After a very public dispute, Rose McGowan has announced that she has cancelled all upcoming public appearances for her book tour.
Last Wednesday, McGowan hosted a Q&A at a New York City Barnes & Noble to promote her new book, Brave. The actress had been taking pre-approved questions from the audience when Andi Dier, a trans woman and activist, interjected and asked McGowan to acknowledge her previous divisive comments about transgender women.
“Talk about what you said on RuPaul,” a visibly emotional Dier said, in reference to comments McGowan made on RuPaul's podcast, What's The Tee?, in July last year.
“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.”
Before long, the two descended into a heated verbal altercation, during which Dier was escorted out by security while calling McGowan a proponent of “white cis feminism”.
After Dier had left, McGowan launched into a now viral tirade and later announced on social media that she is cancelling upcoming public appearances.
At this point the narrative was semi-straightforward. McGowan, who, many feel, embodies the worst parts of white fragility and white feminism, was rightly “shut down” by Dier, an internet-appointed intersectional feminist queen. But this neat understanding of events was soon complicated by a sinister revelation. After the footage of McGowan and Dier emerged, several women came forward, alleging that Dier herself has a long history of perpetrating sexual assault. Women who were aged between 12 and 14 at the time have accused Dier of grooming them and claim that content posted from her Tumblr account features both paedophilic and racist images.
Both women complicate our idea of "truth" only being the preserve of the noble
The irony of both sexual assault and racism accusations being levelled at someone grandstanding on both sexual assault and racism is not lost on most and has left some at a confounding crossroads. But it has forced us to do something that social media has nearly entirely stripped us of the ability to do: hold more than one idea in our heads at one time.
Both Andi Dier and Rose McGowan are individuals who have helped illustrate lessons that the internet must soon learn – that only in Disney films are individuals wholly good or bad, and wholly right or wrong. In addition, our election of feminist figureheads should be based on slightly more than who remains the loudest and the most visible.
If the allegations against Andi Dier are true, the image of an apparent sexual predator shouting down a survivor of sexual assault is a particularly objectionable one. She has no place within feminism and certainly no right to attempt “schooling” a rape survivor. Having said that, this doesn’t negate what was said by Dier regarding McGowan’s comments concerning race and trans women – her criticism can still stand, despite it potentially coming from the completely wrong person. The inability to see that Dier can make a good point and potentially not be a good person has seen liberal commentators transforming into the very types of people they despise. Some have begun questioning the legitimacy of the claims and asking why the scores of women accusing Dier are “only coming forward now”, despite the allegations going as far back as 2012.
Similarly, Rose McGowan – who has a growing back catalogue of reprehensible statements concerning trans women and women of colour – is fronting a movement for all women – one she isn’t equipped to lead. But McGowan’s work as an activist within sexual violence does not cease to exist because of her comments. It does, however, mean she must be held to account – we can both empathise with her as a victim of sexual assault and critique her when she proceeds to trample on other victims with her rhetoric. Both women complicate our idea of “truth” only being the preserve of the noble.
It is quite possible to acknowledge McGowan’s sidelining of marginalised women without coming to the defense of, or being silent on the allegations surrounding, Andi Dier. In fact, it’s not only possible but necessary. In a simple and straightforward world, the right people would always do and say the right thing, while the bad guys would only ever spout dangerous and divisive vitriol. But our world is anything but simple and straightforward.