McGowan calls on #MeToos at Women’s Convention

Maureen Feighan
The Detroit News

Detroit — Speaking publicly for one of the first times since accusing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct, actress Rose McGowan told attendees at the inaugural Women’s Convention at Cobo Center that “we are all ‘MeToos.’

McGowan on Friday said she’s been silenced for 20 years. She never used Weinstein’s name, but she referred to “the head monster of all.”

“They must die,” she said. “The paradigm must be subverted. ... We are no country, we belong to no flag. We are a planet of women and you will hear us roar.”

McGowan was among the featured speakers on the first day of the Women’s Convention, which is being held through Sunday. As many as 5,000 women (and some men) are expected to attend the convention.

A follow-up to the historic Women’s March in January, the convention includes dozens of breakout sessions throughout the weekend where attendees will have the chance to learn everything from how to build political coalitions to the latest on immigration policy.

The “#MeToo” movement has prompted women to share their stories of rape, sexual assault and harassment across social media, including some for the first time.

McGowan has been among the most vocal about sexual abuse in the film industry in Hollywood. She was among the numerous women allegedly sexually harassed by Weinstein, who paid McGowan a financial settlement in 1997. That settlement included provisions about speaking about the case in the future.

While McGowan has mostly avoided addressing her past with Weinstein directly, she has seemingly referenced it often. Last year, she said she had been raped by a “studio head.”

Kicking off the convention, where women cheered and some wore their hot pink hats of protest, activist Tamika Mallory, one of the Women’s March co-founders, encouraged attendees to “take Jan. 21 and put it on the ground. Let’s make sure it’s actualized in our communities.”

“When we hear that women are under attack, we must stand up,” she said.

Linda Sarsour, a well-known Palestinian-American activist who was also a national co-chair of the Women’s March, said given the diversity of the current women’s movement, “we will never be a movement where we all agree.” She said when critics call her “anti-American,” she disagrees.

“In this country, dissent is the highest form of patriotism,” she said.

Sister Barbara Battista, a nun, traveled five hours from Indiana with a group of five women to be a part of the convention. She wore her hot pink “pussy” hat and a scarf from the Women’s March.

“It’s just so important to get with other women and to continue the movement,” Battista said. “We need to strategize and organize to claim our space in our democracy.”

Karlah Gibbs of Detroit had a much shorter distance to travel for the convention. Gibbs, a retired human resources head, said she decided to attend to learn more about immigration and racial equality. Her daughter also was part of the local planning committee.

“This isn’t just a white women’s movement,” she said.

Members of the convention’s local host committee say it makes sense that the convention is being held in Detroit given how many of the same issues affecting the city — transportation, education and criminal justice — are challenges across the country.

More than 100 sessions on everything from creating political coalitions to sexual assaults on college campuses are planned throughout the weekend.

At a session Friday about safe drinking water, scientists and lawyers with the Natural Resources Defense Council Action Fund said citizen activists play an important role in monitoring drinking water and making sure it complies with the Safe Drinking Water Act.

“That’s the role we (activists) can play in our water systems (to make sure) things aren’t falling through the cracks,” said Cyndi Roper, the action fund’s senior advocate who is based in Michigan.

Associated Press contributed.