duddleson, Max Mumby Getty Images
This past weekend Offset stormed the stage at Cardi B's headlining set at Rolling Loud Music Festival to beg for forgiveness and reconciliation, and Meghan Markle's dad, Thomas Markle, went on national television in Britain to complain about being "ghosted" by his daughter. The conversation around toxic masculinity has blown up on the internet, yet again, only this time the oddly related incidents highlight the double standards that force women to act with composure no matter how manipulative men in their life are being.
Fans were quick to come down on Offset for bringing his heartbreak into Cardi’s professional space. They were also furious with the festival itself and Cardi's publicist, who she's defended, for allowing and possibly enabling this public display. Because women are expected to maintain their composure in public, especially with their exes, Offset basically cornered her in a situation where she couldn't fully express her anger. Instead, she had to dismiss him quickly and calmly enough to finish her set. And once fans started criticizing him online, Cardi even had to stick up for the man that embarrassed her, defending him from a wave of online harassment.
It's not just exes who act this way. Thomas Markle displayed a similar disregard for his daughter Meghan Markle's boundaries when he went on Good Morning Britain to voice his disappointment over being shut out of her life. Tabloids first started noticing tension in their relationship in the build up to the royal wedding when there was controversy about whether or not he coordinated paparazzi photoshoots of himself. He claimed she hasn’t been returning any of his messages and he’s still never met Prince Harry.
But for a man who has a lot of negative rumors swarming around him about his behavior and his motives, he took no ownership over his part in the breakdown of their relationship. With the help of interviewer Piers Morgan who reportedly has his own personal gripes with Markle, he paints a lopsided picture of their relationship where he is the innocent, confused father and she a hysterical, irrational woman. He calls her “a very controlling person” saying, “that’s part of her nature, but she’s never rude.” It's always suspicious when a man calls another woman controlling, especially in the context of aggressively trying to seize power back from her through public humiliation. His language is both paternal and rife with the same politics of any man who believes they can define a woman's boundaries for her.
Thomas Markle's particular choice of “rude” also strikes at the gendered double standard women from Markle to Cardi B face. Women are rewarded for keeping their composure and elegance in the face of controversy, even when they are the victim. Men exploit this expectation when they attempt to take back power by cornering women in a situation where they are forced to respond "appropriately." Fame adds public pressure, and men leverage this expectation of civility as a way to exert control over women and discredit the boundaries they've set.
Offset may have been more apologetic than Markle, but both men were attempting to conjure public sympathy toward their own cause and cast doubt on women who stood up for themselves. The public pressure they wielded was coercive and relied on centuries old tropes about the ever-forgiving spirit of women and the assumption that women must be seen as agreeable.
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