Archetypes With Meghan (we’re guessing the podcast’s name may also be an homage to Markle and husband Prince Harry’s three-year-old son, Archie) launched on Tuesday with an episode titled “The Misconception of Ambition With Serena Williams.”
Williams (who recently announced her retirement — or, as she put it in Vogue, her “evolution” away from — professional tennis) sat down with her pal the Duchess of Sussex to discuss her perspective on the double standard that women face when it comes to ambition, which Markle noted was often a “dirty, dirty word when it comes to women.”
“Often women are definitely put in these different boxes when we are ambitious or when we do have goals or when we reach our goals, it’s a negative connotation on how we reach the goals,” Williams said.
For Williams, being ambitious as a woman in tennis often was perceived differently than it was, and is, for men. In addition to describing her experience as a player who often felt like she was afraid to be herself for fear of how she may be perceived, Williams offered an example of the double standard of perception in the media.
“I can’t win being someone different, I have to win being Serena,” Williams said. “And sometimes that’s more fierce. But is it fierce when, you know, guys are saying, come on and pumping their fists? It’s pretty exciting. But for me it’s pretty – it’s aggressive. Or it’s what is, I don’t know, they said that I… oh my goodness, I’ll never forget. There’s one article that said this guy was passionate and I had a meltdown and I was like, wait, how do I have a meltdown? But this guy’s passionate.”
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For her part, Markle shared how dating Prince Harry changed her perception of the word ambition. “I don’t remember ever personally feeling the negative connotation behind the word ‘ambitious’ until I started dating my now husband,” she said. “And um, apparently ambition is… a terrible, terrible thing, for a woman that is — according to some. So, since I’ve felt the negativity behind it, it’s really hard to un-feel it. I can’t unsee it, either, in the millions of girls and women who make themselves smaller — so much smaller — on a regular basis.”
Markle wrapped up the episode by unpacking the word ambition and its relation to women. “…the notion of ambition comes with many judgments and nuances, especially for women,” Markle said. “The misconception that if you’re an ambitious woman, you have an agenda, you must be calculating, or you’re selfish or aggressive, or a climber and that if you’re that fierce or strong or brave, then you somehow deserve whatever gets thrown at you. However disproportionate or unfair it may be. And even when it’s more than most could endure, most men, most anyone.”
“Sometimes ambition in women also seems to suggest that you aren’t afraid of anything. But as you heard Serena say, of course, fears still exist. I’ve lived through them with her. The fear of making this recent decision. Maybe not her fear of swimming in the ocean. Serena… My little mermaid. Ironically, who can’t bear being in the dark open waters of the sea. Or who also shared that she has a fear of heights. But the truth is, I’m afraid of heights, too. And maybe that’s the point. That the perception and the reality, they’re just never really the same thing. So while Serena’s soon closing her chapter of playing professional tennis, she’s not shutting the door on her ambition. She’s going to continue to do great things. To be the greatest of all time off the court. To be ambitious, and I think that’s a beautiful thing.”
According to the podcast’s page, the podcast series will dive into other topics impacting women, as Meghan will “investigate, dissect, and subvert the labels that try to hold women back.” The next episode will feature another mega-famous woman: Mariah Carey.