Rose McGowan isn't the only advocate for ending sexual abuse

People outside the spotlight deserve more recognition

Rose McGowan.
Supplied via Wikipedia

During her 2018 book tour, Rose McGowan’s been getting a lot of media attention due to a confrontation she had with a trans woman that was caught on camera and later circulated. The protestor called out McGowan for not doing enough to advocate for trans women, having criticized trans women like Caitlyn Jenner in the past and arguing that trans-women can’t truly understand what it’s like to be a woman.

Within the publicized video footage, the protestor is seen arguing a comment McGowan made in an interview with Ru Paul. In that earlier interview, she claimed trans women can’t speak to the hardships of womanhood since they weren’t raised as one. McGowan responded by standing up and yelling passionately about how the statistics on abuse between women and trans women were similar, even though data has proven otherwise.

We tend to place celebrities like Rose McGowan on a pedestal simply due to the public nature of their careers and, thanks to modern media, we’re able to watch their every move. Although I don’t wish to justify her behaviour in this particular scenario, McGowan has lived a life of terror and has been silenced for a long time.

Over 20 years ago, she was the first person to speak out against Weinstein’s actions, took a settlement to stay quiet and has since been working to create enough momentum to speak out about Weinstein once again. In the specific case of the book tour protest, I think it would make anyone emotional and somewhat aggressive to be told you’re not doing enough, even though to McGowan it probably feels as if she’s given all she can.                          

The celebrity doesn’t handle every situation perfectly, but who does? We owe a lot to Rose McGowan for her courage in standing up for women who have been sexually abused and harassed.

Even though she’s spoken out and her efforts are important, she’s not the advocate women need.

Even though it might feel this way with #TimesUp, and #metoo, the fight against sexual harassment isn’t a new battle coming to the forefront of social media. Men and women have been working and fighting towards this goal for years without recognition. Anita Hill helped start the conversation in 1991 when she testified against Clarence Thomas during his Supreme Court nomination hearing and accused him of sexually harassing her.

More recently, some organizations have formed with a mission to end sexual harassment. Hollaback! is a public blog that was founded in 2005 by Emily May and a few others with the goal of stopping harassment of all forms. It was started after the release of a news story about a young woman who stood up to her harasser after he masturbated across from her on the subway. The woman took his photo and brought it to the police who allegedly did nothing to remedy the situation.

The woman’s persistence and perseverance in ensuring action was taken against her harasser impressed Emily May and the other organizers and later spiraled into the international organization. The website is a place for people to share their stories, find support, work together to develop strategies to end sexual harassment and show just how prevalent the problem is. 

Many others have used their passion on the issue to bring awareness and combat sexual harassment. Founded in 2012 and housed in Brooklyn, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile series is a set of portraits and captions directly addressing street harassers. The portraits are placed in public places, usually where the subject has experienced the harassment.

It’s incredible that the women of Hollywood are finally joining the conversation about sexual harassment. Their voices are powerful and have helped spark a massive ripple effect, but Rose McGowan isn’t the advocate we should look to. Along with others like Reese Witherspoon, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence and more, these celebrities aren’t the faces we should think of when speaking of the fight against sexual violence.

McGowan’s book tour incident wasn’t exemplary to what the fight against sexual abuse should be – tearing other women down, no matter their background, isn’t necessary or productive. It shows celebrities make mistakes just like anyone else and we shouldn’t place all of the responsibility on them to solve issues and be a voice for others.

We should be looking to the men and women who have devoted their lives to stopping this problem, not the people that are possibly only in it for the spotlight. Those are our real advocates.

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