Come to Mama to Empower
In workaholic Oberlin, students are far more likely to devote their time and energy to a campaign or a seminar than to their own well-being. To remedy this, Conservatory senior Sarah Titterington and double-degree fourth-year Meghan Brooks began an ExCo focused on pleasure, self-indulgence and happiness for the modern woman. Their bible: self-help guru Regena Thomashauer’s Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts.
The class, which meets weekly in Titterington’s cozy Union Street living room, focuses on a different chapter from Mama Gena each week. Past lessons have included making “pleasure baskets” decorated with fluff and ribbons and filled with things that give the students enjoyment. Homework assignments range from “Accept an offer you would normally reject” to exploring “the art of having fun no matter what.”
Each class begins with a “brag circle” in which the girls, who address one another as “Sister Goddess,” share something from the week that made them proud of themselves. Students enthusiastically described “taking the reins of control” and “insulting a guy,” and received equally enthusiastic responses from the ExCo leaders, who said: “Just look at her goddessness” and “I love the world.”
Plans for the final exam include a field trip to Cleveland to practice the women’s new flirting techniques as well as a party here on campus. Students will also write a midterm paper outlining several personal goals and write another for the final to evaluate their progress.
Titterington believes that such a class is important for Oberlin.
“Oberlin is great about being liberal and feminist, but there are some aspects [of femininity] that happen to involve more traditional sexuality, and these aspects are overlooked. If someone happens to be more traditional — for example, they like pink — we need to embrace that too,” she said.
She also noted that Oberlin does not encourage “feel-good things” enough.
“I think a lot of Obies are so driven and hardworking that they only value the work they produce, and they don’t stop and appreciate themselves for who they are,” she said.
Students reportedly love the atmosphere of warmth, laughter and support, and noted the comfort of having a forum to brag, complain and share. Not a minute in class goes by without a genuine compliment from one “Sister Goddess” to another.
Brooks hopes to continue the ExCo in the fall.
“I hope people leave feeling more in touch with their desires and feel confident that they are following the path they truly want,” said Titterington. “I want them to get more in touch with how to have fun, appreciate and embrace themselves.”
The class ends in a quintessentially Oberlin fashion: The girls pack up their pillows and flowers to make way for the Super Smash Brothers ExCo, which meets just after in the same living room.
The gamers better watch out for the feminine wiles of Mama Gena’s newest disciples.