Why you should care
Rose McGowan appeared at OZY Fest in New York’s Central Park to talk about #MeToo and what’s next.
Since the #MeToo movement began last year, Rose McGowan has been one of its strongest and most prominent voices. She spoke out about her sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, which gave other women in Hollywood — and throughout the world — the courage to come forward with their own stories of abuse. While #MeToo is still important today, McGowan is heading a new movement centered on consciousness, bravery and encouraging more people to speak out against injustice.
Earlier this year, McGowan came out as gender nonbinary and has begun to include elements of both masculinity and femininity in her look. Sporting a newly buzzed and bleached crop with bright pink lipstick, she sat down at OZY Fest in New York’s Central Park to talk about the #MeToo movement and what’s next in an onstage interview with OZY Managing Editor Fay Schlesinger as well as an exclusive backstage sit-down. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Why is sexual harassment so pervasive in Hollywood?
McGowan: The entertainment industry was built on sexual assault. When I was first discovered, I was told I had to have long hair; otherwise, men in Hollywood wouldn’t want to fuck me. If they wouldn’t want to fuck me, they wouldn’t hire me.
In a weird way, [Trump is] telling the truth. He’s educating.
Why did you decide to shave your head?
McGowan: When I shaved my head, one of the immediate side effects I noticed was that people could hear the words coming out of my mouth. I no longer looked like — not that this is a bad thing — one of the Kardashians. The hair thing was really a cry of freedom. I wanted to see if I could do that for more women. I want people to understand it’s OK to have any hair you want but check your motives. Is it for you or is it to fulfill an idea? So, I’m just me. With short hair.
Is #MeToo done? What’s next?
McGowan: #MeToo is taking out the trash. It started a global conversation that nobody was really having. I recently saw a rose growing in the cracks of the sidewalk in Brooklyn and it was all jerky and bent, and I thought, “That’s all of us! We’re all bent.” We need to demand our right to freedom so we can move through society without people hurting us, without people stealing us, without predators. #MeToo is important, but my movement is about thought, consciousness and bravery. I get asked a lot, “How can I be a better man?” I have no idea, but I can help you be a better human.
You mentioned that Trump has actually helped women in a way. How has he done that?
McGowan: As horrified as so many of us are at living in these scary times, the reality is that all the stuff he [Trump] has been doing has been going on for a long time. He’s just too dumb and says it out loud. In a weird way, he’s telling the truth. He’s educating. It’s scary as fuck, but I think it was the good guys on the left who needed to see it for what it was. The lesson is, we need to honor what people are saying because we’ve been saying it for so long. Listen to us and hear us, goddammit!
Malcolm Gladwell and others have talked about the idea of being disagreeable: being purposefully difficult in order to succeed.
McGowan: I disagree with the word “disagreeable” because women are conditioned not to be disagreeable. I was the star in a lot of movies, but they put me as No. 2 behind the man. I knew if I went and complained about it, they would say I’m disagreeable. I was scared of that but now it’s like, fuck it. I agree with the idea of being disagreeable, but I think we need a better term for it. When I came to America at age 10, I had a container of men’s chew spit thrown at my head, and they called me a freak. And I was like, “You’re goddamn right I am! You’re goddamn right.” Because I am me, and that is what we are.
Roxane Gay has chosen not to name the individuals who raped her. You’ve taken a different approach.
McGowan: I don’t think there’s any way to out a rapist. These are criminals. These are people that steal other people, they’re super-predators. But the problem is the complicity machine. I would never judge someone for not naming their rapist [gets emotional]. It’s hard to work through trauma publicly. It’s not perfect and at times ugly. Thank God I’m a pretty crier [laughs]. There’s a lot to cry about, but there’s also a lot to be hopeful about. For Roxane, that’s her way. For me, I needed to bring down a power structure to show other people they could too.
Your next book is called Trust. How has your approach to trust changed fundamentally?
McGowan: The man we all know who attacked me and so many others hired three different organizations that employ ex-Israeli spies to interfere with my life, to terrorize me, to do everything they could to prevent me from testifying. And now they’re trying to put me in jail — I’m facing 10 years in prison. The power structure is insane. I got a warrant for my arrest for drug possession, which was not in my possession. I have done cocaine, but I’ve never traveled with it, and I did not do it then. Do I hate my rapist? Absolutely, duh! I hope he falls off the planet. But bigger than that is the issue of complicity, and that’s why we need to make sure we’re not complicit in helping people hurt others. All I can say is, I’m fighting the good fight. I’m not perfect, but I’m doing my best, and I’m gonna survive. I’m gonna thrive.
What should men be doing right now?
McGowan: Men get trapped. There’s something called the impostor syndrome, and I think an awful lot of men suffer from this. I would implore men to fight for who they are as humans. I’m really sick of hearing the “I have a sister, I have a mother” thing. No, no, no, no. You’re human. They need to step back and realize they’re human first.
Do you see a time when there will be genuine equality between men and women?
McGowan: In the Children of God cult that I grew up in [in Italy], I was raised without mirrors for the first 10 years of my life. I was raised as a human, not as a race and not as a sex. It formed me differently. When I came to America, they put a pink shirt on me and told me what I couldn’t do. We are more similar than we are different. We are all beings of light. So many people tell me they want to go to space, and I say, “Look around. Where do you think you are?”