Trevor Noah to Meghan Markle about SA's history: 'The fight for freedom was largely driven by women'

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Meghan Markle and Trevor Noah.
Meghan Markle and Trevor Noah.
Photo: Getty Images
  • Trevor Noah joined Meghan Markle on her final Archetypes podcast episode.
  • The South African comedian spoke about growing up in South Africa and how his mother's journey as a black woman shaped how he'd see the world forever.
  • "One thing I'm eternally grateful to South Africa for," he told the Duchess of Sussex, "is that women are always, you know, pursuing more. They pursued justice. They pursued equality."

Meghan Markle's final Archetypes podcast has hit the streamer three months after Spotify debuted the series – with mixed reviews from South African listeners.

The Duchess of Sussex's first guest was Serena Williams. The longtime friends discussed what it means to be an ambitious woman in the world. But it was Meghan's comments about her trip to South Africa that drew backlash. Read all about it here.

Now, to conclude the series, Meghan spoke to US TV and radio host Andy Cohen, director and producer Judd Apatow and South Africa's own Trevor Noah about how men can be an impactful part of the cultural conversation.

In the episode, Trevor Noah, who will soon return home – and to his comedy roots – when he wraps up his run on The Daily Show on 8 December, spoke candidly about growing up in apartheid South Africa.

"I was born in South Africa to a Xhosa South African mother, a black woman. My father is Swiss, was from Switzerland. He lived in South Africa most of his adult life, I would say. And yeah, I mean I grew up in a world that, you know, for those who are familiar with it will understand it, was, well, completely defined by race, you know, your race determined where you could go, what you could be.

"I grew up in a world where that was the status quo. And so, you know, black people were at the bottom of the totem. And I think, you know, something that holds true all over the world is, you know, black women were the most oppressed. They always used to say – I butcher it every time I say it – But it's… the black man and the black woman walk from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. Stones are thrown at them. They finally get home and stones are thrown at her."

Noah spoke about witnessing his mother's journey as a black woman and growing up in a "very matriarchal society", and the idea that it's the man, even if he's not around, who is the "head of the household".

"I think you can't deny that a lot of it was reinforced by, you know, whether it was colonial attitudes or the apartheid system itself. You know, it's not like women were given the keys to do anything," he said.

"Unfortunately," he added, "That meant you grew up in a world where, you know, many boys were raised by women and then turned into men who unfortunately, saw women as, as being innately beneath them, when in fact, they were the ones who had shaped everything they'd become."

The comedian said: "One thing I'm eternally grateful to South Africa for and my family for and the society I grew up in, is that women are always, you know, pursuing more. They pursued justice. They pursued equality. Our movement in South Africa, you know, our civil rights movement, the fight for freedom, was largely driven by women."

Noah said living with his mother meant seeing the world "through her lens predominantly" and that it also "shaped how [he] see[s] the world forever".

"She said being a man has nothing to do with, with how you wield your power in the household. It's just how you fulfil your role. And so I think that stuck with me my entire life."

"You know, if I build a house, the natural way for me to think that I will move from one floor to the next is stairs. But this is because I have functioning legs. I'm able to use them. It is only when I encounter somebody with a disability who cannot use those stairs that I realise, oh crap, I built this house only for me, and I didn't even consider this as an element. Okay. But there is no person who's disabled who doesn't have the use of their legs, who would build a house that way."
-- Trevor Noah on seeing the world through a particular lens

Noah went on to discuss moving to the US, the #MeToo movement, working on The Daily Show and more with the Duchess of Sussex. Speaking of approaching things "through the lens of what you know" instead of seeing it from another – a woman's – perspective, he mentioned one incident in particular to make his point.

"So I had a urinary tract infection," he said. "And it had gotten really bad. And I was telling her (a friend) about this, and we were chatting, and she was like, 'Oh, how does it feel?' Like, 'Oh, my stomach is sore' and all of this, and you know, and blah blah blah. And she's like, 'Oh, it sounds like... period cramps to me.' And we laughed about it, and I said, 'What do you mean? Like, it can't be this bad?' And she's like, 'Oh, it gets pretty bad.' And I said, so I was like, 'How do you, how do you come to work? How do you do that?' And she said, 'Yeah, that's what I wonder sometimes.' And I found myself wondering. I was like, if men had their periods and we'd designed the office, I wonder if we would have just said, 'Yeah, there's seven days a month where there's no work,' because I mean, this is ridiculous. You can't work like this. Why would I work like this?"

The pair ended off on a more personal note as Meghan asked: "What kind of husband do you want to be, Trevor?"

"The kind of husband that my wife would want me to be," he said. "The type of husband, the type of partner I would like to be, is just the type of partner who is the best possible puzzle piece for the other person I'm connecting with." 

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