Interview with Isabel Bonhomme

Dublin Core


Interview with Isabel Bonhomme


Women's studies; Anthropology; Human sexuality; Independent study; Study abroad; Gender; Extra-curricular activities


This is an interview with class of 2019 student Isabel Bonhomme. In this interview, Isabel describes what her experience has been like in the WGSS department at Wooster and how she uses her Anthropology studies to complement her WGSS study. Isabel describes what she has learned from her WGSS classes as well as what she hopes to see change with the program in the future. Isabel finishes by talking about how she uses what she has learned in WGSS in her extracurricular activities at Wooster and how she is planning on incorporating WGSS in her Senior Independent Study in the coming year.


Harris-Ridker, Matthew
Bonhomme, Isabel






OHLA Undergraduate Fieldwork Fellow/Faculty Mentor Microgrant, College of Wooster Libraries


Presented with permission from Isabel Bonhomme

In Copyright








Isabel Bonhomme Interview.mp3


New York; Wooster

Oral History Item Type Metadata


Harris-Ridker, Matthew


Bonhomme, Isabel


Virtual Interview


Isabel Bonhomme Interview

Edited by Matthew Harris-Ridker and Isabel Bonhomme for clarity

[00:00:00] MHR: Ok I am here with Isabel Bonhomme. It is June 29 [2018]. Hello Isabel!

[00:00:06] IB: Hello!

[00:00:07] MHR: Thank you for being a part of this. I'm excited to interview someone who's in the my generation of Wooster! To start off my first question is, where are you from and how did you end up at The College of Worcester?

[00:00:20] IB: So I'm originally from New York City. I've lived in Ohio for a lot of my life and I end up at Wooster because I wanted a liberal arts education. And it was close enough to home. And... I don't know when I visited I really just absolutely loved everything to had to offer so...

[00:00:38] MHR: Awesome. When do you graduate?

[00:00:40] IB: In May of 2019. So I'm going to be a Senior.

[00:00:44] MHR: Awesome! All right so my next question is, what made you interested in the WGSS of Discipline and did you know you wanted to be in the WGSS Discipline when you came into Wooster?

[00:00:54] IB: I did not know. I originally came in thinking I was going to be an Anthropology major, which I also am with WGSS. And originally what interested me was I took an Intro to WGSS class my freshman year just because it was something that interested me. And the professor was amazing, the class was amazing and I thought, "OK, I need to try and add this to my major!"

[00:01:15] MHR: You were saying that the class was amazing, the professor was amazing but was there anything in particular, or any moment, where you were just like, "I have to do this.".

[00:01:24] IB: I guess coming out of high school you don't really talk about a lot of the things that we talk about in WGSS classes in a college setting. And so that was al just very new to me, it was very exciting and I could finally, sort of, talk openly, we could all talk openly, about anything within that realm. And that was just really exciting for me and I could see myself in that kind of atmosphere.

[00:01:44] MHR: So you're current student right now of the program, so how would you describe the current state of the program right now?

[00:01:51] IB: The current state... I guess the first thing that comes to mind is it is a program and not a full on Department which is something that, sort of, is unfortunate to me. It's a little bit upsetting because it's a really important Discipline and I wish that it had a fuller backing by the college itself. So because it is only a program there's a lack of faculty that's a core faculty. There's a lot of cross-listed classes because of the same reasons. Not enough core classes in my opinion. And it's also... because of all that I can have a completely different... you know we can both have WGSS majors degrees and I can come out with a completely different course load than yourself. And I think that's something that needs to be worked on within the Department.

[00:02:34] MHR: Yeah it's funny because I feel like people will say like, "I'm in the WGSS Department!" But, like, we forget that it's, like, not actually a full blown Department, you know?

[00:02:44] IB: Right.

[00:02:44] MHR: So my next question is, as a current student at The College of Wooster do you face any challenges being a student in the Discipline, or any stigma from other students, or other Departments?

[00:02:58] IB: I guess one thing that sort of jumps out at me immediately is, sort of, religious and ethnic background being Jewish. It kind of causes some problems both the students in my class and the faculty sometimes in my WGSS classes just because, sort of, we bump heads on some of the issues there. So at times just within my time at Wooster I felt a little bit uncomfortable. I've had to miss some of my classes which I think is not something I should have to do. So that's probably the main thing.

[00:03:31] MHR: Yeah I ask that because I know a lot of times as I've been talking to students who were first in the program and the faculty who've helped bring the program up, I know that though WGSS Discipline has, sort of, faced, sort of like stigma of not being, like, a legitimate thing to study or... just like it doesn't matter. Like it's too easy. Have you ever experienced any of that?

[00:03:58] IB: Yeah, yeah I have.

[00:03:59] MHR: Like in the school setting. It could be outside of the school setting.

[00:04:02] IB: Right, right. I think people that are sort of college students within the Liberal Arts setting think that it's an interesting thing to do, think that it's very valid. Outside of that, probably less so. And they think it's just sort of a superfluous, frivolous like, "oh we're just kind of talking about feminism. What are you going to do with that?" I think the career question is a larger question because it's not sort of a straight forward concrete study in a lot of people's minds. And so it is... even for myself sometimes it's easy, you know, because I am double major in Anthro which is another sort of liberal arts social science. It is easy for me to sometimes fall into that rut of thinking, "am I doing something that's sort of legitimate enough? Am I sort of, you know, smart? As smart as some of the other students who are doing these STEM programs?" But I think it's extremely important that we sort of try and negate that stigma.

[00:04:55] MHR: Yeah, yeah for sure. I think WGSS is a really cool Discipline in the way of it does open so many doors...

[00:05:02] IB: Right!

[00:05:02] MHR: all these different...

[00:05:04] IB: Exactly!

[00:05:05] MHR: paths! And I think people don't realize that what we're learning is actually really important and really relevant.

[00:05:14] IB: And it's applicable to everything! Exactly!

[00:05:18] MHR: So my next question is how do you see the current issues regarding women's rights and LGBTQ+ rights on the campus? Like what's the campus climate like?

[00:05:28] IB: Sure. So I think overall it's pretty positive because we are on the left leaning liberal arts campus. So there are a lot of initiatives pushing forward for LGBTQ events and rights, women's rights and all these kinds of things. We have groups on campus that I'm involved with myself as well. And just things like that. And we do, you know, get that support, but however there are always going to be, sort of, more right leaning groups and more conservative people that don't see us as legitimate and don't think that what we're doing is... you know, like, "oh feminism isn't for equality, it's for women's rights." Like, that kind of thing. So I think there's definitely some of that on our campus which brings it down, but I think overall it's pretty positive.

[00:06:10] MHR: Yeah I would agree with that. In relation to that question, do you see the currents issues regarding women's rights and LGBTQ rights on campus and in America right now having an influence on what is taught in the WGSS Department at all? Or, like, what topics are brought up?

[00:06:28] IB: Sure. I think to a degree, but not so much. I know some other Departments. Some that come to mind are, sort of, history, political science that sort of thing. I know that they have courses every semester that I've been on campus. Especially since the recent president... well, not so recent presidential election, that they have tailored these courses towards current events, political events. And I think that's really really interesting and beneficial to students. I think we have less of that in the WGSS Department. I'm sure the faculty would love to have more of that but there is a faculty shortage in our Department which I'm sure adds to that. But I think where that plays out more is maybe in speakers and events more so than courses.

[00:07:08] MHR: Yeah, because I think the WGSS Program does a good job of bringing in people but I don't feel like we have much of a space to really discuss...

[00:07:16] IB: Right, exactly.

[00:07:16] MHR: classes as much...

[00:07:18] IB: Right.

[00:07:18] MHR: ... or if we do it's only briefly. So that leads me to my next question which is, would you like to see more of current events being brought into the classroom?

[00:07:30] IB: I would. I'm going to say sort of a hesitant yes because I think it is very beneficial. I think that at the moment we don't bring that in with, like, having a class about a certain event. I think it's more of... it sort of comes into certain discussions within a class. However I wouldn't want a current events class to overshadow our needs for core classes and these things that are sort of overarching things that we need to be learning about in our Discipline. So I think there's a space for them but they shouldn't overshadow the core.

[00:08:01] MHR: Yeah. Yeah I agree. I think with the, sort of, shortage with staff we aren't completely getting the full main things we should be getting.

[00:08:18] IB: Definitely, yeah.

[00:08:18] MHR: I think it'd be awesome if this tenure track professor that's coming in will help bring more of that so you can have more openness to learn...

[00:08:28] IB: Yeah, definitely!

[00:08:28] MHR: ...about these other things as well. Speaking of classes my next question is, what are some of your favorite classes that you took in the WGSS Discipline and what would you say were the most valuable things you learned from those classes.

[00:08:41] IB: So one that immediately comes to mind is a cross-listed class with Philosophy that was called Race, Gender and Justice. That was first ever Philosophy class that I took. And I think that obviously is the space to do a lot of critical thinking and examining of things which was just really important to our Discipline and just to myself. But I think one of the main things that I took away from that is I realized I never really learned, within sort of more traditional WGSS classes, the beginnings of women's rights movement, of sexist thought, of like any of those things. Queer thought. And so within that class we did! We went all the way back to sort of very very early times. With, like, the classic philosophers and sort of learned about, "OK where does sexism stem from? Where does this thought stem from?" and instead of just jumping straight to sort of more current times which was really helpful and eye opening for me. Another one that comes to mind is Religion and Sexuality which I took about a year ago which was just incredibly interesting and really just got to see how our country is based on, sort of, Christian thought and how it all kind of intersects. So yeah!

[00:09:52] MHR: That's awesome. So my next question is, what is your favorite thing about the WGSS Program at Wooster and what are some things you wish could be improved in the coming years? Or you wish to see continued in the coming years?

[00:10:10] IB: Sure! So some favorite things, and I think this goes for just the college in general, is the faculty. The connection that you get with them because we are a small campus and we are a very small Program. It's just wonderful and you really get to know each other. And they're very supportive. And it's just... it's a great community. And I think in general the WGSS Discipline is a space to foster a some really critical discussion. And it's not just someone lecturing at you. It's really a space for you all to sort of work through your thoughts which is really great. Something I wish that could be improved would probably be, once again, the Department and faculty class situation I was talking about a bit earlier. We need more core classes. We need less of these, sort of, fringe classes that you get from cross-listed. Which I absolutely love and I think they need to be there but we need more of a stable track that all of us need to take before branching out into the cross-listed classes. So I think that will be my main thing.

[00:11:08] MHR: Do you wish, like, you got more theory do you wish you got...

[00:11:11] IB: Sure. I think there is a definite lack of certain, I guess, intersections. To my knowledge we don't have that many of any classes on, sort of, like Asian feminist you know transactional things, on Native American on... They're just like a lot of intersections that are missing. I haven't taken a class on, sort of, black women, which I know there's some I think in the English Department. So it's like there are a lot of these classes are cross-listed and I'm just not getting them. And I need them because it's important. I took Transnational Feminisms this last semester and that was my first and only class that had really sort of head-on dealt with some of the other ethnicities and other people around the world. And I think especially within WGSS we recognize that it's important to have this intersectional approach and we shouldn't just be learning about American, you know, WGSS Disciplines.

[00:12:06] MHR: Because I was in Intro with you. And I feel like we covered a lot and it was so brief for each of them and I wish we could have more of, like, the intro class that sort of expanded on those more. So it's more than just, like, Intro and Transnational Feminisms.

[00:12:25] IB: Right, yeah.

[00:12:26] MHR: Like there should be more that goes more in-depth. Instead of...

[00:12:28] IB: Right!

[00:12:30] MHR: ... talking about each of them and having those be the core courses as well.

[00:12:34] IB: Right. Right.

[00:12:35] MHR: Because I agree with your whole statement about, like, there are so many cross-listed and it's awesome, but we take so many of those courses but they're not giving us fully what we need.

[00:12:48] IB: Exactly! And I think something else that I want to say to that question is I parallel my WGSS experience with my Anthro experience, and so that's my other major. And within Anthro obviously it's a different Discipline and I recognize that, but we do get theory classes, method classes, like separate classes for all of these. And you really get to learn what is Anthropology as a field, as a Discipline and then you get to learn about the other peoples and cultures. And that is really really really missing from the WGSS Discipline in my opinion. We have one class, which is our Junior I.S. class, mixed with methods mixed with theory. But in general I don't think that it should all be mushed into one class because it's just not enough space for us to learn all of that material.

[00:13:26] MHR: Yeah I agree. What about some more like positive things just we don't end it...

[00:13:31] IB: No, no you're fine! Yeah.

[00:13:33] MHR: ... negative note there.

[00:13:34] IB: Sorry! I think the faculty, as I said, is just fantastic. I think it's really great to, you know you can go to college and study, I don't know, biology and never, like, really you know learn about some of these other things and I think it's really great that I am studying WGSS because it's incredibly intersectional within other Disciplines. And all these cross-listed classes I think are a huge plus because you get to go into all these other majors and see, "OK how does a queer approach or a feminist approach, you know ,intersect with art history, with philosophy, with anthropology with anything else?" And I think that's a really really really great thing that I got to do in my undergraduate experience.

[00:14:17] MHR: Yeah. Yeah I guess like keep all the great classes all the great opportunities, but sort of... I would agree with that too. So my question is that, how does what you learn in your WGSS classes differ from what you learn in your other classes? Like what are you getting out of them that you're not getting out of, like, even Anthro for instance?

[00:14:38] IB: Right. I think the structure of the class itself affects how I'm learning and what I'm learning. Because within WGSS it's so much dialogue and discussion and sort of we're all critically thinking together and bouncing our thoughts off each other and sort of building upon that instead of a straightforward lecture where the professors like, "OK we're learning about X today. Let me tell you about it." And I think that's super important especially for a college education that we nurture our own understanding with a professor there to sort of guide us along. And obviously you don't get that in all Disciplines just for obvious reasons. But I think that's really important within WGSS to come to those conclusions and understandings and thought process yourself. Something that being in the WGSS Department has given me for other classes as well is a more intersectional approach. I've always thought of myself, like, when I was back in grade school to be a pretty open person and to be pretty sort of understanding and everything and conscientious. But being within the WGSS Department as a college student has absolutely made me grow a hundred times over in that respect. And I think I definitely bring that to all my other classes. "OK what are we missing here? What should you be talking about? What about this group of people? You know? And I think that's very helpful just in life to have that skill.

[00:15:59] MHR: Yeah that makes it... I'm like thinking back, it's like making me laugh a little, because I remember in Social Stats we were doing some sort of like example problem and then we're like, "we're going to use gender as like one specific category!" And then she was like, "who here is like knowledgeable on all the different gender, like, identities?" And then me and you were just like, "we know!"

[00:16:19] IB: Yeah!

[00:16:20] MHR: But yeah I definitely see the whole intersectional approach. Like it gives me sort of like I can understand what a professor in another topic is talking about. But then I can ask questions that sort of broaden it more. And like...

[00:16:35] IB: Exactly! Yeah!

[00:16:35] MHR: ... because of WGSS I know how to ask those questions.

[00:16:37] IB: Exactly.

[00:16:38] MHR: Yeah!

[00:16:40] IB: I agree.

[00:16:40] MHR: And also with all the group discussions, too, like that's like life. Like you're just going to have to work with people. Do you ever feel like in the class and like how we're all working together within the classroom is sort of like... helps you, like, working with people outside of the classroom too?

[00:16:57] IB: Yeah I think so because we all work off of each other and with each other to sort of develop our thoughts and questions. You know those things that we're not going to think about just because of our positionally and our backgrounds and whatever. And that's okay, but I think it's great that we do have these discussion based classes most of the time where we kind of add things in, you know, from each perspective. So it's like, "OK I didn't think about this." It's, like, a really good thing. And that's absolutely something that's applicable to real world situations.

[00:17:31] MHR: Yeah for sure. Ok so my final question, we touched upon this briefly, but how have you used what you learned in your WGSS Discipline in your other classes or other activities at Wooster? I mean we briefly talked about how you use it in other classes but I know you're very involved in campus but like...

[00:17:49] IB: Yeah!

[00:17:49] MHR: ... a bunch of groups that sort of have a connection to WGSS-y stuff.

[00:17:53] IB: Yeah, definitely! Very briefly I mean the intersectional aspect just is an obvious, you know, a given for that kind of thing. But I think something personally is I've really learned to be self-critical and, you know, I've learned it's okay to sort of, not "be wrong," but it's okay, you know, and it's good to be called out sometimes. And it's not some sort of horrible thing that someone's saying "Oh you're bad, you're wrong," it's just, "hey by the way, like, maybe we should say it like this instead of like that." And I think that's really really important. And I think that's so good that people are doing that in our Discipline. And... yeah I think that's like such a positive aspect that comes from specifically the WGSS Department. And... yeah I guess two of the groups that I'm involved with that jump out as sort of being hand-in-hand with the WGSS Department is k(no)w, which is a group for anti-rape culture and sexual respect advocacy in which I'm co-the president. And then also Vox, which is also called Generation Action. And that is a Planned Parenthood affiliate group for, sort of, sexual health and education items. And so I think especially within k(no)w it's a very collaborative group. There's sort of an executive board and we are very active within, sort of, campus culture within the students and within policy and new initiatives and things. And I have really really seen within my last three years of being in this group how being a WGSS major, and being within that Discipline, and taking these classes has really nurtured me. And it's grown how I interact with that group and the ideas that I bring up and sort of things that I add to our ideas. And that's actually been really interesting for me to see because, you know, as a freshman I wouldn't have thought about a lot of these things. And I would see, sort of, the upperclassmen talking about some things. And now I'm, sort of, in their position and I'm thinking, "oh wow! Like being in this Discipline has really had me grow. I've really grown from it and learned a lot from it!" And it will absolutely, you know, carry on through my life.

[00:19:56] MHR: Yeah I agree. And I really resonate with what you said about being able to sort of call people out but not in a negative way when you hear them...

[00:20:05] IB: Right!

[00:20:06] MHR: ... not saying something correctly.

[00:20:08] IB: Right!

[00:20:09] MHR: And it's not because they're necessarily, like, don't agree with it. It's just they might not be knowledgeable. And WGSS, I think, lets us know that we all come from different backgrounds but we come together to learn to make the world a better place. Actually before we finish I started asking previous students what they did for their I.S. And of course you're the first person I've talked to who's still at Wooster, so you want to tell listeners...

[00:20:34] IB: Oh boy!

[00:20:34] MHR: ...A little bit...

[00:20:34] IB: OK.

[00:20:35] MHR: ...about what you're planning on doing?

[00:20:36] IB: Sure, sure... I haven't talked about this in a few months. So since I'm a double major with Anthro I've kind of a two-part project. So I'm first looking at generally host parents and.... a sort of cultural acquisition with host parents and foreign exchange students within the U.S. setting. And I'm looking at specifically how food is all intertwined in that and the cultural acquisition. So how do host parents sort of understand their role in how the students learn about American culture through food. Specifically, how does their knowledge of that sort of shape what food they are/or not giving to them. But that's sort of the more anthropological aspect, the component. The WGSS component is looking at the host parents specifically and their gender roles within the domestic sphere, within the kitchens specifically because that's where the food preparation is happening and the eating. So I'm really interested in looking at that and seeing, "okay men versus women versus any other type person versus single married parent. How does that shift what they're cooking, what they're serving, what they understand." All of that kind of thing. So...

[00:21:48] MHR: Is there anything in particular in a certain WGSS class that, sort of, gave you inspiration to do this project at all?

[00:21:56] IB: I think it was more my study abroad Program that did that for me. But just being with a host family and food became something really important to communication and for me to understand what the culture was. And I mean I definitely drew from a lot of my classes but I don't think it was a particular class that did it for me.

[00:22:14] MHR: So those are all the questions I have, but before I and I always like to ask the person I'm talking to if you have anything else you want to say about WGSS at Wooster that we haven't talked about, or do you have any questions for me or about the project?

[00:22:28] IB: I don't have any questions for you. I guess I just want to say I'm really happy that Wooster has this Program and we've had it for quite some time which I think is... I mean I don't know how long other Programs from other universities have been around, but I think that's great that we've had for as long as we have. And I'm really thankful that we do have it even though it's still sort of an up and coming growing Program and it's really... Like I feel like I would not be the same person that I am today without being a WGSS major, so I'm really thankful that I'm involved in it. So...

[00:22:55] MHR: Yeah, yeah for sure!

[00:22:56] IB: ... Yeah.

[00:22:57] MHR: I think it's... at times it can be frustrating because it's up and coming and tiny, but it's also exciting because I feel like...

[00:23:03] IB: Yeah!

[00:23:05] MHR: ... every time students take a class we're helping to build it and give it more legitimacy. And I... so thank you for being in the Program! Alright, well thank you so much and I'll see you in the fall!

Original Format






Harris-Ridker, Matthew and Bonhomme, Isabel, “Interview with Isabel Bonhomme,” WGSS at Wooster: Past, Present, and Future , accessed January 28, 2023,