rose mcgowan wants to end male privilege, period
Currently working on her memoir "Brave," activist and icon Rose McGowan talks to i-D about freedom, feminism, and fighting for what you believe in.
Photography taken from i-D's Out of the Blue Issue, no. 277, 2007
From growing up in a polygamous Children of God cult and running away to live with drag queens, to becoming a teen screen icon in one of the most successful shows of the noughties, Rose McGowan has been there, done that, and donated the T-shirt to charity. She shot to fame in the 90s in Gregg Araki's cult film The Doom Generation playing the self-obsessed teen delinquent Amy Blue. Nearly always the villain, she cemented her role as Hollywood's favorite femme fatale when she stormed the MTV VMAs in nothing but a chainmail dress and a thong, with her then-boyfriend Marilyn Manson by her side and zero fucks given.
Her career took a turn in the noughties when she was cast as one of the Halliwell sisters in supernatural series Charmed. No longer the high priestess of cult indie films like Jawbreaker and Death Proof, Rose achieved mainstream success in the role of a benevolent witch. Fast-forward to today and she's back to being as badass as they come, only this time she's dropped the whole acting thing, and adopted the role of filmmaker and activist. From hijacking a political gala to calling out sexism, misogyny, and Donald Trump on Twitter, Rose is carving out a name for herself as one of the most important voices of our doomed generation. She's punk as fuck, but then again she always has been. Currently working on her memoir Brave, as well as her first feature film, Synaesthesia, the activist, icon, and avenger of the marginalized talks to i-D about freedom, feminism, and fighting for what you believe in.
You've had a very unique life. How has your past made you who you are today?
My life has kind of felt like one long bizarro movie with heaping amounts of twists and turns. I've met people who've been somewhat condescending about my upbringing, feeling sorry for me and the like. I can say that the idea of a white picket fence in suburbia existence gives me heart palpitations, and not the good kind. The claustrophobia of rigid societal norms makes me grateful for what I have fought through, been through, and am. Growing up and living outside of every conceivable norm has its perks.
You were first known as an actor. But at what point did you discover your own voice as a woman, with a platform to speak out and stand up for what she believed in?
Directing my first film, Dawn, one that was about more than just entertainment, gave me strength and wings. Twitter made it so I could have an undiluted voice. When equal pay for women was voted DOWN in America, well, I just kind of snapped. It was on.
Many women are too afraid to speak out against things like sexism for fear of being labelled angry or bitter. If you could address all the women in the world right now what advice would you give to them?
Who cares if men label us as bitter? They're always going to label us something, may as well have a cause. I don't know what equality in the eyes of the law and equal consideration has to do with bitterness. I think the Right did a very good job slandering the word feminist; it's something I'd like to undo. If women look at where we are in the world, I think they'd see that being polite doesn't work. It's too slow; it's too dependent on another's mercy. Fuck that. Take it.
If you could write a letter to your younger self, what would you say? Would you encourage yourself to do anything differently?
Yes, I'd have gotten out of acting years earlier. The problem was I was so consumed by being other people. I didn't have time to develop what I wanted my life to look like. It is a deep regret of mine. I wish I had gotten to spend more time being me.
You recently received a lot of attention for shaving your head, how do you feel about people constantly commenting on your appearance?
People have been commenting on my appearance my entire life. I'm bored of it, frankly. I shaved my head because it was a political statement. When a woman shaves her head; specifically a former sex symbol, make no mistake, it is a political act and it telegraphs that message loud and clear.
What is the hardest and/or most rewarding thing about being a woman?
The hardest thing is knowing how much easier it would be if I were in fact a man. Everyone has hardships, everyone has struggles, but there's a baseline of comfort that comes with being a man that is absent in being a woman. My favorite thing is when men tell me sexism doesn't exist. It's like, "Are you fucking kidding me?" That's like a white person telling a person of color that racism is a fallacy. It's like, "How the fuck would you know?" Seeing average men get rewarded for being average kills me. I'm so over it.
Is Hollywood sexist as an institution?
Yes. It is white male power in action. These guys are poisoning the world with their basic thoughts. Film and TV is America's number one export. I know the "wizards" behind the scenes, and believe me, they aren't the ones who should have the access to your brain.
How can we change this?
Short of storming the castle? Hmmm… well, complaining isn't working. I believe there needs to be a new studio and distribution model set up by women for women. New agencies run by women for women. Women in Hollywood need to push back. Statistics for women directors haven't changed since 1946. Let that sink in. 1946. It is 96% male. I submit that being meek isn't working - and women that are currently working in Hollywood have a duty to help others, not men. They've had enough help just by dint of existing.
What does feminism mean to you?
Feminism has become part of the cultural conversation in a way it's never before, why do you think this is?
I believe it became so black and white during the US election that people could no longer deny it. Hatred for women is a fact. It is here. It is real. And it kills. It must be destroyed.
How do you feel about the notion of feminism as trend, something "cool" to talk about or for brands to co-opt in order to flog a certain product?
Gross. I hate all these "body positive" ads and articles in magazines. I don't need to try and feel better about my body. I need for men and other women to stop commenting on women's bodies period. It should be known that most of the advertising firms and campaigns are concocted by men. Thanks, fellas.
What do you stand for?
I stand for freedom of spirit and mind. I stand for dissent.
Who did you back for the US election?
It was Hillary. I really feel a dream has died.
How do you feel now that Trump won?
Under siege and it hasn't even begun in earnest.
You're currently working on your memoir, Brave, what can we expect to read in it?
Brave will be about my adventures, my life and my thoughts. Society has spent an awful lot of time telling me what they think about me, I have some thoughts on them.
Finding a way out of the darkness. Standing to fight.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future?
Equality. I'd love to never talk about feminism again, but then, I bet the Suffragettes wished that, too.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Matt Jones
Styling George Kotsiopoulos