February 3, 2018

Why Rose McGowan’s Screaming Match with Trans Woman is Not Helpful.

Warning: adult language ahead.


This morning I watched a video of Rose McGowan screaming her head off at a trans woman at her recent Barnes & Noble book signing in Manhattan. And it was not cool.

To be fair, the other woman started it. But still.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave since 2015 with absolutely zero human contact, you’re probably familiar with the story of Rose McGowan. It is a typical Hollywood story—more typical than anyone would suspect—one of exploitation, systematic sexual harassment, and (alleged) rape at the hands of her boss. Rape of a physical body. Rape of a spirit. A taking away.

Rose McGowan deserves to be pissed. No question.

You know who else deserves to be pissed? The trans woman who spoke up at Rose’s book signing.

Rose’s “memoir/manifesto” Brave came out on Tuesday. The cover alone looks pissed. It shows her taking an electric razor to her now pretty much bald head in defiance of societal beauty ideals, some of which Rose is famous for: her long, dark hair, her almost-pearly skin, and most of all, those poofy lips. I’m sure people gushed over her undeniable physical beauty her entire life. And it was a problem.

So she went and shaved her head. Rose says she no longer wanted to present herself as a “fantasy fuck toy.” After she did it, everyone asked her if it was because she had just broken up with somebody. Nobody got it.

Rose is pissed. Clearly.

Rose is pissed at Hollywood for being filled with a bunch of scumbags. She’s pissed at Meryl Streep for wearing black to the Golden Globes, calling her a hypocrite for working with the “Pig Monster” Harvey Weinstein. She’s pissed at people’s silence. She’s pissed at their complicity. She’s pissed at the cult she grew up in and for being “slut-shamed” by the industry she wants no part of anymore. I’m guessing she’s also pissed at Alyssa Milano for getting all the credit for the #metoo movement, considering Rose is the one who started it.

Basically, Rose is straight-up fucking disgusted with everyone and everything—and people in this state of mind tend to scream. Loudly.

In keeping with the conversation about sexual harassment in general, the video started out, well, a little uncomfortable. (And yes, I know that’s the whole point of getting things out in the open. No one likes to talk about things like rape.) There on the Barnes & Noble stage sat a dressed-down Rose McGowan in an orange hoodie, black pants, and white sneakers. I wonder if she realized she looked exactly like a prisoner.

“I have a suggestion,” an angry woman in the audience was saying. “Talk about what you said on RuPaul.”

Apparently, on a July, 2017 podcast, Rose had spoken negatively to RuPaul, the famous drag queen/entertainer/author/extremely accomplished artist, about trans women who believe they know what it’s like to truly be a woman and everything that comes along with it. Her comments were not exactly well-received by the LGBTQ community.

The woman went on. “Trans women are dying. And you said that we, as trans women, are not like regular women. We get raped more often. We go through domestic violence more often.”

I have to hand it to Rose here. She did keep manage to keep it together for a full 30 seconds while being yelled at about what she had said to RuPaul with a few words about how much the same they both were, and how they get victimized in the same way. Until she didn’t.

The woman: “Trans women are in men’s prisons. And what have you done for them?”

Rose: “What have you done for women?”

Oh no.

This is when it got heated. Rose demanded she sit down. Twice. A little bit ironic, in light of that fact that this kind of justifiable anger being silenced by others is the entire motivation behind the #metoo movement in the first place, and by extension, Rose’s book. Seriously, what was the woman supposed to do at that point? Stop? Calm down? Take her seat and quietly wilt?

Well, she didn’t. What happened next was more screaming on the woman’s part about this being the “AIDS crisis all over again,” and a matter of “white cis feminism” while she was being dragged out. Rose then offered her up the “fuck you” arm gesture and told her to shut up because she was boring. Then, she said: “Do not put your labels on me. I don’t come from your planet.” Whatever that means. And, “leave me alone.”

At this point, her voice had actually turned into more of a growl. And it didn’t end there.

“I do not subscribe to your rules. I do not subscribe to your language. You will not put labels on me or anybody. Step the fuck back. What I do for the fucking world and you should be fucking grateful. Shut the fuck up. Get off my back. What have you done? I know what I’ve done, goddammit.”

Again. Make no mistake. Rose McGowan is pissed. And she’s not the only one.

Any cause people are this passionate about is going to bring out the best and the worst in them. But a raised voice is the bluntest of tools. Its effectiveness only lasts so long, which is not long at all. So why not hear this woman out? Why not offer a little compassion and understanding and maybe the opportunity to be simply heard? Because it seems like that’s all she really wanted, to be listened to and not be told to shut up by someone with a penis a microphone in their hand. And really, they’re on the same side. Also, wouldn’t that have been a little more, I don’t know…productive? And how is that not obvious?

Sarah Silverman knows what I’m saying. In December, Silverman put out a tweet saying she was open to having a dialogue with Donald Trump supporters so she could understand them better and hopefully eliminate some of the animosity she’d been seeing all over Twitter. (Suffice it to say, Sarah Silverman is not a Trump supporter.)

One of her followers responded with this: “Cunt.”

That’s it. Just that one word.

So did she go off on him, like 95 percent of us probably would? Nope. Sarah Silverman didn’t respond with rude stuff in all caps, or shame him, or even block him. She took the time to look at his Twitter and found out he had major health problems. And in her tweet back to him, she let him know she recognized his rage as “thinly veiled pain.” She also encouraged him to choose love. “I see it in you,” she said.

The guy tweeted back and spilled his guts out. Ends up, he’d been sexually assaulted when he was eight years old and now his life was a mess. He said he was super antisocial and had no friends. He also had five slipped discs in his back and no health insurance.

Sarah helped him look for a doctor. She retweeted his GoFundMe campaign to help raise money for surgery. And when he didn’t raise enough—because god knows how much money that would cost—she offered to pay the difference. Go Sarah!

“I’m sorry I gave u shit,” he finally wrote to Sarah that day.

I bet no one who read that thread will have anything mean to say on Twitter any time soon. That’s the power of a simple act of kindness.

Robin Williams said, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” I can’t imagine how Rose McGowan feels. I’m not in her position. I’ve never experienced the kind of pressure she has or been told I need to look fuckable to get a certain job. I believe her. I grew up in Los Angeles. Everyone looks like that in L.A. But screaming at each other just makes things worse.

I still live in L.A. I also used to do wardrobe and costume design, and I’ve worked on enough sets with enough actresses to have seen the struggle up close. I’ve been there for their meltdowns, and watched them throw things at makeup artists, and heard them complain about how fat they are when they’re totally not, and had to go on silly errands for them, and stood by holding their cigarettes for them when it was time for their scene, and on and on.

The easiest thing would have been to think of them as being difficult, stuck-up, even crazy. And honestly, sometimes I did. But never once did I tell one of them to shut up. And that’s a good thing.

Chances are they were fighting a battle I knew nothing about.




Author: Anne Clendening
Image: Video Still
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina

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Hannah Carilyn Feb 7, 2018 11:39am

Thank you for bringing this up, I noticed that in the essay as well.

Caroline Yezer Feb 6, 2018 12:58am

thank you for this clear discussion, but some context is missing that explains the outrage at McGowen: neither Milano nor Mcgowen started the #metoo movement. A black women stated it - YEARS ago. Her name is TARANA BURKE, she's on twitter & gracoius about celebs who've promoted the work. But... It is incredibly painful that Rose has obscured her, and somany white feminists don't know of her. I hope you will fix this error in the essay. In fact trans women, & cis women of color have been speaking out about how high profile white feminists have ignored them for a while now, but in this case it's especially dramatic, because as the essay points out, Rose does have a history of misunderstanding trans women and well some feminist history in general. And it shows in that video, and flippant things like equating the word "woman" with the N word (in her tweets for example). But.... Now Rose gets an E special and is on talk shows nightly. THIS is the context missing from this otherwise fantastic essay: theres a reason trans women are pissed at cis feminists ljke Rose, beyond the RUPaul episode,theres a reason people of color are too. No wonder Tamara burke is erased. If you want to understand why Rose's outburst (and days of doubling down and sending her rose army to attack the woman who criticized her) was abhorrent, consider that context, too, and read up on Tamara Burke's MeToo movement. my 2 cents. thanks for listening.

Sheila Boyer Feb 6, 2018 12:47am

Two comments really ej Part of this whole Movement and journalism is not to sensor We choose who we read / tAke that serious because your readers do. Disappointed

Vicki Wharton Feb 5, 2018 6:35pm

Why not make it an article about not hijacking someone elses work? This wasnt a trans event, there was no need for dier to stand up and rant at mcgowan. This smacked of male violence and mcgowan has the right to stand up for herself when attacked verbally. Enough of defendingvttans sexism.

Nyk Danu Feb 5, 2018 6:34pm

It's a shame the author didn't dig deep enough to find out the real woman behind metoo https://www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/tarana-burke-me-too-creator-activist-speaks-out/

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Anne Clendening

Anne Clendening was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. She is a yoga teacher and author of Bent: How Yoga Saved My Ass, published January, 2018. You can read her darker thoughts on her blog Dirty Blonde Ink. She is currently living in L.A. with her husband and their boxer dog Sabina.