Hell hath no fury like Rose McGowan when she’s not the center of attention.
That is the only conclusion this writer could draw after hearing the actress-turned-activist’s recent remarks on the #MeToo and Time’s Up Movements—the former a movement she still claims to proudly (and loudly) represent.
In a recent, frequently self-aggrandizing and sensationalistic interview published by the Sunday Times, the 45-year-old said, seemingly in reference to #MeToo:
“I just think they’re douchebags. They’re not champions. I just think they’re losers. I don’t like them. How do I explain the fact that I got a GQ Man of the Year award and no women’s magazines and no women’s organizations have supported me?”
She went on to say, purportedly pointing out that she has not been invited to #MeToo events like “survivor’s brunches.”
“And I don’t want to go, because it’s all bullshit. It’s a lie. It’s a Band-Aid lie to make them feel better. I know these people, I know they’re lily-livered, and as long as it looks good on the surface, to them, that’s enough.”
Of course, last Friday marked the unofficial—and wholly inaccurate—first anniversary of the Me Too movement; no doubt the reason one of its most visible participants was asked to weigh in. In fact, the Times cringingly said of the actress: “But if the movement has one defining face, it is McGowan’s.”
We’d beg to differ, but McGowan, who claims to have been planning a rise to prominence as part of a decades-long revenge plot against Weinstein and his Hollywood enablers, agreed, telling her interviewer: “I think I’ve been fairly effective. Who has been more effective? Tell me, who’s been more effective at getting us to this point?”
But instead of using her self-proclaimed power to offer her unequivocal support to this pivotal movement, its founder, Tarana Burke, and #MeToo’s Hollywood-led counterpart, Time’s Up, McGowan instead doubled down on her evisceration of Hollywood elites. She told the Times that Meryl Streep’s almost year-old claims that she was unaware of Harvey Weinstein’s sexual abuse and misconduct are “literally impossible.” She said the same of Hillary Clinton (despite voting for her in 2016), whom she once gave “vociferous support.” Similarly, she called American Vogue “disgusting” and said they should be “embarrassed” and “ashamed” for daring to publish a somewhat sympathetic portrait on Weinstein’s soon-to-be ex-wife, designer Georgina Chapman.
She also used the opportunity to slam former Charmed co-star and #MeToo and Time’s Up activist Alyssa Milano, whom she has previously called “fake,” along with what she calls “faux liberals,” saying Donald Trump supporters are right to deride Hollywood. (Notably, McGowan also told her interviewer she’d consider a political run, but as a Republican.“Just to fuck it up. Just to blow people’s minds.”)
“[T]hey’re 100 percent right about [Hollywood],” she told the Times. “It’s a bunch of faux liberals. It’s crap, and they know it is deep down, but they’re living an empty life, and to me, that’s their punishment. They get to live the lives they live.”
But if McGowan’s latest round of comments seems to evoke more “mean girl” than #MeToo, that’s nothing new. After all, she is frequently as myopic as she is militant; particularly when it comes to addressing those even more marginalized than herself. Consider McGowan’s cavalier usage of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s already problematic song title, “woman is the nigger of the world” (recently repeated by Bette Midler), or her public response to at least one trans woman (whom she claims was planted by Weinstein) who took issue with being misgendered and marginalized by McGowan.
Logically, if her thought processes so often seem questionable, equally questionable is the idea we’re supposed to care so much about what she thinks.
The #MeToo movement was neither founded by nor initially brought to public attention by McGowan. And yet, she has co-opted it at her convenience, often positioning herself as its spokesperson and moral compass, has repeatedly inserted herself into any publicly viable moment possible, and has conditionally given and withdrawn support as it suits her. On the whole, her activism appears to be as opportunistic as altruistic.
And while McGowan is undoubtedly and sympathetically a survivor, what her behavior—her frequent dismissal and derision of anyone whose mode of survival and tactics aren’t compatible with her own—continually proves is that a survivor does not a saint make. It certainly doesn’t make an ideal spokesperson for a movement reliant on the voices of all types of survivors to thrive. With that in mind, why is she still considered one of its leading lights?
As reported by USA Today on Monday, McGowan has since attempted to clarify her inflammatory statements via a series of Twitter posts, including an excerpt transcript from the interview to prove that her remarks were misconstrued.
“I never said #MeToo is a lie. Ever,” she clarified. “I was talking about Hollywood and Time’s Up, not #MeToo.”
No one deserves to be misattributed or unjustly maligned, but perhaps the bigger issue is that McGowan is not entitled to legitimize or delegitimize this movement. She is a participant, not its messiah. She does not have the authority to speak on behalf of all survivors (fun fact: no one does) and it speaks to how easily the work of black women is co-opted that she has been repeatedly positioned as such, often by herself.
“I have a special toolset and skillset,” she she tells the Times, in reference to her memoir, Brave. “I feel like it’s a donation of my time and skill to humanity.”
Even her interviewer says that some of McGowan’s statements and behavior “[feel] faintly grandiose,” and admits to finding “the harshness of McGowan’s moral high ground discomforting.” But if this is the voice and face of a movement initially founded in support of black and brown women and girls, that’s as much the media’s fault as McGowan’s.
And yet, maybe she’s learned a valuable lesson from the aforementioned Donald Trump—or from her own father, a documented cult leader: The more self-aggrandizing and inflammatory you are, the more attention you get.
“I would watch my father, as a cult leader, wire people’s brains, and I know how to unwire them,” she told the Times.
So where, if anywhere, can this writer find agreement with McGowan? In her anger. I, too, am angry—at the frequent derailment and exploitation of the #MeToo movement by personalities like hers, subsequent with the continued erasure of those committed to the cause long before there were any famous names attached.
“I do, at times, have righteous anger, and I have a right to that anger,” McGowan told the Times. “But if you’re in that situation, you get tired of shoving it down.”
Yeah. #MeToo, Rose.
Actual #MeToo founder and spokesperson Tarana Burke hasn’t commented on McGowan’s most recent round of comments, nor has Milano. (Instead, the two appeared together on Meet the Press on Sunday to discuss Dr. Christine Blasey Ford and the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings). But I, like many other black women, am angry and tired of continuing to feel marginalized and unrecognized within a movement created with us in mind; of the colonizer constantly reminding us that she, too, has been oppressed.
And that her rage is the one that should be heard the loudest.