Interview with Meonyez Goodwin
Interview with Meonyez Goodwin
Queer community; Women's studies; Black women; Sexuality; Race; Feminism; Mass media; Women; Independent study
This is an interview with Meonyez Goodwin who is a 2018 graduate of the College of Wooster. In this interview, Meonyez reflects on her experience of being a WGSS major at the college. Specifically, she talks about what it was like being a queer woman of color in the WGSS discipline. Meonyez describes what her senior independent study was on and what classes and aspects of the WGSS major were most influential to her. Meonyez also talks about what the state of the WGSS discipline was when she was a student and what she hopes to see for the WGSS discipline at Wooster in the future. Meonyez finishes by talking about how she is using what she learned from WGSS in her life after Wooster and how WGSS connects to her activism.
OHLA Undergraduate Fieldwork Fellow/Faculty Mentor Microgrant, College of Wooster Libraries
Presented with permission from Meonyez Goodwin
Meonyez Goodwin Interview.mp3
Shaker Heights; Wooster
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Meonyez Goodwin Interview Edited by Matthew Harris-Ridker and Meonyez Goodwin for clarity [00:00:00] MHR: I am here with Meonyez Goodwin and it is June 20 . Hello. And thank you for being a part of this. [00:00:07] MG: Oh you're welcome! How are you? [00:00:08] MHR: I'm good! So to start off my first question is, where are you from originally and how did you end up at the College of Wooster? [00:00:18] MG: I am from Shaker Heights Ohio. And how did I end up at the College of Wooster? It's actually funny because I wanted to go to a big school like Kent, O.U., O State and I got accepted to all of those, but my high school guidance counselor told me to try out one more school as far as visiting and seeing how their academic programs were. And it ended up being the College of Wooster. And after visiting so many big schools I was kind of overwhelmed. So I ended up going to the College of Wooster and I loved it! And I guess it went from there! [00:00:55] MHR: Yeah! [00:00:55] MG: Went from there! And it was so funny cause she was like, "Oh you're not going to like the big schools! You're going to love the College of Wooster and everything. And I, like, told her... I said, "if you're wrong, you're buying me all my school supplies!" And so she ended up being so right. And I was so embarrassed but I'm glad I went there. So, yeah! That's how I ended up at the College of Wooster. [00:01:16] MHR: Yeah. Awesome, yeah! So my next question is, what made you interested in the WGSS Discipline, and did you know you wanted to be in the WGSS program when you came to Wooster? [00:01:25] MG: So originally I wanted to be a Psychology major, believe it or not! And something fell through with, like, all the Psych courses. They were filled during orientation. [00:01:37] And so my... what is it... my... what are the people... orientation... the people who help you register for classes? [00:04:05] MHR: Archers? [00:04:06] MG: Archers! Yes! My archer ended up putting me in an Intro to WGSS course with them. It was a visiting professor named Dr. Dhar at the time. And she was really really great! Like, she helped me develop all of, like, my feminist perspectives and she really got me into Women's Studies and all the things that help us as women in things that actually don't sometimes, too. And yeah that's how I, like, really fell in love with... just from that intro class. And then ever since then I had taken like two or three WGSS courses every semester. And I decided to major my sophomore year into WGSS. So yeah. [00:04:39] MHR: Very nice! Yeah, it seems that a lot of people I'm talking to... they sort of just, like, fell into WGSS and... [00:04:43] MG: Yeah! It was not planned at all! I didn't even know what WGSS was! So when I had took the intro course I was like, "OK, so are we just going to be studying about women all day long?" I was just so, like, unaware what was going on in the class. Then I fell in love with it! [00:05:04] MHR: Yeah! Alright, so my next questions are, what are some of your favorite classes that you've taken in the WGSS discipline and what were the most valuable things you learned from those classes? [00:05:10] MG: Oh I loved the Media, Gender and Race course I took! That was cross listed with Dr. Atay's Communications class. I love that class. Blackness and Sexuality. I love Women in Music. That was definitely a favorite because I love music, so integrating those two subjects together was, like, so dope! What else do I love... I love Christa Craven's class, Feminist Pedagogy class! You take that Junior year. I really liked that! What else... I guess I liked I.S. You know I got free range so... not really... it feels, like, not really a course but it was one of those things we got to be the director of your work. And we don't have a lot of free range when we do things sometimes in our academic classes, so I guess that had to be one of my favorite classes too if you count it! [00:05:49] MHR: Yeah! So talking about your I.S., what did your... what was your I.S. on and how did you take what you learned from your WGSS classes into your I.S.? [00:05:58] MG: Yes! Ok so I interviewed six black identifying women at our college and I went to get their perception of beauty standards and body ideals and how that affects them and how that affects how they perceive others. And by doing so I had a historical context as well. So I had looked up, like, things about the sapphire, the mammy, the Jezebel and how those stereotypical images are still in our media today just in different forms. And more, like, modern day forms and seeing how those images affect us as well. Because when you look at certain shows like Scandal you see Kerry Washington as the jezebel, but a lot of people, like, bypass that image of her because of her relationship with, you know, the president. You know, like they're so focused on her relationship with the president that they forget whatever else she is capable of doing. And, like, I did a media analysis of The Real Housewives of Atlanta which is where the Media, Race and Gender class came into... with Dr. Atay because he introduced me to all those stereotypical images and representations of black women. And so I really just let the voices of, you know, my participants speak for themselves. [00:06:59] And I did, like, the theoretical context with Audre Lorde, Alice Walker, bell hooks and just really giving, like, black women's voices a chance to be heard and, like, everything just about them. So that was my I.S. [00:07:12] MHR: Yeah, that's a very important topic, I think! Especially in the WGSS Discipline at Wooster, too, because I think we have a little ways to go with diversifying what we're learning. [00:07:27] MG: Yes we do! It was a good way of, like, integrating my WGSS perspective and my Africana’s perspective, because I'm Africana minor as well, so I was really trying to find how do I combine these two, you know, majors together and make it cohesive, and flow and that I could take both of my studies from each, you know, major into an I.S. [00:07:43] MHR: So my next question is, how would you describe the state of the Program of WGSS while you were a student at Wooster? And I ask this so we can sort of see if there's been change with students from the beginning to now and, like, what problems are still there or what good things are still there. [00:08:02] MG: Yeah, so I definitely feel like the lack of staff members of color, and just staff in general. Like, WGSS is a very small Department. Like, and we don't even say Department we say Program, you know? So it just shows that we need more people who are willing to, like, join on board with the WGSS Program and, like, help our students because... by being so small we only have maybe one or two people that our students can go to that actually are knowledgeable of the material and of the courses that we need to take. And just making sure that we have direction in that Program. Because a lot of things can get very lost or, you know, confuse, you know, with everything that goes on. And I think just... of course more diverse faculty. That's with any Program at Wooster, honestly. So that's nothing new. But I would also say just keeping it innovative, like, our courses. I really feel like Women in Music was such a dope course. I had never taken a course like that, like, since then. So I thought it was, like, really cool to, like, see that course happen. And just, like, making sure, like, we keep the courses interesting for our students. So, I think that could be a thing to work on... is, like, just having those different topics addressed in a classroom. [00:09:00] MHR: Yeah I think what's really... I've found hard and what I've heard being voiced by others, too, is the fact that because there is such little amount of staff and we have so many visiting professors who bring in, like, these really cool topics and what they're experts in. And then if want to do something with that for your I.S., and then they're gone, then have to work with, like, Christa and then all the other WGSS faculty are there in other Disciplines as well. [00:09:20] MG: Yeah there's no, like, stability, like, you know there's no consistency with the numbers of staff members or the people that stay, that leave you know? Yeah, I would definitely try to get somebody, tenure track. [00:09:27] MHR: Yeah. [00:09:27] MG: Have we resolved that issue? Do we have somebody? [00:09:28] MHR: Yeah, so next year, I believe, we are having... so next year is 2019, 2018-2019 school year, and we have another visiting faculty member coming in and then we're hoping that the coming year we'll have... we'll be able to have a tenure track professor hired and yeah. I hope that will bring some more stability to the Program, too. [00:09:42] MG: Yeah, I agree. [00:09:42] MHR: So I'm curious to see what will happen with that. I think... unfortunately it's not something I'll ever be able to see happen because I'm gone next year. All right. So my next question is, did you face any challenges being a student in the WGSS Discipline, or did you ever feel any stigma towards you for being in this, like, Program or studying these things? [00:10:02] MG: Yeah. So I was the only WGSS major Africana minor this year in which... it didn't shock me, but just the lack of, you know, people of color in the Program always, like, makes me wonder, "ok, like, cool," but then it's like, "damn, I see all these other majors..." and so I always sometimes, like, in the beginning because I came in, I guess you could say dumb about WGSS stuff you know, because that wasn't like a liberal thing to have in classes or in schools. And so I think as I developed what I... I found myself, like, shying back because I'll be like one of maybe two or three black people in a class and I didn't know how to voice sometimes what I was feeling or how I wanted to react to certain images or certain theories because, again, we didn't have a lot of, like, black theorist or, you know, black artists that we would focus on. It was mainly dominated by white voices. And so just finding how to speak up in those spaces and... let alone in my own, like, writing... Like my I.S. has to be the most proudest moment of my life because it was, like, strictly what I wanted, you know? As a black queer woman, this is me. And so I think that was hard for me to find myself in WGSS courses or in the WGSS Discipline because I never saw anybody like me. And I knew there were people, like, who were people of color or black in the WGSS Discipline, but I mean hadn't had them or seen them as often, or they were a WGSS minor and not a WGSS major so we will be in different courses or phases. And so I think just finding myself in the process as well as the curriculum itself was, like, one of my challenging things. But I did OK, you know I graduated. [00:11:29] MHR: You graduated, you were a great T.A. and you did an amazing I.S.! My next question is, what were some of your favorite things about the WGSS Program at Wooster in terms of what you learned or, like, academically but also in life as well? [00:11:47] MG: Yeah! I loved my one-on-one talks with Christa Craven. Like even though she wasn't my I.S. advisor this year I, like, still talked to her and, like, throughout the year she has really guided me as far as, like, stepping outside of my comfort zone and speaking up. Like I said, I was very shy and nervous to always voice my opinion. And just having those one-on-one conversations with her really helped me develop as a scholar and as a person, as a woman, you know? But I also liked our little, like, meet-up sessions. Because I know my freshman year, [00:12:21] Ashley Chavez, she had us do, like, a WGSS formal and I really enjoyed that. That's really how I got connected to a lot of WGSS majors and minors during my freshman year which propelled me my sophomore year to major in it. So that was one thing I loved. I loved when we had all the WGSS seniors or juniors meet-up. Like, moments with other WGSS people really made my day, so I would really definitely push to have more events like that with each other because the camaraderie y'all will build will definitely help y'all, like, during y'all tough moments and tough times. I would definitely say just being with the WGSS family helped me a lot. [00:13:04] MHR: Yeah hopefully we will do more of that in the future too. I think... [00:13:07] MG: Yeah. [00:13:08] MHR: ...because we are such a small Program too and, like, everyone is in all the same classes together. [00:13:14] MG: Exactly! Like you'll always run into them. You can always talk and just say like, "oh my god can you believe our advisor?!" "Yeah I can't believe it!" You know, like, just having those moments to, like, debrief and talk about whatever. It helps so much. Yeah. [00:13:29] MHR: Yeah. So another question I had is, what do you hope to see... I mean you talked about this a little bit, but how do you see the WGSS Program becoming even stronger for... in future generations and future years what do you hope to see? [00:13:46] MG: Yeah just, again, like creating more stability within our staff members. Like making sure we have a consistent group of people who love what they are doing. A familiar face helps develop trustworthy relationships, you know what I mean? And so I think just having that and keep up with, like, innovative courses, keep them interesting because so much is going on in our society. Everything is changing left and right. So we need to keep up with the times and make sure that all voices are represented in our courses, and our staff, you know? In our I.S... like whatever it is because that can really... they make a difference in our Program, you know? Because we're already small and different. So, like, why not keep it the same? Like let's make sure that we keep it growing, you know? I would say that. [00:14:40] MHR: Yeah! Yeah I hope so too because I think WGSS is also growing. So... [00:14:45] MG: Yeah like... [00:14:48] MHR: As we're growing... [00:14:48] MG: We started... [00:14:49] MHR: The Program at Wooster has to keep growing too. So... [00:14:51] MG: Yeah! [00:14:52] MHR: ...We'll see! This next question is... I know you just graduated and like… but this next question I guess is a more, like, hypothetical instance, is, how have you used what you learned from the WGSS Discipline in life after Wooster? [00:15:10] MG: Oh that's actually a good question. Well I'll be a special education teacher for Teach For America. And what's funny is that right now I'm teaching ELA, English Language Arts. And so we're doing Audre Lorde tomorrow! So... and Audre Lorde was, of course, one of my theorists that I used in my I.S., so I've already incorporated some things of, like, black feminist writers in our, you know, courses, in our lessons, because, again, diversifying what we're teaching our students is important because representation matters, you know? So maybe a lot of my students don't know who Audre Lorde is yet, but after tomorrow they will. They'll have at least a glimpse of her and, you know, like a piece of her tomorrow. So, like, that's one way I plan on, you know, incorporating my WGSS Discipline into, like, after. And just like keep writing. I definitely want to write more, I guess you could say mini I.S.s if you will. And just, like, exploring those Women of color, you know, that have changed our world, that are involved now. So that's how. [00:16:20] MHR: Yeah that's great! A last question I had that just popped into my head is, many people I've been talking to have been saying how WGSS is sort of connected with their activism. Do you have any experience with that or has Wooster's WGSS Program, sort of, inspired your activism at all? Like because you were saying as a woman of color, a queer woman of color, has that inspired anything for you with WGSS at all? [00:16:50] MG: Yes. So I'm always active. I'm always protesting something. So it's just funny because recently they had, like, a Pride festival down here. It’s very small and intimate in Atlanta. And it's just something they just threw randomly that I saw on Facebook and I went to. And it was just so nice to, like, advocate and be in that space of people who are like me, or who believe in the same values as me. And just, like, the other day we had a protest at TFA because we wanted to celebrate Juneteenth, you know, which is, you know, the celebration of freeing of all slaves, you know, black people. And just having those moments, you know, because, like, I'm aware of Juneteenth because of the things I studied in Africana and, you know, the things I learned in WGSS, you know, I'm proud to be a queer woman of color and know all these other different identities as well. So I think me just being an ally or being a part of the movement is, like, what I'm always going to be. So, like, an activist, you know, like a womanist as I may call myself, is something I take full pride in. So whatever the cause is you will see me there! [00:18:04] MHR: No that's awesome! Yeah I think WGSS has definitely made me feel, like, I can go out and, like, protest things or advocate for things because... while we may not be learning exactly what each of those things are it's... I feel like it educates me to listen to other people and to understand stories but also understand the basis for a bunch of the things we go and advocate for. [00:18:35] MG: And it's nice to be a part of a community that shares those similar values that you have. You know because it's very rare that you find people who you connect with... [00:18:46] MHR: Yeah. [00:18:46] MG: You know, on a deeper intellectual level as well as, like, activism and, you know, like feminist values and things like that. So I definitely agree! And WGSS allows you to do that. Because you learn so many ways of, you know, working with people and collaborating with people and, like, joining movements with other people outside of your bubble, you know? So yeah. [00:19:10] MHR: Yeah! [00:19:10] MG: Yeah. [00:19:11] MHR: I agree! So those are all the questions I have but I wanted to ask you do you have any thing else you want to say about WGSS at Wooster or any questions you want to ask me about the project? [00:19:21] MG: Oh yeah! Ok so what when will it be up? I want to keep an eye out! [00:19:25] MHR: I think what Christa Craven is hoping we are going to do is also have Feminist Pedagogy work on this as well and sort of, like, to make it even bigger. And I think that the celebration for the fortieth anniversary, this will, sort of, be like officially unveiled. But right now it's, like, a working archive but I think that's the plan. And then after this fortieth anniversary we're hoping what the work we do is, sort of, going to inspire people to start looking at WGSS Programs not just at Wooster, but, sort of, throughout the country and create more documentation for this area of study since it is so new. [00:20:03] MG: Yeah! Oh that's so dope! I love that!
Harris-Ridker, Matthew and Goodwin, Meonyez, “Interview with Meonyez Goodwin,” WGSS at Wooster: Past, Present, and Future , accessed January 19, 2021, http://woosterdigital.org/wgssatwoo/items/show/70.