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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gately Girls Attend Athena Conference: Gender Empowerment, Youth Activisim, Community Leadership

Mercedes Wallace - On Sunday December 6, 2010 Kyia, Liya, and I attended Athena Day with Gately. Although the other two girls had been there before, this was a first time experience for me. I originally thought that some of my friends would come with me but since they didn't and I was alone, I didn’t think I would have fun. We arrived there and had to sign up for the activities that we wanted to do. I knew that I would have to meet new girls in the program, and talk to people outside of my comfort zone but I wasn’t expecting the day to go as well as it did.

First, we did an ice breaker, where we had to pass a ball around, say our name and answer one question that was written on the ball. There were a lot of girls, so I didn’t really meet anyone at that time. During the next ice breaker, I had to talk, one on one, with another girl about stereotypes. This helped me calm down a little, because at first I didn’t think I would talk to anyone, but in the end I did.

After meeting the whole group, we were broken into smaller groups. I was put into a workshop about Disney princesses. I learned that in movies they portray stereotypes that, as a kid, one wouldn’t notice. For example, in “The Little Mermaid” the message sent by Ursula, the evil mermaid, is basically that to get the “person of one’s dreams” one has to be skinny (if you’re a girl) and have a lot of muscles (if you’re a boy). The girls in this workshop knew that this wasn’t true because nobody is perfect, and humans weren’t made to judge.

My second workshop was about women’s beauty. At first I thought we were going to talk about makeup, clothes, and nail polish. Actually, we talked about the names of some body parts on a girl and if we were comfortable saying them. Also, we learned that the size of a woman is suppose to be 5’4 and 128 lbs, but for a model the required height is 5’7 with a weight of 117 lbs. I noticed that I am neither of those, I’m actually smaller then both. But other girls were outraged because the "ideal" weight of a model goes down even though they are taller. They were also angry because not every girl in the world can be that height or weight, which excludes most girls from being models, and makes them feel like they’re not pretty because they don’t look like the girls on the cover of a magazine.

The third workshop was the Breathe Cambridge workshop. I didn’t know what to expect from this workshop because I had only heard about it and never experienced one before. As an ice breaker, a person would say something about themselves and make a shape with their body. If anyone else thought that statement applied to them as well, then that person would have to make the same shape. This game could go on forever, but we stopped when everyone said at least one thing. Then we wrote a poem using the Breathe poem format. This was a quiet time to ourselves. It gave me time to think about life and fill out the poem any way I felt like. When I finished writing I disliked my poem, but I got to hear it read by Shea and I found that anyone who knows me could tell I wrote it, and that made me like it a lot. I even got to record other girls reading their poems aloud, and this was my favorite part of the workshop. I loved how I could relate to the poems and how so many different ideas came from the same format.

Going to Athena Day was an honor and I hope that I get to go again. I met a group of really cool girls. Most of the ones I met were in the same workshops as me. I got to see how to run a workshop, and then help run one myself. Athena Day is something, I feel, every female in the world should experience. This year, it brought a big group of girls together to overcome stereotypes. It wasn’t like those awkward events that you go to, because at Athena Day everyone had a welcoming personality. I had a lot of fun and can’t wait for the next one.

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