Wednesday evening, on the fourth floor of the Union Square Barnes & Noble in Manhattan, a diverse crowd waited for Rose McGowan to arrive, read passages from her new memoir, “Brave,” and answer questions. The time crept past the anticipated 7 p.m. start and finally by 7:45 p.m., she was on the floor, but it took the crowd chanting and another 15 minutes for her to emerge.
McGowan plopped down in the provided chair on stage. “It feels good to sit.” When asked if she’d had a long day, she replied, “It’s been a long life.”
Hours before she was set to appear at the promotional event for her well-timed autobiography, McGowan replied through her publicist to Weinstein’s rebuttal of her accusation that the then-studio mogul raped her, standing by her statements.
McGowan, clad in a bright orange hoodie and white sneakers, rattled off lyrics to a Yo Gotti rap song (“Rake It Up” for the curious) that had been “stuck in my head all day” and bantered with the crowd before finally picking up one of the pre-submitted questions.
“‘What scared you most about speaking out? And how can us other survivors gain the courage to do so?’ I’m going to read the end of it and then back to the beginning,” McGowan said. “The fear of upsetting my family has always silenced me. But I feel like I’m keeping part of me away from them. And then she asked: ‘What scared you most about speaking out? And how can us other survivors gain the courage to do so?’”
“You just did,” McGowan said. “I did it, too. I kept it. … Sometimes I think you feel as a survivor, ‘It’s so big, where do I even begin? Why should I even go to therapy? Where do I start?’ Right? And you are keeping a part of you away from them. … I say it in my book and I’ve said it quite often: I feel we have to allow ourselves to go through the stages of grief of what is lost and what has died.”
After this tender moment, a woman shot up from her seat to confront McGowan about comments made on RuPaul’s “What’s the Tee?” podcast in July 2017, which recently resurfaced on social media. The mood took a sharp turn.
“I have a suggestion. Talk about what you said on RuPaul. Trans women are dying and you said that we, as trans women, are not like regular women. We get raped more often. We go through domestic violence more often. There was a trans woman killed here a few blocks [away]. I have been followed home –.” The woman was then interrupted by Rose.
“Hold on. So am I. We are the same. My point was, we are the same. There’s an entire show called ID channel, a network, dedicated to women getting abused, murdered, sexualized, violated, and you’re a part of that, too, sister. It’s the same,” McGowan retorted.
“You do nothing for them. Trans women are in men’s prisons. And what have you done for them?” she asked.
“What have you done for women?” McGowan said.
It then turned into a shouting match, with McGowan demanding the interrupter sit down as her voice broke. She proceeded to yell at the woman as she was carted off by Barnes & Noble security, chanting “white cis feminism.” McGowan, as the woman was carted off, launched into a passionate tirade, shouting into the microphone:
“Don’t label me, sister. Don’t put your labels on me. Don’t you f—ing do that. Do not put your labels on me. I don’t come from your planet. Leave me alone. I do not subscribe to your rules. I do not subscribe to your language. You will not put labels on me or anybody. Step the f— back. What I do for the f—ing world and you should be f—ing grateful. Shut the f— up. Get off my back. What have you done? I know what I’ve done, God dammit.”
The crowd didn’t quite know what to do and began to console the actress and activist with outbursts of “We love you, Rose” and cheering.
“I’m not crying, I’m f—ing mad with the lies. I’m mad that you put s— on me because I have a f—ing vagina and I’m white or I’m black or I’m yellow or I’m purple. F— off. All of us want to say it. I just do.”
“And you can label this thing as a breakdown. That, motherf—ers, is a breakdown. Maybe not for me, but for you. I might have information you want. I might know s— that you don’t. So f—ing shut up. Please systemically. For once. In the world. You know what I’m talking about. Just tell the God damned truth. Stop boxing everybody into s—. I didn’t agree to your cis f—ing world. Ok? F— off.”
The crowd encouraged McGowan to continue and shouted supportive sentiments. McGowan grabbed a copy of her book to begin, but then continued:
“Does anyone have any idea what energy this takes? Any concept?” Someone in the front row said something inaudible, clearly trying to assuage McGowan’s rage.
“No, it’s not,” she began. “Trans women are women and what I’ve been trying to say is that it’s the same. The stats are not that dissimilar. When you break it down, it is a much smaller population. There’s not a network here devoted to your f—ing death. There’s not advertisers advertising tampons with a camera lovingly going up a girl’s body as she’s being lovingly raped and strangled. Piss off. And until you can collect that f—ing check, back up. My name is Rose McGowan and I am obviously f—ing brave.”
She read the preface and part one to the audience while holding back tears as she described her transition into “the ultimate f— toy by the Hollywood machine.” She also, in this section, tells the story of actress and TV host Frances Farmer and her admiration for her. She then skipped ahead to page 203. “This thing almost took me down,” she said of the book, which she began writing in early 2017.
McGowan thanked everyone for coming and ran off to her next appointment, a scheduled appearance on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert”, which resulted in just about the same outcome.