Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson has written an essay addressing the downfalls of social media and the way women are “constantly pitted against” one another in the press — something she says she experienced as a member of the Royal Family.
In her open letter for Hello! magazine, 59-year-old Ferguson addressed the way she and the late Princess Diana were portrayed as “rivals” in the media, and how that affected her well-being. The essay is part of the magazine’s #HelloToKindness campaign, an effort by the publication to end online bullying.
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“Take a look at any website, and you’ll see extraordinarily abusive comments aimed not only at people in the public eye but also other internet users,” Ferguson wrote. “Bullying, sniping, bitching, even the most appalling sexism, racism and homophobia are commonplace — it seems that online, anything goes.”
“Women, in particular, are constantly pitted against and compared with each other in a way that reminds me of how people tried to portray Diana and me all the time as rivals, which is something neither of us ever really felt.”
Ferguson, who was married to Prince Charles‘ brother Prince Andrew, went on to state that people feel inclined to post abusive content online and say things they would “never dream of saying to someone’s face.”
“There is good evidence that this online culture is having a detrimental impact on people’s mental health, particularly vulnerable young people,” she wrote.
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In January, British newspaper The Times published an editorial addressing the “vile abuse” the Duchess of Sussex and the Duchess of Cambridge receive and called for an end to the harassment.
Hello! royal correspondent Emily Nash told CNN at the time that the rise in abuse directed at the duchesses is tied to reports by British tabloids claiming Markle and Middleton are feuding.
In response to the widespread behaviour geared towards the royals, Hello! magazine launched its #HelloToKindness campaign.
Ferguson’s recent essay isn’t the first time she addressed her relationship with Princess Diana publicly.
In 2007, Ferguson told Harper’s Bazaar that she “loved” Princess Diana “so much,” and that she really missed her. While she admitted to the publication that she hadn’t spoken to the Princess of Wales for a period of time before her death in 1997, she said the two were like siblings.
“Diana was one of the quickest wits I knew; nobody made me laugh like her. But because we were like siblings — actually, we were fourth cousins and our mothers, who went to school together, were also best friends — we rowed,” she said.
“And the saddest thing, at the end, we hadn’t spoken for a year, though I never knew the reason, except that once Diana got something in her head… I tried, wrote letters, thinking whatever happened didn’t matter, let’s sort it out.
“And I knew she’d come back. In fact, the day before she died she rang a friend of mine and said, ‘Where’s that Red? I want to talk to her.'”