While serving as one of the keynote speakers for South By Southwest’s (SXSW) panel​ Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off the Screen, Meghan Markle addressed the “seemingly endless toxicity” and vitriol on social media that she and countless women deal with on a daily basis.

“We have forgotten about our humanity,” Meghan, 42, said while on a panel with Katie Couric and Brooke Shields as well as Errin Haines, the editor of The 19th, and Nancy Wang Yuen, a sociologist and pop culture expert. “I keep my distance from social media right now for my own well-being,” she continued, before adding, “Why people would be so hateful … It’s not catty, it’s cruel.”

The panel, which took place on International Women’s Day, Friday, March 8, focused on women’s representation in media and how social media has created an environment that can be dangerous to teenage girls in particular. South By Southwest’s description said that representation from women in the media “has come a long way, but there’s still much to be done, especially for women of color and mothers.”

Meghan not only spoke about social media in a broad sense, but highlighted the time in her life when she experienced the highest amount of online bullying – during her pregnancies. 

“The bulk of abuse was when I was pregnant,” Meghan shared, noting that the immediate time following her births was also highly scrutinized online. Transitioning into talking about social media as a space where women can often tear each other down, the Duchess of Sussex added, “How much of the hate is women completely skewing that to other women? I cannot make sense of it.” She continued, “The systematic change (of social media and women targeting each other) has to happen at the same time as the cultural level.” 

The panel was sponsored by The Archewell Foundation, which Meghan cofounded with husband Prince Harry. The mom of two’s spot on the panel comes on the heels of her deal with Lemonade Media, which will distribute her award winning podcast, “Archetypes.” The podcast was previously a Spotify exclusive. On the podcast, Meghan discusses the stereotypes often given to women that hold them back.

”Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, Katie Couric, Brooke Shields, Nancy Wang Yuen, and [moderator] Errin Haines are the perfect finishing touch to eight days of remarkable Keynote Speakers,” said SXSW ​copresident and chief programming officer Hugh Forrest to Deadline in an article published on Monday, March 4. “We are so honored to host this distinguished group on International Women’s Day for a significant discussion on the importance of representation in media and entertainment.”

South By Southwest’s official Instagram account announced the Suits alum as one of the keynote speakers on Monday, March 4.

“Announcing our final Keynote Session for the 2024 #SXSW Conference! On March 8, International Women’s Day, join Meghan, The Duchess of Sussex, @katiecouric, @brookeshields, nancywyuen, and Errin Haines (@emarvelous) for a conversation on breaking barriers, challenging stereotypes, and working toward a healthier society on and off our screens,” the caption read.

However, many commenters were unhappy with the choice.

“I’m disappointed that Megan Markle was included. There are other female trailblazers that are better suited to speak on this topic,” wrote one disappointed Instagram user.

Another added, “Why? Meghan contributes nothing but empty words.”

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