DETROIT—In her first official appearance since publicly accusing disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of raping her, actress and activist Rose McGowan, speaking on a panel at the opening day of the Women’s Convention here, called on others in the industry to speak out against sexual violence.
“People who have a platform have an obligation, otherwise get the f**k off,” she said to rousing applause at a packed session called “Fighting for survivors of sexual assault in the age of Betsy DeVos.” McGowan was joined by survivors of sexual assault and representatives of groups advocating for victim support.
“I’ve had monsters in my life try to eradicate me from the planet, but I will not go,” said McGowan, the star of films including Jawbreaker, Scream, and Planet Terror, as well as the early 2000s television series Charmed.
Other speakers throughout the convention will range from U.S. senators to grassroots activists including Tarana Burke, who created the “Me Too” movement more than a decade ago. The event, which runs through Sunday, is expected to draw roughly 4,000 attendees, organizers said.
Weinstein, an Oscar-winning producer, was fired from The Weinstein Company on Oct. 8 following a report in The New York Times detailing allegations of sexual harassment and assault against him. He has apologized without specificity, but subsequently rejected accusations of rape by several women.
The Times reported that Weinstein allegedly paid a financial settlement of $100,000 to McGowan in 1997 due to an occurrence in a hotel room during the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. McGowan said in an Oct. 12 tweet to Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive officer: “I told the head of your studio that HW raped me. Over and over I said it. He said it hadn’t been proven. I said I was the proof.”
McGowan didn’t mention Weinstein by name at the convention—a non-disclosure agreement reportedly accompanied the settlement—but actress Amber Tamblyn did. “I feel like the thing that has happened with Harvey Weinstein is like the pin coming out of the grenade,” she said while on the panel with McGowan. “And now we’re going to see the grenade.”
Tamblyn has said that the actor James Woods hit on her when she was just 16. “One of the benefits of having Donald Trump as president is he’s causing things to come to the forefront of national attention,” she said. “So, in that way, I’m grateful for his terribleness.”
For her part, McGowan, who described herself as victim, warrior, and survivor, said she senses the beginning of a cultural shift in America. “They’ve had their feet on our necks for a long time,” she said. “It’s time to return the favor.” One of the ways men and women can effect change is to not stand for crude, sexist remarks in their personal lives. “You can make someone think by simply asking, ‘Why would you say that?’” she said, adding that victims of sexual violence don’t more readily speak up because “it’s so deeply embedded not to believe us.”
Earlier, McGowan was one of a handful of notables to give remarks at the opening of the first national convention of the Women’s March. Clad in black and raising a fist in the air, McGowan, who has become a vociferous advocate for women through her #RoseArmy effort, said she will continue to speak out. “I have been silenced for 20 years. I have been slut-shamed, I’ve been harassed. I’ve been maligned… We are one massive collective voice, and that is what #RoseArmy is all about… no more will we be shunted to the side. No more will we be hurt. It’s time to rise. It’s time to be brave.
“What happened to me behind the scenes happens to all of us in this society. And that cannot stand, and it will not stand. We are one massive collective voice. It’s about all of us being roses in our own life. Not me, but the actual flower because we have thorns, and our thorns carry justice. And our thorns carry consequence.
“It is time. We’ve been waiting a very long time for this to happen, but we don’t need to wait anymore because we’ve got this. We’ve got this.
“For all of us who have been looked down on. For all of us who have been grabbed by the motherf**king pussy, do what is right for us, and for our sisters, and for this plant, Mother Earth.”
Still, change is slower to come to movie-making, she said, adding that part of the problem is that 93 percent of directors’ chairs in the United States are occupied by men—a statistic that has not much changed since 1946. “No more. Name it. Shame it. Call it out. It’s time to clean house,” McGowan said. “We are all Me Too’s.”
“Men in Hollywood use rape as a plot device because they can’t imagine women getting strong otherwise,” she said. “They grab a woman by the hair and drag her down the street just because they could. Misogyny and sexual assault is creeping and insidious,” she said, alluding to the 2013 Oscars that began with a number called “We Saw Your Boobs,” a musical routine in which Seth MacFarlane and other men identified actresses in the audience and films in which their breasts were visible.
That’s the sort of so-called entertainment, she said, that could co-opt a young child’s mind. “We don’t have a Title IX,” McGowan said, alluding to civil rights law that prevents sex and gender discrimination in education. “In Hollywood, there’s no such thing as sexual harassment laws.”
But she’s not backing down. “When I was 10,” she said, “my dad gave me a card that said, ‘Dear Rose, I admire your relentlessness.’”