Claire Goodman: How She Does It

$RHD4QHRClaire Goodman, 56, University Professor, MA/MFA Programs, Media Arts, Lives in New York City. Raised in England, one sister, documentary film maker

What led to your leaving England where you were born?

I arrived in New York on July 4th 1984 in time to see what all the fireworks were about. Why did I come? Well, I had just finished a series of contracts working as a producer and researcher for BBC Television and Radio; I wanted to escape London mired as it was in the throes of dismal Thatcherism; and I had an odd project to do in New York which was to set up advance promotion for a British all-women jazz band and land them a gig at the Blue Note (which I did, by the way.) Also, I thought it might be easier to be gay in New York than under the scrutiny of my cocktail party cronies at the BBC, or my sweet, traditionalist parents.

How do you think about work and life?

I think life is a grand experiment and we creatures are whizzing around a planetary zoo-crucible like flies – way too busy being busy to notice the large eyes of the wanton experimenter.Thus I think work is a good way of keeping busy, a hedge against having to dwell on life – on human insignificance. I think the hedge must be green, and definitely involve sex, laughter, fantastic views and whiskey.

What is your secret to integrating them?

See “hedge” above.

Who did you admire growing up and why?

My mother and my grandmother. Strong, indefatigable and unfailingly funny. Gloria Steinem because she is very handsome and talks sense.

What was your career plan?

Starting out, I wanted to make documentaries that dealt with social change and human rights. But before the days of cheap digital technologies and distribution, it was impossible to raise funds to do this. I changed horses and I realized I could make better headway to this end in the classroom. I am now a college professor of media arts and communication, encouraging and training young people to go out and do what I would have liked to have done.

What do you think about the feminist movement?

The feminist movement spawned feminist theory, even as it lost political traction since its early beginnings. As a teacher, I think feminist theory is probably the most important framework of knowledge through which to analyze culture and media. It illuminates and interrogates everything from who owns the knowledge, controls the production, pulls the strings, directs humanity. One cannot separate feminist thinking from theories related to race, class and gender. It is fundamental.

Tell me about your worst “house of cards” day.

The day I found out I had cancer at the age of 35. I am still alive and have managed to rebuild the house quite successfully. But I have found several cards are missing. They must have disappeared down the back of the sofa.

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