It's been a crazy week for Harvey Weinstein. The film industry titan was accused of sexual harassment, was fired by his own company, and was called a creep by Gwyneth Paltrow in The New York Times. Then the allegations of harassment escalated to assault and rape, and the University of Southern California rejected the $5 million pledge he made to sponsor women directors.
As I'm a recent graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts and a filmmaker, one of these things caught my eye. I asked all the women in my community, should we have taken this huge sum out of his ass-grabbing, dirty, unwanted-massage-giving hands?
I queried some massively accomplished filmmakers who the school was lucky to have. Shannon Hardy, a recent graduate of their prestigious Film and Television Production Division, was conflicted.
As a low-income student whose generous scholarship made the pursuit of her dreams a reality, she said, "I can't imagine my life without USC, and although I don't want to support Weinstein and hate the awful things he has said and done to women, it breaks my heart to imagine a girl like myself losing her chance just because she doesn't have the money. He's awful, but that money could do so, so much good."
Eager to offer solidarity to Weinstein's victims, she still notes, "As a woman who has been victim to men like Harvey Weinstein, I would still never take away an opportunity from another woman or person, and part of me believes that those women feel the same way."
The USC Women of Cinematic Arts disagreed, stating to The Advocate, "As more and more accounts of assault and rape come out, we at WCA find ourselves sick to our stomachs. And the thought that a survivor of sexual assault or abuse could be given an SCA scholarship funded by a man who has perpetrated so much sexual violence against women is frightening. The success of one woman cannot erase the trauma of another." A former president of the group, film producer Sarah Jones, agreed, saying, “Him donating the money could ease his conscience, and he doesn't deserve that.”
After much thought and many news notifications, I must disagree. USC should have taken Harvey Weinstein’s money. All of it.
I don’t want $5 million. I want a check from Harvey Weinstein donating his company’s $800 million net worth written out to the women of film at USC.
Let’s bankrupt that bastard.
We’ll start with scholarships for girls like Shannon, with stipends for all the jobs less qualified men will be hired for before her. Then grants for all-women crews for every time a senior thesis was shot without a single lady on set.
After spending four years phrasing my ideas as questions so the men I worked with would think they were theirs, I believe Weinstein’s money could help.
It could help arm every female student with megaphones for shooting days. It could fund a secret server that blocks flirtatious emails from your editing TA, who is 10 years older from you, who you'll have to avoid getting actual help from after his girlfriend catches his slimy replies. Or maybe a $1 million crane to get a perfect shot and also airlift you out of cinematography when a male student asks a group of girls waiting for class to start if they’re sitting in a sewing circle. It could buy us new printers to replace the scripts male professors wrote sex jokes on instead of notes.
We need opportunities, not money. But I’ll still take some green.
I’ll take it to buy every woman back their reproductive rights. To get birth control to help us deal with raging cramps during 12-hour days on set. I'll take it and buy 1,000 recorders to place under every girl's desk, repeating “Your story is worth telling, and you are the one to tell it.”
I’ll take Harvey’s money and hire some scientists to create some Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind high-tech mind-wiping devices so I can forget when my professor screened a documentary he made about himself and his rape fantasies, and how the “feminist” male student who just directed a movie about sexual assault stayed silent during the Q&A. I want to forget how he could only donate his allyship on celluloid.
I’ll build. Build crews. Build bridges. Build an underground safe space beneath the School of Cinematic Arts for when you get tired of arguing with a room of male writers that having a protagonist rape his mother isn’t entertainment. Build an escape tunnel to cry in when another student didn’t like your comment about his comedy set and screams at you, “You're a flaming c*nt.”
Now, USC is not a sexist institution. It's in fact very progressive and encouraging to people from all backgrounds. My alma mater is the most remarkable place to get educated about cinema. But not everyone is always remarkable to women there.
I don’t consider Harvey Weinstein’s donation a debt. I don’t worry about clearing his conscience. Men like him don’t have one.
ARIEL SOBEL is a graduate of USC's Writing for Screen & Television and Film Production Divisions and an editorial assistant for The Advocate.