On Wednesday night in New York City, actor Rose McGowan spoke about her new book, “Brave,” a memoir recounting the sexual abuse she has suffered. As a central figure in the Me Too activism, McGowan has taken a prominent place among activists fighting to end sexual harassment and assault. But as she chatted with the crowd, things took an unexpected and ugly turn.
A transgender activist named Andi Dier, a male who identifies as a woman, rose and began screaming at McGowan about the how trans people face more sexual abuse than what Dier refers to as “cis” women, those who accept their biological femaleness. McGowan began yelling back, telling the activist to sit down. The activist did not sit down and was eventually removed by store security.
Rose McGowan has meltdown on stage at Barnes & Nobles book signing after trans heckler yells that she hasn't done anything for trans women who are victims of sexual assault. pic.twitter.com/fTRafCUNcL
— Pop Crave (@PopCrave) February 2, 2018
Apparently Dier was upset with remarks McGowan had made on a Ru Paul podcast last year. In discussing the trans issue and male to female trans people, she said, “They assume because they felt like a woman on the inside. That’s not developing as a woman. That’s not growing as a woman, that’s not living in the world as a woman.”
McGowan had not said that trans women aren’t women. She had simply discussed the differences in experience between the two groups. In an interview after the book store event, Dier was asked for details about Dier’s objections to the remarks on the podcast. Dier replied: “The fact that not only did she suggest that we don’t live life as a woman, experiencing what women go through. But there was a hint that we deal with less sh-t.”
Dier’s Actions Were Harassment
We will come back to this last point, but let’s start with the first. McGowan had her event, an event specifically meant to address the abuse and harassment of women, interrupted by a screaming person harassing her. What McGowan did to deserve this was suggest (months ago) that women who grow up as little girls, not little boys, face different experiences and challenges than those who later in life choose to live as the opposite sex.
McGowan’s experience growing up female apparently included statutory rape. For having the temerity to suggest differences in life experiences, she was subjected to a yelling lecture about how she should talk less about “cis” women’s abuse, and more about the abuse facing trans women.
Dier’s message is clear: concerns about women who used to be men are more important and pressing than concerns about women who grew up as women. McGowan’s response to Dier was angry, but also full of transgender-reaffirming statements such as referring to Dier as “sister,” and saying “we are the same.”
But that wasn’t good enough. McGowan also objected to being called “cis,” saying she didn’t want the label. The feminist outlet “Them” said of this, “It’s common for anti trans activists to disavow the label “cis” and position themselves as women…The McGowan rant reeks of this trans-exclusionary radical feminist (TERF) ideology…[and it] backs up her critics’ claims that she is a transphobe.”
Progressives Call Out McGowan
Now, you might think that after she was harassed in this way (McGowan uses the term assaulted) while recounting painful experiences of sexual assault, feminist and progressive communities would rally around McGowan. We can imagine that had it been a pro-life activist interrupting her event, her angry response would be viewed as heroic. You’d be very wrong. Instead, on Friday a Seattle arts and lectures series that had scheduled McGowan to appear in February made this announcement.
In light of feedback from the Seattle community and concerning public behavior by Rose McGowan, Seattle Arts & Lectures has decided to cancel the event with her on February 20. All ticket holders will be refunded.
— SAL (@SeaArtsLectures) February 2, 2018
In the last two days, McGowan has cancelled the remaining events on her book tour, likely in no small part to avoid further incidents in which she is berated while trying to tell her story as a sexual assault survivor. How can this be? How can trans activists and progressives punish McGowan for refusing to be silent while telling the story of her abuse? Isn’t staying silent exactly what they and all of us are trying to change?
This brings us back to Dier’s second point, that trans women face more difficulties in life. What gives Dier the right to harass McGowan and be considered the hero in this instance is the leftist concept of hierarchies of oppression, and the related term intersectionality. Basically, because McGowan has the privilege of not being trans (even though that distinction is not supposed to exist, according trans activists) she should silence her voice so that voices of more oppressed people can be heard.
McGowan Deserves An Apology
The takeway is that a sexual assault survivor trying to address what most agree is an epidemic of inappropriate sexual mistreatment of women is supposed to shut up and nod politely while a trans activist screams at her and calls her commitment to feminism into question. Dier’s actions were totally unacceptable and McGowan’s response, while certainly angry, was understandably so and in no way sought to diminish Dier’s self-identification as a woman.
The Seattle Arts and Lecture series and other groups that may have disinvited McGowan should apologize for being complicit in silencing and shaming a sexual assault survivor. In their fevered haze of trying to march with the army of privilege theory and intersectionality, they have marginalized a woman who has done as much as anyone to bring the Me Too activism into existence. It is shameful. And it has to stop.