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Dublin: 4 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019

Keira Knightley was purposely misunderstood to perpetuate a well-worn trope on female relationships

Read her actual words, and not the words you want to see.

KEIRA KNIGHTLEY RECENTLY wrote a comment piece on the obligation placed upon the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, in the aftermath of childbirth.

Colette UK Premiere - 62nd BFI London Film Festival Source: Matt Crossick/PA images

Mere hours after each of her three labours, Kate was required to stand on the steps of the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital in London to pose for a series of photographs which would ultimately make international headlines.

In an essay penned for Feminists Don’t Wear Pink (And Other Lies), Keira compared the aftermath of her labour with that of Kate’s, noting that she had given birth to her daughter just one day before Kate had given birth to hers.

Writing that she remembers the ‘s**t, the vomit, the blood, and the stitches’ of the birthing experience, Keira found herself appalled that Kate was coaxed into the glare of photographers’ flashbulbs and forced to depict a particular image of womanhood and, indeed, motherhood mere hours after enduring a physical trauma.

We stand and watch the TV screen. She was out of hospital seven hours later with her face made up and high heels on. The face the world wants to see. Hide. Hide our pain, our bodies splitting, our breasts leaking, our hormones raging.

Keira’s point was precise, her essay was crystal clear and her disdain for the pressure society places on women to perpetuate a particular picture of womanhood at the expense of those very individuals was utterly unambiguous.

Look beautiful, look stylish, don’t show your battleground, Kate. Seven hours after your fight with life and death, seven hours after your body breaks open, and bloody, screaming life comes out. Don’t show. Don’t tell. Stand there with your girl and be shot by a pack of male photographers.

Keira’s essay was sincere in its intention, it showed genuine compassion for other women as well as displaying a level of empathy for the Duchess of Cambridge which was, perhaps, felt all the more acutely given the parallels of their situations on that day in May.

PastedImage-38862 Source: PA Images

And yet countless media outlets chose to report on the essay by stating Keira had criticised Kate Middleton; that the actress had taken issue with Kate herself, and not royal protocol and ingrained societal pressures.

‘Keira Knightley slams Kate Middleton for doing this after birth of Princess Charlotte’, ‘Keira Knightley criticises ‘perfect’ Kate Middleton for her post-baby appearances’, ‘Keira Knightley criticises Kate Middleton ‘for looking stylish’ during post-birth appearances’ and so on and so forth.

Simply put, this was done to perpetuate the well-worn trope that women can’t help but criticise other women if we’re given half the chance, that the moment Keira was invited to contribute to a book on feminism, she bizarrely thought this would be the most opportune moment to knock another woman.

It was deliberately misunderstood because a headline featuring feuding females will always trump a headline featuring female friendships.

Surprisingly, Keira was actually taken aback by the angle used by many media outlets when reporting on her contribution.

Speaking to Press Association this week, the actress was particularly diplomatic when addressing the media furore.

I think it’s very interesting that certain parts of the media have, I don’t want to say purposefully, but let’s just say misrepresented my meaning and exactly what I said.

She then suggested they perhaps return to the essay and read it through anything other than the archaic lens which has served the media so well in the past.

So I would suggest to those people in the media that they re-read the entirety of the essay and not just take one bit out of it because the comments that I made are completely about our culture that silences women’s truths and forces us all to hide and I absolutely did not shame anybody in any way, in fact quite the opposite.

Put simply, read the words she actually wrote, and not the words you want to see.

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About the author:

Niamh McClelland

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