Was Rose McGowan Right About Gay Men and Misogyny?

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Photo: Getty

If playing a chain-gun-toting zombie-killing cyborg-stripper named Chery Darling in Robert Rodriguez’s Planet Terror didn’t make her a gay icon then Rose McGowan’s long stint on Charmed as bitchy witch Paige Matthews probably should have. So, many of us were surprised yesterday when Our Lady of Plump Lips made some questionable comments regarding the gay community in a long discussion with influential and controversial gay author Brett Easton-Ellis. Here are a few of the more outrageous things she said:

  • “You wanna talk about the fact that I have heard nobody in the gay community, no gay males, standing up for women on any level?”
  • “Women, by-and-large, have very much helped the gay community get to where they are today.”
  • “And I have seen not a single peep from the Cleve Joneses or any of these people who supposedly represent lesbians as well… the equal pay act was shut down by Republicans in the Senate, not a single man mentioned that.”
  • “I see now people who have basically fought for the right to stand on top of a float wearing an orange speedo and take molly.”

After facing considerable backlash for the comments, McGowan responded with both grace and anger in an op-ed published on The Advocate:

I made a dumb generalization, and for that I apologize. For everything else I said, no, I will not …

Misogyny infuriates me and it endangers me as a human. It also endangers the LGBT community. Empathy for the plight of women isn’t making it better. Your voice will.

Could I have articulated my frustration in a better fashion? Undoubtedly. For that I apologize, but I stand by my overall point. The rights that have been earned by the community are simple civil rights …

And as for those who question my allegiance to the gay community and try to paint me as a gay-hater, I have a big eye roll reserved just for you. I’m a human, I mess up, but I mess up with love and good intentions. I feel like I’m in a fight with my family.

Now let’s go do the right thing, myself included.

Whether or not you want to take Rose’s apology seriously is a matter of personal choice, but her comments raise bigger questions about the gay community at large. So, was she right or wrong?

The answer, as always, is yes and no. As with Time’s disastrously reductive yet not entirely incorrect piece, Dear White Gays: Stop Stealing Black Female Culture, the recognition of problems within gay culture are tied up in complicated knots of socio-cultural status, race, and gender. More often than not, these criticisms (which often have reasonable points) end up reducing gay men to a handful of harmful homophobic stereotypes. But that doesn’t mean the criticisms aren’t well deserved or insightful.

Gay men (whose public and political representatives are still overwhelmingly white and cis-gender) should have an inherent interest in the struggles of women, and not only because some women are gay, too. Both groups have been, since the beginning of time, persecuted for their sexualities. Both groups have faced serious injustices that are continuing to be both perpetrated and corrected. And both groups need to do better at working with each other — without reducing the other to fragmented cliches.

Rose is not in any way wrong when she says that misogyny, as an overwhelming affective epidemic, endangers both her and gay men. It is misogynistic social and political practices that rigidify gender-normativity, making lives difficult (and unsafe!) for both gay men and women. She is not even wrong to say that we need more feminists who are gay men! But she is (self-admittedly) wrong to reduce gay men to thong-wearing club-druggies.

freelance pop-culture blogger (NNN, MTV Iggy, Oxygen) / recovering academic / wannabe club kid / satanic hipster / talentless DJ.
@eric_shorey