Princess Diana married Prince Charles at the age of 19. Back in 1980s, English society surprisingly still held notions of virginity for women, and Diana had everything that apparently a perfect princess was supposed to have, but just like most South Asian women she suffered in the hands of the family she got married into.
Unlike most marriages in European society at that time, Princess Diana had to marry the family and the system and why is that? Because the system was not normal, it was royal. Even before she got married to Prince Charles, he already had someone in his life. Someone he wished to spend the rest of his life with but because of his duty to the monarchy he married a woman that the English public at the time would love. What happened afterwards was a series of disasters that led to divorce changing the world’s most famous royal family forever.
Diana’s story resonates with every brown woman who has been forced into marriage with a man that she did not wish to be and a family that abused her despite trying to be the perfect daughter-in-law and a wife. Most South Asian women have abusive relationships far worse than Diana. Women in South Asia face tones of social and cultural stigmas that make them live in a toxic relationship despite being economically independent.
Family dependency is huge in such cultures. Women are abandoned by families they were born into once they are married, and are left all alone to defend themselves. Even if they are financially independent, women who live all by themselves as a divorcee grabs the eyeballs of the people leading to her being called ‘character-less’ to being harassed by neighbours for living her life independently of men in her life.
What Diana did is unthinkable for most brown women even today. She left a toxic and abusive marriage despite everything. Her heroism for brown women stems from the fact that generations of brown women have the same story, and they cannot say it out loud as they are trapped in the system. Diana did what she felt like doing, and was not afraid.
The Diana story, hence, resonates since she gave up her life for that freedom that she wanted. What Diana in that system did not witness was overbearing in-laws, and a family that restricts her every move to the extent that she was asked for dowry, stay in the kitchen the whole day and get beaten up by her husband for voicing her opinion.
Diana is an inspiration for the truth she spoke that most women in South Asia will still be afraid to do. Despite being in a position of privilege, she made us realize especially brown women that no matter what your position is inequality and suffering for women goes across classes.
Most brown women fear losing their life if they try to follow their heart to live life independently, like Diana, and that’s what happened with her. Despite being British and from the royal family – Diana lost her life in pursue of being that independent strong woman, and for that strength that most brown women admire and see her as a hero since most of them would never choose to do what she has done – live independently.