The problem with Rose McGowan’s brand of feminism


I’ve been struggling with the idea of writing this piece.

As someone who empathises with, supports and is devastated on behalf of all the women who’ve both come forward in the #Metoo and #TimesUp movement (and those who have come before them, those still to come and those who aren’t ready to talk about the darkest and most painful moments of their lives), this piece feels a bit like I’m trying to kick someone who is already on the ground.

But that’s genuinely not my aim.

In fact, before I get to my actual point, I need to start off by saying that Rose McGowan has been incredibly brave in the face of her harrowing accounts of sexual assault and targeted harassment.

She has never shied away from tackling the subjects that highlight the culture of Hollywood’s sexist and misogynistic culture and is one of the celebrities who should be credited as being at the forefront of fighting for women’s rights.

According to Buzzfeed, McGowan has, since the Weinstein scandal was first exposed, released a book called Brave as well as a documentary series called Citizen Rose, both of which document her raw, harrowing and unflinching journey.

It’s truly something to behold when you watch a survivor of sexual assault and rape reclaim her voice and use it as a tremendous force for change.

Even if that change comes with self-serving purposes, which I reckon is where my problem with Rose lies.

To be perfectly honest, I suppose that at a very basic level I can understand her wanting to centre and position herself as a main player, if not, sole face in the #MeToo movement.

READ MORE: What to do when beloved celebrities become problematic

Here is a woman who, for years, has been afraid to speak up, who has been silenced and who has been made a prisoner of fear because Hollywood has always been a culture that’s been far more forgiving towards men behaving badly than it has women.

Prime example: After years of being ostracised Wynona Ryder’s role in Stranger Things finally feels to me like she’s been allowed back into the fold. And yet Woody Allen still gets to make movies.

So like I said, there’s a level of self-aggrandising that makes it easy for me to understand her behaviour.

While we fight for equality in the feminist movement, trans women should never be forgotten or left behind

What I can’t understand or accept is that for someone who claims to be a feminist using her platform to speak up on behalf of others, she seems to hate being confronted with her privilege and only subscribes to the notions of supporting other women as long as they don’t challenge her perceptions.

According to Refinery29, Rose recently cancelled some of her events promoting her new book after getting into a verbal confrontation with transgender activist Andi Tier.

In an event which took place at Barnes & Noble, Tier challenged McGowan about transphobic comments she made on RuPaul’s podcast back in 2017.

Tier asked quite a few heavy-handed and important questions – particularly related to the transgender community and what she’s doing to help them.

In response to this, Rose became incredibly defensive and delivered a rant which pretty much doubled-down on previous comments that she made about trans women not being like other women by asking Tier what she’s doing to help women.

For all of her so-called support for women, McGowan is quite problematic. points out that McGowan actually has a history of problematic behaviour towards the LGBTQIA community and has in the past criticised Caitlyn Jenner for not understanding what it means to be a woman.

READ MORE: No Donna Karen, we’re not asking for it

We spoke to Juanita van Zyl, a transgender woman who is all too familiar with abuse and harassment that the transgender community faces on a day to day basis. Here’s what she had to say:

“It was only recently that I learned that Rose McGowen was seen as a transphobic person through my transgender friends. I was shocked and saddened when I searched and found stories about her troublesome views and comments on transgender people.  

"Trans women experience the same abuse as cis women and sometimes even far worse. Every year we commemorate Transgender Day of Remembrance, to honour all the souls lost to transphobic hate crimes. The number of trans women being killed around the world is on the increase, but little is ever said or written about it. A 2015 study in the US showed that 40% of trans women experienced rape and sexual assault in their lifetime.

"A recent study by Stonewall UK showed that 40% of trans people in the UK have been victims of hate crimes. Trace Lysette, a transgender actress, recently revealed sexual assault she endured while filming Transparent as part of the #MeToo campaign.

Instead of taking the time to listen to marginalised women, she uses that aggressiveness to double down on people who are simply asking to be a part of the narrative that has always excluded them

Just like cis women, trans women experience discrimination and abuse. The only difference is that trans women make out a tiny proportion of population worldwide and that we are often not heard. While we fight for equality in the feminist movement, trans women should never be forgotten or left behind. We need women with power and privilege, women like Rose, to lift up all female voices.

"The moment you look down on someone, the moment you silence their voices, you become complicit in the hate and abuse they experience on a daily basis.”

WATCH: Meet Tarana Burke - The Activist who started the Me Too Campaign to ignite a conversation about sexual assault

It’s also quite clear that she’s not really an ally to people of colour either.

If she was, she wouldn’t be exploiting the #Metoo movement as something that started with her and used the opportunity and her platform to uplift and give a bigger voice to Tarana Burke, the activist who was originally credited with starting the #MeToo movement a decade ago.

Your feminism isn’t feminism unless it’s intersectional and unless it serves to be a movement that not only uplifts white women but women of colour and the LGBTQIA community.

For me there’s no doubt that she should be supported as a survivor of rape and as this article on points out, her defiance and aggression often result in people disliking her, but by the same token while that assertiveness is a wonderful tool to use to fight to be heard, her stance is very uncompromising when it comes to genuine and constructive criticism.

Instead of taking the time to listen to marginalised women, she doubles down on people who are simply asking to be a part of the narrative that she claims is inclusive of everyone.

Yes, she’s been betrayed by everyone around her and yes she thinks she doesn’t owe anyone anything and yes of course she’s trying as much as every other survivor to process her trauma but when you’re projecting feelings of betrayal onto the people who least deserve it, perhaps it’s time for Rose to look at and reflect on the fact that other people’s pain (particularly POC’s and the LGBTQIA community) are just as valid as hers.

Sign up to W24’s newsletters so you don't miss out on any of our hot stories and giveaways.     

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, I believed it was authentic
7% - 388 votes
Yes, I didn't want to spend that much money on the original item
20% - 1115 votes
No, I always shop at reputable stores
13% - 743 votes
No, I don't wear designer clothing
60% - 3342 votes