Rose McGowan, who came forward about getting raped by producer Harvey Weinstein, also said the issue of sexual abuse is not limited to Hollywood.
Rose McGowan at Hindustan Times Leadership Summit at Hyatt Regency in New Delhi.
“Hello, I’m Rose McGowan,” said the woman who has triggered one of the biggest house-cleaning operations the entertainment industry has seen.
McGowan, Dr Rola Hallam, who is involved in aid work in war-ravaged Syria, and Farah Mohamed, an advocate for girls’ rights, are all fighting their battles and at the 15th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Friday, they talked about Resilience in the Face of Adversity.
Described by session chair Anuradha Sengupta, a consulting editor with CNN-NEWS18, as the person who has “ripped off this veil of shame and secrecy that we’ve had around sexual abuse”, McGowan continued the conversation her revelations started when she identified powerful Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein as her rapist, and the abuser of dozens of women.
“It breaks my heart that we have to teach girls how to walk safely to school instead of teaching boys not to rape,” said the 44-year-old actor-activist.
“For every ‘me too’ hashtag, there is one that says ‘I did it’,” she said, referring to the social media campaign triggered by a New York Times expose. She was one of the five women NYT spoke to about Weinstein in October.
She accused Weinstein of having (for decades) preyed on aspiring stars, promising them fame and riches, and abusing them.
Mohamed, who is the CEO of the Malala Fund, expressed concern over the violence women are subjected to when they raise their voices against men in power.
Rose McGowan (centre), Farah Mohamed (right), Dr. Rola Hallam (left) speak during the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit at Hyatt Regency in New Delhi. (Burhaan Kinu/HT Photo)
“We’ve never seen such a powerful time, but if things don’t change and men don’t stop, then it’s just a conversation,” said Mohamed, responding to Sengupta’s suggestion that McGowan had started a movement.
For the change to begin, people have to acknowledge that sexual abuse was a crime, said Hollam.
“When I think about resilience,” Mohamed said, “I think about Malala.
“Not too many people would stand at the UN and take on the world, and say that what has happened to me should not happen to others.”
Malala Yousafzai was shot by the Taliban as she was returning home after a school exam in Pakistan’s Swat valley in 2012. She was 15.
The attack didn’t deter the teenager who won the Nobel Peace prize for raising awareness about children’s right to education.
But resilience, said Hallam, came in many forms and wasn’t necessarily a gender issue. Turning a blind eye to injustice could give a “green signal” to attackers, as she talked about a children’s hospital in Syria that was bombed six times.
“I shouldn’t be saying the words ‘a children’s hospital has been bombed’… but one was bombed six times, and we rebuilt it for the seventh time,” Hallam said.
She said NGOs and charity organisations were not running the world, they were doing a good job. “…but the actual work is done by the people who are facing the conflict. They are the reason why the world survives,” she added.
Hallam said she had seen the worst of humanity and also the best.
The British-Syrian doctor, who lost 30 family members in the Syrian war, said India should play a more active role in the war-ravaged country.
Hallam was optimistic that people had the strength to bring the change but McGowan and Mohamed had a dim view of things.
“There is such a thing as righteous anger,” said McGowan, who refused to bracket sexual harassment as a problem limited to Hollywood, Bollywood or the entertainment industry at large. “It’s an upper management problem,” she said.