Rose McGowan demonstrates problem with feminism lacking intersectionality

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Rose McGowan, best known for her role in the drama series “Charmed,” has been the apex of social media attention in the past few weeks following her accusations against director Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Her accusations, as well as those following from other women involving Weinstein and other directors, has brought to the forefront a conversation that is regretfully always relevant: rape culture in America. This dialogue is much needed in order to expose the scores of sexist directors, actors and producers in Hollywood who have taken advantage of their power and influence to prey upon women in the industry. In many ways, McGowan’s insistence on bringing this conversation to the public sphere rallied women together to call out an issue so many of them have had to deal with.

This is what makes her transgressions all the more disappointing.

Now, McGowan hasn’t really been relevant for a while in spite of her fight for the fair treatment of women. However, this scandal has been, morbidly enough, a chance for McGowan to gain a more impactful social media presence. According to The Hollywood Reporter, in fact, McGowan has “[leapt] to No. 10 on the chart, which ranks the most popular actors based on data from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Google Plus.” This would normally be a good thing, as it would offer her a better platform to talk about the social issues, which she holds so dear and which affect so many of us on a day to day basis.

However, McGowan managed to quickly squander this opportunity by isolating several other marginalized groups while pressing the conversation about the unequal treatment of women. For example, after James Corden’s admittedly repulsive joke regarding the Weinstein case, McGowan chose to tweet in response “Replace the word ‘women’ with the N-word! How does it feel?” There was also a case in which talk show host Ellen DeGeneres made a tweet about LGBT+ discrimination in Mississippi and McGowan responded asking that Degeneres “Speak for women as well plz.”

There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s start with McGowan’s “n-word” comment. Firstly it seems like an accidental reference to John Lennon which is a red flag in itself, secondly it seems to lack the basic nuance that the experiences of two marginalized groups are different and complex and that trying to compare them is going to make one look woefully tone-deaf. One can talk about the gross nature of Corden’s joke without having to practically appropriate the struggles of black people in the process. Moreover, it fails to recognize that Black women, um, exist? It’s a similar issue with her response to DeGeneres’s tweet: it illustrates an inability to acknowledge the intersections between womanhood and blackness, womanhood and queerness or even all three of them.

Ultimately, that’s a problem for anyone who wants to champion for women’s rights. McGowen is not alone in these transgressions: there are a lot of well-regarded feminists who fail to reconcile where marginalized groups meet. Her suddenly very public persona has made this issue all the more obvious. I’m thankful for the conversation she’s sparked; I’m glad we can address this issues in such a public sphere, but we have to do so without sidelining other marginalized people in the process.