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I Am Here for Rose McGowan’s Fight Against Sexual Violence, But I Am NOT Here for Non-Intersectional Feminism

After standing up against sexual violence and calling out complicit men, Rose McGowan came back from her Twitter suspension and…made a grossly inappropriate analogy that revealed exactly who she’s including when she says “women.”

(I should mention here that I’m a white cis woman, so just like McGowan, I have and inevitably am going to screw up intersectionality, too. But that also means it’s on me to do the work of calling out and educating other white women when they do harmful stuff.)

In response to James Corden’s tasteless Weinstein jokes at the amfAR Gala, McGowan tweeted out a now-deleted comparison between the n-word and the word “women,” in what reads like an echo of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s infamously wrongheaded analogy. She’s since deleted the tweet, but obviously people did not respond well to a tweet which ignored, as many users pointed out, the fact that there are millions of people who get called both those things. For black women, racism and sexism are inextricably linked, and if you tweet about “women” as if they are a separate category from “black people,” then you’re ignoring a massive population of black women.

McGowan did eventually delete the offensive tweet and offer two sort-of apologies/justifications, but they didn’t seem to show much learning – just a desire to be understood. And she still left this tweet, which looks suspiciously like her trying to explain intersectionality to a black woman, up on her account:

All in all, it was an egregious display of white privilege – and it brought to mind all the initial criticisms that were levied against #WomenBoycottTwitter.

This doesn’t undo McGowan’s long, important battle against Hollywood sexism. But it does reveal the ways that white women activists frequently forget about, erase, or ignore the struggles of women of color when they try to organize. And McGowan’s responses reveal how, after being called out, white feminists can do more damage by demanding to be understood rather than working to learn and do better. This behavior does real harm to women of color, who are far more likely to suffer from misogynist violence, and who are disproportionately affected by issues like the wage gap. When mainstream feminism doesn’t address their experiences, it compounds these problems.

The same is true when feminism forgets queer women, trans women, autistic women, disabled women, and other women of color.

In sum, Hollywood absolutely has to better by women like McGowan. But white women like McGowan also absolutely need to do better by women of color. Otherwise, her feminism – feminism which she obviously feels passionately about, feminism which she’s suffered and made sacrifices for – won’t end up liberating any of us. And liberation – for all women – is supposed to be the whole damn point.

(Featured image via Shutterstock)

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