Meghan Markle, Brooke Shields, and Katie Couric Celebrate International Women’s Day At SXSW Panel

Today is International Women’s Day, and as a way to celebrate SXSW hosted a Keynote panel titled Breaking Barriers, Shaping Narratives: How Women Lead On and Off Screen” with special panelists Meghan, the Dutchess of Sussex, Markle, Brooke Shields, Katie Couric, and Nancy Yuen. Throughout the one-hour conversation, the women discussed the ways in which sexism has manifested in all of their careers. From the hyper-sexualization of a young Brooke Shields to the way Meghan was eviscerated by a racist and patriarchal press. As, at times, saddening as their recounts were, it was also wildly inspiring. Hearing how these women rose above insurmountable barriers and pushed through. Creating safer spaces for women, and emboldening those around them to do the same. 

The conversation began by citing a study about the inaccuracy of maternal portrayal on Television, with Nancy Yuen explaining, “The findings of the Mom’s Report is that on Television moms are represented as thin, young, white, and not really working outside of the home, which is a patriarchal fantasy, right?… So, in terms of societal, when you have policymakers who are not working moms for the most part–these are the ones that are actually determining policy. And we know that if they’re not in contact with folks, they’re deriving their ideas from Television, from film, just subconsciously. You know that’s not real, but that’s what you’re seeing…So all this reality is not actually reflected on Television and that really hurts policy and any kind of societal change.”  

When it comes to representation, and why it matters Markle was asked why it’s necessary in making the world more equitable, her response, “I’ve said this for so many years, and I hope that it starts to land, but I think we can all agree that representation matters in terms of if you’re a young girl and you see yourself in a position of power or strength or leadership you can believe that that is possible. If you look out on the screen or look out in the world and you see no one that looks like you, it is incomprehensible for most people to imagine that they can have that level of success or joy or strength, whatever it may be. And the key thing I think that needs to be focused on in terms of equity is that it is not a zero-sum game. Just because someone else has the same advantage that you do doesn’t mean that you’re losing anything. And it actually creates an environment that is so bare but also inclusive where people feel that they have a seat at the table, as they should.” 

On the topic of girlhood, Brooke Shields opened up about what it was like creating her documentary Pretty Baby about the over-sexualization she experienced during her younger years, “As we discussed [the documentary] we started talking about the sexualization of young women, especially in our country, and I was at the center of it. I was promoting it, and I was doing it, and I was lucky because I was surrounded by a very strong mom. I never did move to Hollywood, I always went to a regular school. So I had this sort of community around me that was protecting me, so I did not become the type of statistic that Hollywood created…It’s gotten better a bit, but we still have a long way to go, and one of the things the documentary I think did was start the conversation…Dealing with the subject matter so that we could start conversations with our daughters, with younger Women about how it happens, how it’s just at the ready–you are prey. But not to be a victim to it.” 

And as it comes to pitfalls and misogynistic vitriol, nobody knows it more than CBS’s first female solo anchor, Katie Couric, “I’m not gonna lie, it was really challenging. I remember after my first night anchoring the news, it was very exciting. And the next day one media critic said why is she wearing a white jacket after Labor Day…and then it was like Tom Shales, who really wrote nice things about me, said the way she buttoned her jackets she looked chubby. And then Keith Olbermann said she looked like she had been botoxed, a well-known feminist said I couldn’t really evaluate her performance because her makeup was so bad, and then Dan Rather said I was dumbing down and tarting up the news, so it was really really hard.

“It’s funny because I was so upset for a while because I was just getting pummeled left and right in the press. At dinner one night I was with my daughters, and I was crying. And my ten-year-old daughter Carrie said Mom, what’s wrong? And I said, I don’t know if I can do this anymore, and she said Mom, remember what Samantha said on Sex and The City? And I was like…oh, shit there’s so much wrong with that statement from my fifth graffer. And she said she said if I listened to every bitch in New York City that said anything about me, I’d never leave the house.” Couric said, choking back a laugh. 

The conversation was as inspiring as it was hilarious. You can click here to watch the full thing, available now on YouTube, and with that let’s close out with a quote Brooke Shields shared from her friend Gloria Steinem, “Every major major movement started in a room like this.” As Women reading this, you are all powerful, you are all beautiful, and you are all unstoppable. 


Happy International Women’s Day.


  • Camila Dejesus

    Magazine & Media Editor, Camila Dejesus has been writing since she was a child and enjoys all forms from creative writing down to narrative analysis. She graduated from Brooklyn College with a bachelor's in Television and Radio Production and works full-time at Latinitas Magazine. In her free time, she loves writing stories, water coloring, or playing songs on her Baritone Ukulele. Now, her greatest passion is finding new topics that will engage and inspire Latinx youth.

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