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Girls learn about the messages they send at WomenSource workshop
Event focuses on nonverbal, social media communication
Jody Y. Wall speaks to the girls of the WomenSource “Girl Power” workshop Saturday in downtown Gainesville. Her session focused on how to dress appropriately for school, an interview or in the workplace, and how to represent yourself tastefully. - photo by HAILEY VAN PARYS

A group of over 300 people, mostly made up of young girls in middle and high school, used their Saturday for educating themselves.

A workshop titled “Girl Power” taught girls how to handle outside pressures, like peers, television and other sources of media, and how these forces affect young women like themselves.

The program was put together by WomenSource, a local nonprofit dedicated to helping women.

Christine Shaheen-Ball, a middle school counselor, emphasized to the girls that one of the most important forms of communication isn’t spoken in her “Face-to-Face Communication” session. It’s nonverbal.

“At least 80 percent of what we say is nonverbal,” Shaheen-Ball said. “It’s not just about talking.”

How you are standing or sitting, she told the girls, is as important as what comes out of your mouth when you speak.

Shaheen-Ball said that most of the girls she sees in her office are in trouble because of the way they are communicating nonverbally with their parents or teachers.

Eye rolls, crossed arms and avoiding eye contact are some of the types of negative nonverbal behavior Shaheen-Ball mentioned in her advice for girls to change.

“You’re sending clear messages to people every day,” Shaheen-Ball said. “If you’re wearing clothes that say, ‘I’m sexy,’ then what message are you sending?”

Some of the girls, like Bianca Joseph, also took this message from the film they were shown, “Miss Representation,” at the beginning of the day.

“You almost feel embarrassed walking around,” Bianca Joseph, 12, said.

“You see women in tight-fitting clothes, and you think, ‘Why can’t I be like that, too?’”

The stereotypes and sexualizing of women in film, television and other forms of media was one of the main focuses of the film.

“It’s horrible, how the media treats women,” Jasmine Welton, 13, said.

Bianca and Jasmine both attend Davis Middle School in Flowery Branch, and Jasmine’s mother signed them up for the program.

Messages through nonverbals aren’t the only kind of message the girls were advised to be careful of.

Alejandra Andrade, an assistant solicitor general for Hall County, also warned them of their online social media presence and the dangers that lie therein.

“When I was younger, I used to write letters,” Andrade said.

Now most young people are more familiar with sending messages over social media applications like Facebook or texting.

In her line of work, Andrade often sees people who have sent nude images of themselves to a boyfriend, trusting he wouldn’t share them or repost them anywhere online. However, that’s not always the case.

“You have to be careful of what you’re putting online,” Andrade said.

Andrade said this is even true with SnapChat, a photo-sharing app which purports to only let the receiver view an image for up to 10 seconds.

“Those images can haunt you forever,” Andrade said.

But you can spin your image to become positive if you do it tastefully.

“How you present yourself is your brand,” Brenau Chief of Staff Jody Y. Wall said.

Wall transferred lessons she was taught as a girl to the girls in the room.

“We need to think about how we are presenting ourselves,” Wall said. “Don’t let what you wear be a distraction from your intelligence.”

At the end of the day, Amanda Dutton said, it’s all about how we see ourselves in the mirror.

“We are a lot harder on ourselves than other people are,” Dutton said.