Inspiration: The 20th anniversary of the death of Princess Diana
Where were you when you heard Princess Diana had died?
I was in Dieppe. On the ferry back a couple of days later we were at the news stand looking at the front pages covered in photos of her. A man walked up and asked, "What - has she died?" I replied, "Yes she's died." I was still in shock and he wandered away stunned not having heard the news while he was on holiday.
The documentary 7 Days screened on BBC1 this week was a moving account of the period after Diana‘s death. I remember that week in London, the atmosphere was heavy as though the sky all grey and cloudfilled wouldn't let the grief evaporate.
The programme also looked at her life and the pressures she experienced. I hadn't fully realised the attempts to sideline her during her life but was aware of a quietness about her since her death, as though to downplay or negate her power.
I see her retrospectively more fully as a woman challenging the establishment. She took on a huge task - whether it was completely conscious or not - and could not have foreseen all the ramifications it would have for her.
Diana was obviously angry but she was also strong in the things she believed in and what she felt to be right:
- Being a loving and good enough parent to her children
- Her public charitable works
- Her determination to be seen and to individualise herself through her choice of dress, men and relationship to those who were suffering
- Being real
When I hear establishment figures talk of Diana as complex and complicated I feel this is an attempt to dismiss her and the things she believed in. Because aren’t we all complex? Calling others complex as though it’s a bad thing not only reduces their humanity but all of ours.
How Diana was treated in her marriage and after her divorce are feminist issues which resonate around the world today in other women’s experiences when they challenge the dominant culture and do not conform.
I really like this poem by Vanessa Kissuule Take Up Space - it's empowering and speaks especially to women to take up space to be themselves.