Actress Rose McGowan says she has been “silenced for 20 years,” but won’t remain quiet about sexual assault and harassment. (Oct. 27)
NEW YORK — Rose McGowan is somewhat frustrated by the public’s obsessive focus on what happened between her and former Miramax head Harvey Weinstein in that hotel suite in 1997. After all, there are 14 chapters of hell in her new book, Brave. The description of the alleged rape takes up only one.
As one of Weinstein’s most outspoken accusers, the former-actress-turned-feminist-provocateur has helped the Me Too movement rip open a hulking hole in the public’s consciousness, and now McGowan, 44, is stepping inside with a gripping memoir that wages war on the patriarchy and with Citizen Rose, E!’s docu-series about her battle against sexual violence. Weinstein, who on Tuesday called McGowan’s rape claim “a bold lie,” is part of the saga, she said, but he isn’t all of it.
More: The must-read moments in Rose McGowan’s new book, ‘Brave’
“It’s annoying if they look at just the hotel room story,” she says in a low voice, vaping in the space between thoughts as she sits cross-legged on a bed in her Tribeca hotel room. The “they” she refers to includes anyone she believes myopically minimizes the injustices against her and other survivors. “They’re not looking at the sustained, consistent assault on your mind.”
McGowan — who forged a career through indie films before starring as a witch on WB’s Charmed — says she suffered in silence for decades after the alleged rape and endured years of professional blacklisting. Now, she seems to have risen like the proverbial phoenix.
Clad in all-black and with close-cropped raven hair (she shaved it off completely a few years ago to shed the label of “sex object” attached to her by Hollywood), the leader of #RoseArmy looks a bit like the warrior she’s unwittingly become.
“Society has had an awful lot of thoughts for me,” she says. “Now I have some thoughts for them. They might want to shut up and listen.”
In Brave, McGowan details a life of perpetual abuse. She was born in Italy into a cult called the Children of God. After her family fled the sect, she bounced back and forth between living with her father, whom she called “unbalanced,” and her mother, who was often in relationships with abusive men. After entering Hollywood, she worked with directors who she says exploited her, and found herself managed by people who ignored her pleas to intervene.
At 23, McGowan alleges she was raped by Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. She says he requested a meeting with her in his hotel room where he stripped her, pushed her into a Jacuzzi and forcibly performed oral sex on her while masturbating.
“I did what so many who experience trauma do,” she wrote. “I dissociated and left my body.”
McGowan has become one of the most prominent celebrity voices in Me Too, though she’s unsure how much the movement, and its counterpart, Time’s Up, can advance gender equality. She recently criticized the involvement of Hollywood’s talent agency CAA in Time’s Up, claiming it’s a “company of pimps that sent so many into the Monster’s (Weinstein’s) lair.”
“They’re so deeply in the system,” she says of some of the champions in both movements.
McGowan’s refusal to fall in line has made her one of Me Too’s most controversial voices. She opposed the all-black Golden Globes protest, has called out award-winning actress Meryl Streep for her “silence,” and lashed out at former Charmed co-star Alyssa Milano for supporting Weinstein’s wife, Georgina Chapman.
While she issued apologies for some of her words, McGowan says likability should be the least of a woman’s concerns. Expressing rage, she said, is justifiable.
“You don’t get to tell me what mood I get to be in,” she said.
McGowan may not be afraid of being angry, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t afraid. In November, the New Yorker reported that Weinstein hired an “army of spies” to dig up information on potential vocal accusers, including McGowan. The revelation rattled her. It did not, however, deter her.
“Either someone’s going to kill me, or I’ll get bored and I’m going to go away and live my life, but I feel like I have a little more time that I’m interested in donating,” she says.
McGowan was born into a cult. When she was an actress, she felt like she worked in one. Cults are everywhere, she says, where a powerful few choke the free thought of the many.
“Do you know how you break out of a cult? You punch that fist (expletive) up high and you knock everything out of the way,” she says. “Every time you want to say you’re fat, don’t. Every time you want to put yourself down, don’t. Every time you want to say you’re sorry because you moved and took up an inch extra on the subway, don’t. Stop yourself. It’s hard. Retrain yourself. I did it. So can you.”
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