Rose McGowan, White Feminism, and TERFS

If you’re like me, then you spend about 85% of your day online. I come across a lot of content from Twitter to Google Searches to working.

If you’re not like me, then the video clip that starting circulating of Rose McGowan having an “I’m not even sure what to call it” moment in a Barnes and Nobel hasn’t found its way onto your timeline yet. If you haven’t seen it, pause, click here and watch video 1 and video 2.

What we see is Rose at a booking signing in a Barnes and Nobel, and a trans women in the audience yelling at her. I’m not sure I want to use the verb yelling, but her voice was raised in anger and frustration. Rightfully so. I’m learning more and more the use of verbs projected onto specific groups while writing about them. So bear with me.

So, the first time I watched it I kept saying, “I don’t get what really happened. I clearly missed the first part of the video.” Then I finally got it. The woman in the audience, who I later found out is named Andi Dier, a prominent Trans Activist (and from what I have read today has SA assault allegations against her, but I do not know this information in detail and Rose did not know this when it happened), says this to Rose; “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 –.”

I missed the RuPaul part originally. So I went to find out what Rose said on RuPaul’s Podcast.

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This is what we call TERF– Trans Exclusive Radical Feminism. Which as we all know can’t fully be feminism, because if that shiz ain’t intersectional, then it is not really feminism. But let’s break down what Rose says here, but I think there are some really interesting points we can take away from this and learn as a community.

I’m not really sure what Rose was meaning to say, all I can read is what Rose said. But this is what I think on this subject. “That’s not developing as a woman, that’s not growing as a woman, that’s not living in this world as a woman.” Okay. Let’s pause here. If we ignore the layers of womanhood, then we will never ever be able to progress. My experiences a white, cis, upper-middle-class woman will DRASTICALLY differ from an immigrant Muslim, lower class brown trans woman. Does this discredit either of our experiences into developing into womanhood? No. Maybe Rose meant something else, but I don’t think she did. What she is projecting is that there is one singular experience of womanhood. Which is just absurd. Firstly, the question about the period…. What should I tell a trans woman who asks me? Yeah, it freaking sucked and my male teacher mocked me one time for needing to go change my tampon in High School? Or what about my friends whose cramps are so bad they want to remove their uterus or what about my friend who didn’t get her period until she was 19? My point is this is not an experience of womanhood that we cis women all experience in perfect unison.

So let’s move on to Rose and Andi in the bookstore.

Andi starts to address her questions and her voice raises, because well, who wouldn’t. But I as a cis woman can’t really imagine going into a Barnes and Nobel and yelling at a woman talking about her sexual assault, but again I am cis. So my perspective on this is meh, whatever.

So how does Rose respond? By saying we are all the same, “Hold on. So am I. We are the same. 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 part of that, too, sister. It’s the same.”

Sigh. No, we aren’t. My friends who are women of color will never experience the world like me full of privilege. My Trans friends will never feel my privilege. While I don’t like the idea of stating me and the Other, I note how incredibly important it is to acknowledge the Other’s experiences in these conversations. In one of my classes, my professor asked us what we saw in the mirror and I said: “I see a woman.” And a woman of color next to me responded with “I see a Black Woman.” That is something I will never experience, the color of my skin is part of my self-identification.
When we talk about White Feminism, we don’t inherently mean white people, though it tends to be, hence the name. White feminism means that you just don’t care about the layers of womanhood- race, religion, gender identification, sexual identification. A black woman fighting for the right to abortions, but is very anti-Trans woman can still be a white feminist. Though, I have only seen this a few times.

It usually looks more like pink pussy hats and Instagram worthy protest signs ignoring how many white women voted for Trump, ignoring fighting for policy changes that affect Black women and Trans women.


But I must ask this,  and maybe this is TERFY of me, and it if is, then call me on my shit. Do I need to specify the differences between Trans women vs Cis women? This feels as if I am alienating Trans women, that I have to call you a Trans woman. You’re just a woman to me. Is this part of your self-identity like of my friend from class? Am I stripping you of something if I just call you a woman?

Andi then says words: “You do nothing for them. Trans women are in men’s prisons. And what have you done for them?” Rose responds with “What have you done for women?”

She then says “This is like the AIDS crisis all over again. This is white cis feminism,” as she was escorted out.

So this is something I have seen a lot in the Feminist movement recently. From Cis women of all layers–gay, bi, straight, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, Black, Brown, White. “What do Trans women do for Cis women?” And it’s an interesting question. Becuase while we should champion for each other, are we all meant to be activists for each other? I spent most of my years working as Rape Advocate and Anti Rape Activist, but I’m by no means a Trans Activist. I have gone to many BLM marches, but I would feel so wrong standing there being an activist in a narrative that doesn’t belong to me. Is it wrong for Cis women to take the back lines and allow Trans women to be the voice of their narrative? I am NOT saying we should say Transphobic things, but I’m also asking am I as a Cis woman fit to be a Trans activist? Do I need to have that self-identity to be an activist? I am literally asking you as my reader. I don’t know.

I do remember resenting the white male savior who walked into our discussions on teaching consent on campus. “I would love to develop a gender-based violence course,” he said. I remember the man who said, “my feminism wasn’t helping enough, but he knew the answers, he knew how I should express my pain.” But then I remember the men on campus who said: “I am here to support you.” My point being there is a difference between being an activist and being an ally. And is it right to be an activist for a movement that isn’t your identity?

Now. This tweet from Rose from this past October is NOT what I mean by the definition of being an ally. No. This is talking over the narrative. Of course, we need to fight for these things. Trans and Cis women need to fight for these things regardless of which one it affects. Same as we as Trans and Cis women need to fight to protect women who go to prison.



So this is the part of the video where people get really upset. Rose says this as the Trans woman is leaving. “Don’t label me, sister. Don’t put your labels on me. Don’t you fucking 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 fuck back. What I do for the fucking world and you should be fucking grateful. Shut the fuck up. Get off my back. What have you done? I know what I’ve done, God dammit.” Specifically “I don’t come from your planet.” I think when we really look at this, this wasn’t Rose stating that Trans women come from a different planet; I think this is Rose stating she herself doesn’t come from our planet. I straight up think Rose is really unhinged, I don’t think she is okay. I don’t think she is stable. I think we saw this in the mindset that Rose herself is in a different world. But fuck. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe this is my privilege blinding me to something.

The next thing Rose says is that really upset people was “What I do is for the fucking world. And you should be fucking grateful. So shut the fuck up. Get off my back. What have you done?”

Damn. This to me screamed again she is so not stable. She isn’t okay. But also telling a Trans woman who is expressing her issues to shut up? Gross. Saying a Trans woman should be grateful when most of your activism has been for white upper class cis woman of Hollywood? Just….uhm, odd? Also if you’re in activism for praises, you’re doing it wrong.
“I’m mad you put shit on me because I have a fucking vagina and that I’m white [or I’m black, yellow or purple]. This also seemed to really upset the internet. Which to me, I found really interesting. Now, if we define sexism a little more liberally, then I would say “it is the hatred of a person with a vagina.” And even further, sexual abuse of women come as a result of having a vagina. So what I Imagine in Rose’s mind she is sexually abused, because she has a vagina. She then is hated for her sexual abuse aka her vagina in Hollywood. And now as she tries to tell this narrative, a Trans woman says she isn’t good enough because she has a vagina and is not fighting for women without a vagina. This is not what I think literally happened. But what I picture is her mindset for this statement.

Now obviously, Rose has a pretty open track record of saying Transphobic things, which of course is different than sexism. But it is still rooted in the same kind of hatred for “the Other.” Obviously, Rose is being attacked for her past quotes. Not that she is Cis. Not that she is white. But to note, that when we talk to someone who is clearly unhinged, they feel, they hear, the see the world a lot differently than someone else. I think Rose is hurting. I don’t think Rose is okay.

What amazed me was the tweets that followed. How blatantly Transphobic “openly proud feminists,” were.


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Like…girl what? Where did you even learn this “information.” There are tons of these tweets. Hundreds. Thousands. To different threads and didn’t personal tweets. And man did it bum me the hell out. I eventually just stopped reading them.

But I also gotta say, the tweets saying “fuck Rose she can die,” also seemed just not appropriate. Rose is harboring a lot of pain, anger, and violence. She is clearly not well. She is not stable. And well, I just don’t think some of those tweets were the most constructive. Has she said things like this before, well maybe not to this extent, but Transphobic things, yes? Has she learned? Clearly not. But I just also can’t imagine adding turmoil to someone’s life who is clearly sinking in her own pain of sexual assault. But again, as I said from my first comment–I am a cis woman so my overall stance on this is just meh.

I think as we grow as people and grow as in our movements, Me Too, BLM, Feminism, Trans Movement, Pride, etc, then we constantly need to strive to learn more and more. What Rose said was horrible, but did it lead way to a conversation a lot of white feminists in the movement need to self- reflect on? Are you fighting for all the layers of womanhood? Are you an ally to all women? Are you listening to what other women say and need for their survival?

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