Rose McGowan electrifies crowd in opening speech at Women’s Convention in Detroit

ByKayla Ruble

In what was her first public appearance since joining a growing number of women who have publicly accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment or sexual assault, Rose McGowan pushed a theme of strength and solidarity Friday morning in Detroit as she vowed to continue fighting against sexual harassment across all sectors of society.

“I came to be the voice for all of us who’ve been told we are nothing,” McGowan said during a speech that sounded increasingly like a battle cry. “For all of us who have been looked down upon. For all of us who have been grabbed by the motherfucking pussy, no more. Name it. Shame it. Call it out. Join me. Join all of us as we amplify each other’s voices and we do what is right for us and for our sisters.”

McGowan said her experience being “silenced,” “slut-shamed” and “harassed” as a Hollywood actress was not unlike the treatment faced by women throughout society — treatment she said could no longer stand. The actress and activist did not directly name Weinstein in her condemnation, but did seem to draw a comparison between the disgraced producer and President Donald Trump, who at the height of the 2016 presidential campaign was heard bragging about groping women on a 2005 tape.

No more will we be hurt. It’s time to be whole. It’s time to rise. It’s time to be brave,” McGowan told the crowd. “In the face of unspeakable actions, from one monster we look away to another. The head monster of all right now. And they are the same. And they must die. It is time. The paradigm must be subverted. It is time.”

Paul Sancya/AP

McGowan delivered just one of several powerful speeches at the convention Friday morning. Notably, she was preceded by activist and advocate Tarana Burke, who started the #MeToo movement that has taken on new legs in the wake of the Weinstein scandal.

The #MeToo hashtag caught fire in recent weeks as women used it to add their experiences with sexual harassment, violence and misogyny to the current conversation. But Burke started the movement 10 years ago as part of her effort to support sexual assault victims through her organization Just Be, Inc. Many criticized those propelling the spread of the hashtag for failing to give Burke, a black woman, proper credit for starting the movement.

The inclusion of women of color is set to be a prominent theme of the Women’s Convention, which is taking place in the majority black city of Detroit, where women of color make up 47% of the population. Organizers have been vocal in their efforts to create a feminist campaign different from its predecessors, which have been criticized for focusing on issues mostly pertaining to white women and neglecting more pressing issues impacting women of color and marginalized groups.

The convention opened with an invocation from indigenous and First Nations women, and the idea of inclusion was at the forefront of many of the morning’s speeches. Later, movement organizer Tamika Mallory spoke to the crowd about the origins of the Women’s March, which grew out of a Facebook event created on Election Day 2016 by Teresa Shook in Hawaii in response to Trump’s electoral victory. The activist discussed some of the early efforts to center the movement around women of color and voices from marginalized communities, something she stressed “has not always been fashionable.”

“If your feminism is the difference between Bernie and Hillary, it does not represent me,” Mallory said to an applauding audience, referencing the divide in the Democratic Party — and some convention attendees — between the two former presidential candidates. “Your feminism must be about Muhammad and Ray Ray in order for it to represent me.”

Panels, speakers, workshops and other events are scheduled throughout the conference, part of an agenda organizers say will leave women with skills and strategies to spur grassroots change.

During a panel later in the afternoon, McGowan called out Hollywood’s portrayal of rape and sexual violence in movies and TV shows, referencing series like Game of Thrones and producers like Seth MacFarlane. McGowan said it reinforces myths about what it means to be a male in today’s society when “you grab a woman by [her] hair and drag her down the street in your movie just to say you could,” or “when writers in Hollywood use rape as a plot device because they can’t imagine a woman could get strong otherwise.”

The actress said she’s reached out to the Writers Guild of America on multiple occasions to speak to its membership about this issue, explaining that in many ways it’s part of a vicious cycle that exists in the culture of Hollywood — in which men grow up watching these kinds of scenes and then utilize them in their own films. According to McGowan, her requests have been rebuffed.

McGowan made her comments at a conference panel titled “Fighting for Survivors of Sexual Assault in the Age of Betsy DeVos,” comprised of an experienced panel of experts, advocates and organizers working on critical issues revolving around Title IX laws, campus sexual assault and transgender rights.

Oct. 27, 2017, 5:21 p.m. Eastern: This story has been updated.