it's time to let go of rose mcgowan

I'm offering to send every member of the #RoseArmy a copy of the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Because it's time to let go of Rose McGowan. She cannot be the face of #metoo.

She was exactly what The Purge needed early on to gain mainstream power. She's well-known and liked by the general public, attractive, articulate, available on social media and in interviews, and absolutely fucking done taking shit. She was unafraid to expose the power dynamics behind the scene that made hostages out of too many victims. Many of us saw ourselves, or what we wanted ourselves to be, in her: wounded, but powerful. Hurt, but defiant.

i mean
that's exactly how i've been feeling

but there's something about this
that gives me what my 5-year-old calls
an uh-oh feeling

In the early days (all of a few months ago, fuckin a, social justice time is what human years must be like for dogs), when we didn't know if this was going to end with Harvey, McGowan nudged the dominoes closer together, and by speaking up so relentlessly she proved that a person could publicly identify a powerful predator and literally live to tell the tale.

She contributed to an environment that rewarded, or at least punished less harshly, women's speech. It cost her to do that. I'm not ungrateful for that cost.

We needed momentum, and she erupted into the news cycle with laser focus: Break the silence. Annihilate the silencers. I'm not ungrateful for that work.

(And here's a personal complication: 
Some of you may have found this blog through Rose McGowan, 
who was the first famous person to ever share a piece of mine, 
this Next-Level Rage Stroke that she shared on her Facebook page, 
a single click for her that changed my career. 
I am not ungrateful.)

But that work is done. Unsubtle force pushed this vehicle of change into gear. We needed it to get going. Now that we're picking up speed, I don't want to ride in a car with this person behind the wheel. She's inexperienced but doesn't seem to know it, which makes her a dangerous driver of a very costly vehicle.

I want to be kind to her because I know how deeply she is hurt. 
But her pain does not qualify her 
to speak more loudly than anyone else,
and she seems to feel that it does. 

I have empathy for her pain; 
her pain does not give her license to inflict pain on others. 

If I have to explain that to you,
you are in too much pain
to be in charge.

It feels like she is so focused on achieving justice, or even vengeance, on a very specific kind of predator, who hurt a very specific kind of woman. That's understandable - she's lived with pain and shame for a long time.

What's not okay is that anyone who challenges the narrowness of that focused vision becomes an enemy, not an ally. She thinks that homogeny is a strength. That's how a survivor survives, by creating a community of safe, known people. That's not how a leader leads.

It's not that she doesn't want trans women to have justice; it's just that she doesn't really believe they need it as much as she does, and their insistence on inclusion is an attack designed to weaken her.

She is a survivor. She is not a leader.

In a recent interview, Tarana Burke, the founder of #metoo and a longtime foot soldier in the fight against sexual assault, said:

I think that what we have to do is be really proactive in our communities. Really drill down to the most basic in our communities. We have to find ways to interrupt sexual violence everywhere, every day, all the time.

What my lane is, is helping people to figure that out. And also finding real, legitimate ways to support survivors. As many organizations and advocacy agencies that we have across the country, there are still so many communities without resources. And so, part of my work is also teaching us, again, take what you have and make what you need.

Tarana Burke, a survivor, is also a leader.

A leader works to serve the cause of justice; McGowan works so the cause can serve her justice.

And if all she'd ever done was speak up, tell her story, encourage others to do the same, and write a book, that would all be commendable. As a survivor, she's publicly processing her trauma, and that experience is valuable.

But at some point her pain became her CV,
and she was a perfect fit for this new job:
Face of the #metoo movement.

And then she said that she was the architect of Weinstein's downfall, and okay. But that asssertion of responsibility doesn't take into account the decades of anti-sexual-violence work done by people like Tarana Burke.

When Rose says "I took him down," she doesn't acknowledge the high cost of speaking up for women who came before, like the Cosby accusers, many of whom were women of color who suffered public shame and cruelty, but who nevertheless dragged our collective awareness to the fact that it was possible for a man to be both funny and cruel. It was possible for our heroes to be monsters.

And then she said Time's Up is a farce and Alyssa Milano is a lie, and okay. We're all grown-ups here, which means that we are all fair game for criticism. Time's Up is fair game for criticism, and so is Milano. And so is McGowan, but she isn't able to hear criticism. That's not good enough.

And then she said that trans women don't know what it's like to develop in childhood, so they can't understand the experience of womanhood. Not okay. Worse than not okay.

And then this:

I'm speaking as a person who cares deeply
about her pain as a survivor of assault: 
She can't help anymore.
She has to stop now. 

Not because she's being "abrasive" or "uncomfortable" or "rude" or "argumentative," or "crazy," or any of the other words that I've heard describe her and that I have to call out as straight-up weak sauce and the same kind of limp criticism that has always been used to try to get loudmouth dames to pipe down. Her volume isn't the problem.

The problem is that she's sculpting a movement of white cis women who only value white cis woman pain. And that's not good enough.

Anyone who needs to remind you to be grateful had not earned your gratitude.

That narrowness, that personal sense of having been wronged so intimately and so deeply, make her a fatally flawed leader of what must be an inclusive social justice movement for all people. We have to bring everyone with us, or it's just another racist, transphobic, xenophobic, homophobic half-measure.

Real talk: 
If we embrace Rose as our leader
we endorse her public statements
that diminish the value of women.

If we embrace Rose as our leader
#metoo is not a movement for women.

If we embrace Rose as our leader
#metoo is a movement for white, cis women.

And as a rule, I don't join whites-only groups.
As a rule, I don't cheer for groups that exclude trans voices.

I wouldn't go to a church that didn't let these people in.
I won't support a movement that closes its doors, either.

If we don't bring everyone - EVERYONE - with us, 
our movement is performance, not progress.

What if the #metoo movement had been driven forward by, say, Katherine Heigl. And then Scarlett Johansson and Amanda Seyfreid spoke up. And then Cameron Diaz and Naomi Watts stepped up, and all of these blonde women spoke in a single voice: "Women will not be victims anymore."

Cool. Cool cool cool.

But then imagine Natalie Portman said "me, too." And the whole #metoo gang said, "Well, okay, I guess, but what you don't understand is that blonde women are sexualized more than brunettes are. I'm sorry that something happened to you but blonde women are so vulnerable, like so vulnerable. It's really important that we all stay focused here so that we can make the world better for women."

Uh... do you mean blonde women? Because you just took a massive dump all over this brown-haired girl.

That would be absurd, right? To draw a line down the middle of the movement that divides "real survivors" from "pretenders" based on hair color? Ridiculous!

How is that example any different from drawing a line down the middle of this women's movement separating "real women" from "transwomen" based on whether or not they menstruate? Ridiculous. Ridiculous and fucking not good enough.

Rose defends herself by saying that she mentions women of color and trans women in interviews. She mentions that they exist and that they suffer pain like hers.

But what she doesn't say in those interviews is that those two populations are objectively more vulnerable to sexual assault than white cis women are, purely because when they consider coming forward, they must weigh not only the biases against their gender, but also the likelihood of being punished because of their race or transgender identity, two fucking awful, inescapable, and common threats that Rose McGowan and I have never experienced, and will never experience.

She can't acknowledge that trans women would have wanted nothing more than to develop breasts and menstruate, that trans women watched cis women grow more deeply into the bodies that belonged to them, and felt depair as they grew more deeply into bodies that did not fit. Not good enough. In fact, it's fucking awful.

One of the ways that I respect Rose McGowan is by telling her that she is wrong. She's wrong to try to lead a movement out of her own pain. She's wrong to claim ownership of progress. She's wrong to categorize only some women as worth fighting for. She's wrong to believe that her experience of womanhood is representative of all womanhood. She's wrong.

Unequivocally, she has value as a person and as a survivor, which is completely separate from the question of her ability to contribute to the leadership of this movement.

Rose McGowan is a valuable person;
she is a harmful leader.

It's time for her to sit down, take care, and make space for all the other capable women who could be doing this crucial work better than Rose is doing it. It's time. It's past time. #Metoo must make room for difference of opinions, but it cannot give space to disrespect and dismissal.

At this point, the greatest gift Rose McGowan can give the movement is the example of how people can become aware of their own limitations and begin to hold themselves accountable, no matter who they are, for the ways that they hurt other people.

And the greatest gift we can give her is our honesty and respect:

Rose, thank you for what you've done.

Your pain is not your CV.
Your pain belongs to you
but it doesn't qualify you for leadership.

You're hurting people.
We won't let you do that.
You're done. 

This is my work
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with Ronit Feinglass Plank


  1. Thank you. For weeks I’ve been bothered by things Rose McGowan was saying and I didn’t want to not support her, but I couldn’t do it. I meekly stopped following her accounts in social media... and I am grateful to you for articulating my feelings so well.

  2. Basically, every single word of this. <3

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  4. Disagreement welcome, transphobia not. I don’t owe hate speech a platform and if that pisses you off you can go write your own blog about it.

    1. I do, Katie ... because I'm so worried about what younger feminists are giving away. If you think about it, I didn't write anything "transphobic". I related a couple of verified & well-publicised facts about Rose's heckler, then suggested you may have lost your objectivity.

      When you instantly perceive any criticism of a member of a protected group as hate speech, you've been manipulated. I really hope that you will collectively recover your thinking faculties enough to judge obnoxious behaviour for what it is. My reasons for hoping for this don't come from bigotry, they're ALL about respect and love for female human beings (and for reasonable transwomen). Our freedoms are hard-won, and recently. They are still fragile. Women need to defend one another's boundaries.

    2. Cherry, you said, “You're trashing a powerful female voice ... in favour of a male sex predator, who wears womanface while being paid to harass women who speak up for female liberation.”

      You intentionally misgendered Andi Dier, a trans woman. That is a transphobic thing to do, regardless of the awful things that Andi has been accused of doing.

      You mischasacterize my work as a “trashing” of McGowan. Read it again. It’s an argument to allow her to be who and what she is - a survivor - and free her from an expectation that she cannot currently meet as a leader.

      You don’t get to decide which trans women deserve respect and love, Cherry. Transphobia is not welcome here.

  5. She is kind of awkward already... and thank you for this post, it articulately says what we need to say to her.

  6. I was really concerned when she exhibited her white feminism and turned away when people called her out about it. She seemed to try to do better. But she definitely had an asterisk by her name. The only reason I even bothered to keep reading her tweets is that I knew that one of her former bosses was about to come under fire, and considering that I'm good friends with some of the women that fucker impacted, I couldn't wait to see her burn it all with fire. Instead? She didn't say a word. Pardon me for shilling my own words here. But this is what I wrote about her silence on her former boss, it's easier to post than reiterate.

  7. Hi, just want to be on the record as disagreeing with you. McGowan IS a leader. The subject she leads on is biologically-based harassment of women. Her bravery, persistence, and celebrity make her the perfect person to lead this moment of resistance. She should not in any way be abandoned or have some other person take her place.

  8. Cis women are attacked, trans woman are attacked. I hear cis women often stating that trans women are attacked, but I do not often hear trans women stating that cis women are attacked. Women of color are attacked, and I am not sure why they are unintentionally excluded from activist spaces/movements.

    1. Hi Little Css Wolf, think of it this way: Men also suffer from sexual violence, but when men enter into a conversation about sexual violence perpetrated against women and say, "But what about the men?" We meet that statement with hostility because even though of course sexual violence is devastating against men, men do still have social capital that protects them against some of the forms of sexual violence to which women are vulnerable. In short, men have more power than women do, generally speaking (although if you consider racism, ableism, etc. that's not always the case), so the best way for men to contribute to a conversation about sexual violence is to listen and amplify the voices of people who have been hurt.

      Similarly, cis women have more social power than trans women do. You can see that in the hostility demonstrated not just by Rose McGowan, but by her audience at the Times Square B&N, and in the way the women who read this blog have taken sides, and too many people who agree on so much cannot get on the same page when it comes to including trans women.

      It's our job as cis women to include the people who are more marginalized than we are, just as we expect men who are true allies to amplify our voices and include us because they have a bigger platform than we do.

      In short, when cis women trash trans women, we're punching down, and we need to be punching up. Trans women are trying to survive out there in a way that we can't understand. Nobody tells us what bathroom to use, Little Css Wolf. We suffer a lot of oppression and violence, but it is a different beast from the gauntlet that trans women have to navigate in order to live their lives.

      And in terms of women of color being excluded from activist spaces and movements, let me ask you a question: who does it matter to if the exclusion is intentional or unintentional? Not to the women of color. It matters to the people who want to be nice, but aren't willing to make a mess or stand up for a cause that might be met with hostility by their friends and neighbors. Consider the idea that the intention behind the slammed door matters not at all. And I think your question is really worth exploring - why are women of color excluded from activist spaces and movements?

  9. You may not like how loud the soldier next to you chews their gum in the trenches, but you can still appreciate their PRESENCE.

    You're on the same bloody side.

    This article is not constructive in the least. Let's take FORWARD steps.

    1. Hi, J.A. I agree - we should be on the same side. I'm not criticizing Rose's gum chewing or her presence in the movement. I'm criticising the way she doesn't make room for other people who should be in the trenches with us. Criticism is one way to respect someone. If I didn't think she and I were on the same side, I wouldn't have bothered to write this piece that honors her voice but challenges her to grow.

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