A World of Real Conversation for Real Girls

Girltopia is a set of 70 full-colour cards for building conversations with girls from age 10, and women of any age, produced by St Luke’s Innovative Resources―an Australian, not-for-profit publisher of high-quality resources for counsellors, educators, social workers, health professionals, teams, managers and parents.

The Girltopia cards are:

  • beautifully-illustrated with hand-cut collages made from Japanese papers
  • arranged in 5 suits: ME, DOING, FEELING, BODY and US. The ME suit features sentence starters to invite story-telling. The DOING cards describe modes of action, such as ‘I imagine’, to help girls build an appreciative awareness of their own developing skills. The FEELING suit offers gentle cues to support emotional intelligence, while the US cards provide prompts to stimulate conversations about relationships. The BODY suit cards help girls to deepen their understanding and appreciation of their female bodies.
  • packaged in a handy box with tabbed suit dividers
  • Including a 64-page booklet of suggestions for using the cards. Click to read the booklet online. Includes pictures of the Girltopia cards.

The following is part of a talk given at the launch of Girltopia.

I want to tell you a little about the background to Girltopia. During the past decade or so I have sat with many groups of girls as they asked questions of me and each other and I have listened to their answers.

I’ve been deeply impressed by the range and depth of girls questions, and, very often, by the wisdom and seriousness with which they think about and discuss the many curly issues that intrigue and concern them.

Here is a little selection of questions I have been asked by 10 to 12 year old girls:

Does it feel disgusting to get puberty?
Do you get used to having periods?
What will make me know I’ve got my period when I get it?
Is your first period something to celebrate?
Can you die of old age before you have your period?

How do I tell my mum?
How do you tell boys when they notice changes about you?
When you get your period do you start to like different boys or not like the ones you used to?
What changes do we go through mentally when we change physically?
Can you see the difference in a person when they have their period?

How long do breasts take to grow?
What do you do if a boy calls you a flat chest?
What happens to boys when they get their puberty?
Why do boys pretend they don’t have emotions or feelings?

How are you supposed to ask for bras and stuff like that without being embarrassed?
Can you make cheese out of breast milk?
What happens when I really like someone but they don’t like me?
My dad said he was going to lock me in a cupboard when I had my first period. What do I do?
How old do you have to be to legally have a baby?

And from girls 14 to 16 years old …

Sometimes our class is really emotional on one day. Why is this and how can I keep out of it?
How can you convince someone that they are thin when they are set on believing they are fat?
Would you be able to tell us about guys, and the differences between girls and guys, for me they are hard to understand, they are so different from us?
How do you know if you’ve fallen in love?

From these questions you can see why, over the years, I have been struck again and again by the power of thoughtful questions and the power of conversations. And also the value of looking at issues and concerns and topics of interest and importance through a range of different lenses – physical, emotional, cultural and historical, the lense of values and beliefs and the experience of family, relationships, and so on –  and when these lenses are focused to notice strengths and have an overall celebratory and optimistic view of growing up – with all its joys, distresses, thresholds, challenges and achievements – these can have a powerful and strengthening effect on girls, as well as those around them.

When we open the door to conversations, especially with an open, respectful curiosity about the contributions of all participants, surprising things happen. Wisdom, awareness and new understandings emerge. We can gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing girls and they can share their struggles, joys and understanding with each other.

From this experience, and after a few chats with Russell Deal and the team at St Lukes Innovative Resources, the seed idea for a card set for girls began to grow. During 2009-10 I had the great pleasure of working closely with Robyn Spicer (illustrator) and Karen Masman (project manager), under the watchful eye of Russell and a string of focus groups, all of which resulted in Girltopia – a world of real conversations for real girls.

It is my hope that these cards prompt conversations in classrooms, in youth groups, in counselling and therapy settings and in homes, with mums and dads, sisters and brothers. I hope that the Girltopia cards help make these conversations easier to broach and easier to reapproach again and again.

Jane Bennett
9th March 2011, The Star Cinema, Bendigo

I have had a chance to look through your fantastic resource ‘Girltopia’  – the presentation is brilliant … they are a really great, positive and attractive tool and I think the topics you’ve covered are very diverse and relevant to young girls.  It’d be great if every person who worked with girls had these.

Danni Watts
Education Manager – Prevention
The Butterfly Foundation

I am often approached by parents expressing concerns about their daughters’ self-esteem and body image, or the escalation in conflict and depression at puberty and menarche. How wonderful that Jane Bennett has created Girltopia, a card set that uses pithy questions and fun quotes to inspire curiosity and encourage dialogue, storytelling and informed choices. Robyn Spicer’s whimsical illustrations – bursting with quirky plants, animals and insects – remind us that our bodies, feelings and thoughts are all part of nature. Perfect for school programs aimed at personal development, health and physical education, or discussions within families, workshops or counselling.

Shushann Movsessian
author of Puberty Girl, Allen and Unwin, 2006