Feminist anthem in Harry and Meghan documentary

Of the six episodes of the Harry and Meghan documentary, the fifth was the most “aggressive” and open about who hurt the couple and is the antagonist of their narrative. In the first three, love and innocence were the keynote – with images were surgically chosen to punctuate the criticisms that were not yet in words – but, in the final three, which dealt with their departure from the Royal Family, the problems were not softened. In all, the songs were also chosen to enhance the message and, in the 5th episode, when Meghan was even excluded from the negotiations, the song chosen to close the credits was probably the clearest of all: You Don’t Own Me, a feminist anthem written in 1963, whose lyrics are perfect for drama.

You Don’t Own Me, I’m Not One of Your Many Toys”, it starts, “And don’t tell me what to do, Don’t tell me what to say ”, she continues further on. “Don’t try to change me in any way, You don’t own me, Don’t tie me down ‘cause I’d never stay. I’m free and I love I’m free To live my life the way I want, To say and do whatever I please

Need more clarity?

So it is. One of the problems that Meghan Markle and Prince Harry encountered was that “tradition” is a curtain of structural prejudices that today put the Royal Family in a bad light. Using Princess Diana as an example, as Harry does at any chance, she fought against Elizabeth II‘s greatest principle: never complain, never explain and carry on, which affected the Princess’s Mental Health. At a time when the problems we now treat with greater respect were boiled down to “imbalance”, Diana’s lonely fight was for empathy and to change that simplistic and often wrong approach to the issue. Harry and Meghan’s fight is bigger and more complex than that. In addition to trying to modernize the royal posture, bringing informality and inclusiveness to the image of the Royal Family, they began to act as a unit. In other words, they also brought the issue of equity to the table, which in the eyes of traditionalists was their greatest sin. Here structural prejudices acted as a wall, gender and background being even greater than racism. Harry, born a prince, is royalty. Meghan – and Kate – married to royalty, don’t have the same voice within the system. The fact that Meghan, an independent and intelligent woman, insisted on not understanding and accepting this became the trigger for a series of persecutions, suspicions, and internal problems. The tradition was not open for revision.

Talking about politics, which she also wanted, has constitutional obstacles for them, but equity is only a choice. In the previous post, I mentioned that Harry makes a mistake when trying to justify and protect his grandparents from being the essence of the impediment and ends up being the target of accusations of “disrespecting the Queen”. Let’s address this here for a second: his grandmother was the epitome of his country’s greatest institution, one is linked to the other. There is not, as Meghan thought and found strange, an outward posture and an inward posture. They don’t play a role, they are the role. Thus, when Harry alludes to influences that the Queen passively “accepts”, he is being, sorry, sexist too. After all, she reigned for 70 years and every choice she made not to question or change the institution was made by her as sovereign. It’s more of an incongruity in his speech, not Meghan’s.

Meghan – as a newcomer – wanted to get it right and play a part, but like any artist, she thought she could bring her notes to the director and build a character. The impasse was formed and she was told to, as tradition dictates, give in. We are following how the reaction has been.

But let’s get back to the song, which fits perfectly with all of this. Launched in 1963, together with the feminist book signed by Betty Friedan, The Feminine Mystique, You Don’t Own Me had a bold proposal to take women out of the passivity of a sexist love relationship. No wonder it is considered one of the many artistic works that helped start the Women’s Liberation Movement, even if changes only really started to happen 10 years later. For example, Helen Reddy‘s I Am Woman was not released until 1971.

You Don’t Own Me is one of the first songs in which a woman demands her independence. Much to their surprise, it was written by two men, John Madara and David White, who both swear they accidentally nailed it. The idea was to have a woman berating her husband, little did they know it was a perfect feminist statement. Yes, it is an ode to freedom.

The original recording was for a singer named Maureen Gray, but Quincy Jones discovered the material earlier and asked to use it with Lesley Gore, with whom he was working at the time. Lesley, at just 17, became known as the queen of teen angst and an “American answer” to Dusty Springfield, whose hit I Only Wanna Be With You was played on every radio, You Don’t Own Me was more than the answer, it was a warning of what was to come.

It was an immediate hit, with only The BeatlesI Want to Hold Your Hand topping the charts. Remembering the Beatle fever, one can see the impact of the song on Leslie’s voice, but little by little the success passed. At age 21, she disappeared from the charts, starting to work as a songwriter. In 1980, she collaborated with her younger brother, Michael Gore, on the soundtrack to the film Fame, receiving an Oscar nomination for the beautiful Out Here on My Own, one of Irene Cara‘s hits. Leslie passed away from cancer in 2015. And her success – You Don’t Own Me -was covered by artists such as Joan Jett, Grace Jones, The Blow Monkeys, Bette Midler, Dusty Springfield, Ann Wilson, and even rapper G-Eazy.

You Don’t Own Me is also on the soundtrack of many movies, from Dirty Dancing to Hairspray. Perhaps the most famous use was the closing of The First Wives Club, with the famous scene of Bette Midler, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton celebrating their revenge against their ex-husbands singing You Don’t Own Me for the New York streets. As Anne Wilson put it in a 2018 interview: “This song is about refusing to be objectified and owned. By anyone,” she said at the time. Remembering that the 1996 film said don’t get mad, get everything, the use of the song in the Harry and Meghan documentary takes on an even greater dimension. After all, their fight is far from over.

You don’t own me
I’m not just one of your many toys
You don’t own me
Don’t say I can’t go with other boys
And don’t tell me what to do
Don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display ‘cause
You don’t own me
Don’t try to change me in any way
You don’t own me
Don’t tie me down ‘cause I’d never stay
I don’t tell you what to say
I don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of you

I’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free
To live my life the way I want
To say and do whatever I please
And don’t tell me what to do
Oh, don’t tell me what to say
And please, when I go out with you
Don’t put me on display
I don’t tell you what to say
Oh, don’t tell you what to do
So just let me be myself
That’s all I ask of youI’m young and I love to be young
I’m free and I love to be free

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