My first period arrived in 1969—just before my eleventh birthday. I had been excitedly looking for signs for some time and then, when it came, I slipped into painful shyness and embarrassment. Less than five years later I took myself to an unknown doctor in a faraway suburb, lied about my age and within ten minutes had a prescription for the pill. A year after that I invented yet-to-be named ‘bulimia’ (or thought I did).
When I was seventeen and at university I started living with my boyfriend. I didn’t tell my parents for six months and endured two years of a mostly painful relationship. At no time during these important transformative years did I have any conversations with an adult about these powerful feelings and processes, or my circumstances and choices, or about myself in any way other than superficially. Not that there weren’t caring adults around me, it’s just that neither they nor I knew how to talk about such things, and I did a great impersonation of being okay. While this story is uniquely mine, I know from my years of working with girls and women that the elements aren’t at all unusual.
I completed a social work degree and then, sometime later the focus of my working life profoundly shifted when I experienced the revelations of charting my menstrual cycle. As I came to know and understand my monthly rhythms I was able to inhabit and befriend my body, my feelings and my life in a way that was previously unimaginable.
Since then I have pursued a career as a counsellor, writer and educator in the field of natural fertility management. I have run workshops for mothers and daughters celebrating girls’ approaching first period (menarche); for fathers on how to handle these changes and stay close to their daughters; and for older girls wanting to understand and manage their maturing bodies and relationships. I have discovered in working with girls the magic of asking questions and creating opportunities for their natural wisdom to emerge. This in itself builds self-esteem and resilience. In addition, girls get to hear each other’s views and ideas, stories and expectations as they talk.
With the invaluable support of St Luke’s Innovative Resources, Russell Deal, Karen Masman Bedord, Robyn Spicer, and numerous colleagues and professionals in the field, and following many conversations about issues facing girls (both past and present) Girltopia, quite magically, came into being.
In a world where sophisticated omnipresent advertising targets babies, toddlers, children and tweens, as well as teenagers; tween girls are invited to makeover parties and sold sexy, porn-star clothes; and an increasing number of teenage girls save, or beg, for cosmetic surgery, Girltopia offers girls an alternative world view.
Girltopia is a world where girls do stuff, tell stories, explore their identity, discuss what they think and feel about things, and generally explore the bridges of maturity— in supported, healthy and intentional ways.
Jane Bennett: Author of Girltopia
Join Jane Bennett at our next Girltopia Workshop
The 70 cards in the Girltopia set create a world of luscious plants, soulful animals and quirky architecture. A place in which everyone is honoured for who they are and where they’re at, where exploring the risky edges of conversation and feeling, of ‘Who I am’ and ‘Who are we?’ and ‘How can I feel at ease in my own body?’ is lively, supported, and very often a great adventure. The Girltopia cards encourage a spirit of enquiry, non-judgement, acceptance, curiosity, reflection and celebration. In truth, it’s difficult to have too many of these conversations during puberty and adolescence. The Girltopia cards can support this process in many settings: home, school, pastoral care, health and welfare situations, youth groups, community groups – and through many evolving needs and scenarios.
As you explore the world of Girltopia through these cards, may your journey be richly textured, meaningful and rewarding.