The news that Harvey Weinstein has allegedly been harassing, assaulting, and raping women for almost three decades led to the question: Why didn't this news come out sooner? Why weren't the women quoted by the New York Times and the New Yorker given a voice earlier? Why wasn't this national news a decade ago? Or even a year ago?
Trouble is, it was. Rose McGowan has been blowing a whistle for a while — at the very least, since she first revealed she was raped by a major studio executive in 2016. That was over a year ago. In November, she joined our Chief Content Officer Amy Emmerich on stage at Web Summit to discuss how our newly-elected president, a misogynist accused by multiple women of sexual assault, meant that we were all "seriously fucked." How did it take this long for McGowan’s anonymous rapist to earn a name? You could argue that the same power dynamics that anointed Trump leader of the free world were at work here.
On Thursday, Twitter locked McGowan out of her account temporarily because, the social media platform claimed, she breached its rules of safety. After other users, including Jessica Chastain and Anthony Bourdain, pointed out the ban looked like deliberate silencing, Twitter released a statement regarding McGowan’s account. She tweeted a personal number, the company said. This didn't stop her: When the 12-hour ban elapsed, McGowan hopped back on Twitter and accused Jeff Bezos of silencing her via one of his employees. (It's not clear if McGowan actually spoke to Bezos.) For the first time, she also directly named her rapist: "HW," which can only stand for Harvey Weinstein.
This past week has been a big one for McGowan. Last Thursday, the New York Times published a harrowing catalogue of Harvey Weinstein’s alleged crimes against women in Hollywood. The piece alleges that in 1997, McGowan received a $100,000 settlement from Harvey Weinstein that was, as per the Times, meant to “avoid litigation and buy peace.” (Refinery29 has reached out to the Weinstein Company for comment on these details and has yet to receive a response.) The piece implies that McGowan had an “incident” with Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival that year.
On October 5, the day the piece was published, McGowan tweeted, “Anyone who does business with __ is complicit. And deep down you know you are even dirtier. Cleanse yourselves.”
It was an indirect admission that McGowan did indeed have an incident with Weinstein. This aligns with the statements she made in 2016. In October of that year, McGowan hung her story on the hashtag “#WhyWomenDontReport,” a piece of Twitter activism that aims to shed light on why sexual assaults often fly under the radar. She didn’t report because a criminal attorney told her she couldn’t win against a studio head. Plus, McGowan had “done a sex scene in a film," which weakened her chances of winning a lawsuit, she alleged. “They shamed me while adulating my rapist,” she wrote, per The Huffington Post. It would have been a perfect time for an exposé to drop.
Even before that, though, McGowan has been a champion for women in Hollywood. In 2015, a BuzzFeed profile branded her as a “feminist whistleblower.” Earlier that year, McGowan shared a casting note that accompanied an Adam Sandler script. It had a bizarre request for the character’s clothing: “Wardrobe Note: Black (or dark) form fitting tank that shows off cleavage (push up bras encouraged). And form fitting leggings or jeans.”
But McGowan’s point was that it wasn’t bizarre. This kind of language is custom in Hollywood, she said.
“Probably, a girl had to type it up, and it felt normal for her to do,” she told Broadly about the note in 2015. Her tweet wasn’t an attack on Sandler, although that’s what many took it to be — according to her interview with Broadly, it was “about attacking the idea that that's okay.” McGowan wants to disrupt the status quo. (In that same interview, McGowan said ominously, "There are gnarly and gross things about Hollywood that I've experienced that rise to the level of criminality. Like, stuff that would curl your hair." The journalist didn't press her on this matter.)
The tweet got McGowan fired from her acting agency.
Still, she kept making noise. Following the incident, she told Page Six, "I didn't take a vow of silence when I joined the industry. I wasn't aware that I joined the mafia. I'm going to make fun of something stupid, and maybe somebody will learn something."
McGowan has an interesting position. Because she withdrew from Hollywood in 2007, she has no stake in the game — the reporter Yashar Ali called her a Hollywood "pariah" in a recent tweet. The convenient thing about pariahs is that people don't have to listen to them. But they can also say things the insiders cannot.
With this most recent scandal, McGowan is perhaps the only person on Twitter naming names. While other celebrities tweet their condolences — passing acknowledgements that are about as useful as a Kleenex — McGowan is tweeting lists.
She wrote on 7th October: "Agents, managers, Directors, casting agents, producers, distributors, SAG, DGA, PGA, Studio heads, Network = 30 year cover up." This is how McGowan was silenced.
She gave a list of rumoured enablers which included Bob Weinstein, Lance Maerov, Richard Koenigsberg, Tarak Ben Ammar, and David Glasser. She claimed they knew of Weinstein's actions and had quietly shepherded them out of the press.
It's harder to ignore someone who's been amplified, though. Today, McGowan has the Times, and the New Yorker working as her microphone. She also has an army.
McGowan recently invoked the hashtag #rosearmy. On Thursday, when she lost access to her Twitter account, the hashtag gained traction. One user added the hashtag #freerosemcgowan. It became clear that Twitter — or someone close to Twitter, or someone who had the funds to encourage Twitter — was trying to silence her. Again, McGowan became a pariah, at least for 12 hours. This time, though, people were listening. Where McGowan was silenced, others spoke up. And, in solidarity with the silenced McGowan, women will be boycotting Twitter on Friday, 13th October.
When she arrived back to Twitter after her ban, she wrote, "To all of us who have been hurt and silenced
#RISE #ROSEARMY is here and our voices are mighty."
Luckily, there's little that McGowan won't do. In a 2007 interview with Blackhouse, McGowan explained her nature.
"In general, I’m kind of scared. I hate it, it’s my one number one issue in life, fear,” she said. “It infuriates me. I’m terrified of the ocean, so I go swimming with dolphins. I’m terrified of heights, so I jumped out of a plane."
McGowan speaks truth to power, a phrase Twitter invoked in its statement about her ban, and has been doing so fearlessly for at least two years. Why didn't we listen to her? Probably because we weren't trying. It's time to amplify the voices around us who disrupt the status quo. It's time we all jumped out of a plane.
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