On Day 2 of the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, Hollywood actress and ‘feminist whistle-blower’ Rose McGowan was part of a special discussion panel — Resilience in the Face of Adversity. McGowan was present along with Dr Rola Hallam, who is working on relief programmes in war-ravaged Syria, and Farah Mohamed, a women’s rights advocate. The discussion was moderated by CNN NEWS18 consulting editor Anuradha Sengupta.
McGowan spoke about her adversities as well as those that all women face merely by the virtue of her gender; and her vision for the future.
Presumably, when the discussion started, there weren’t many people in the room, or they were leaving after the previous discussion. Seeing this, she said, “It’s interesting… the emptying of the room for women, it says a lot. It speaks volumes culturally how women are treated all over the world.”
Alluding to her experiences in the American film industry, she said, “I started in Hollywood 20 years ago accidentally, and through that time I realised that it was no different than any other CEO’s board room. The veil of secrecy was so intense and they had been allowed to operate businesses for so long that I could not help compare it with the rest of the world…Hollywood (after all) is just a microcosm of identical problems all over the world.”
“The problem with Hollywood and Bollywood is that these are propaganda machinery; these are the images that are given to be as a man, a woman, a trans (transgender), or a gay whatever [sic],” she explains, “It’s often set by men in power who are doing nefarious things.”
McGowan had accused Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, and was among the vocal champions of the #MeToo movement, encouraging women to come forward and share their experience of sexual assault.
McGowan feels angry seeing the inequality and injustice around her; she terms her anger as “righteous anger, earned anger”. She suggests, “It needs to be dealt with from the top,bottom and centre, owing to the fact that it is spread across the world. It is not a Hollywood problem, it is an upper management problem. It could be anywhere; anywhere with people in power.”
She says if the status quo were to change where women have the upper hand, the situation may or may not be different. She attributes her apprehension to the fact that women have never had an edge over men. She further laments the disparity, saying, “It breaks my heart to see that we have to teach girls how to walk safe to school, instead of teaching boys not to rape, instead of getting them to understand that there is no ownership of the female.”
Focussing on the issue of the need of women to speak up, McGowan beautifully, yet sharply, puts it: “For every #MeToo out there, there is an #IDidIt. By being silent you are just aiding and abetting the crime.”
Delving into the theme of the talk — Resilience in the Face of Adversities — McGowan says, “All of us have our own stories of adversities. Women face adversities during childbirth —that’s resilience in the face of physical adversity, there are so many emotional adversities, so many #MeToo(s). There are so many women, who have been punished for their gender, for being born this way.”
McGowan aims at creating a space where everyone has a “sovereign right to exist on the planet.” She adds, rather reinforces her stand by saying, “I know it’s scary for a lot of men right now, and it is good because they should be scared; it is okay to be uncomfortable.”
“I am tenacious, I am dedicated and I am interested in justice. I am interested in that globally and I would love to get us beyond being female, male and get us back to humanity. The only way we can do that is by addressing things, have real conversations,” says McGowan.