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Chapter 1, Part 1: Girl Child (9 Lives)

Chapter 1, Part 1: Girl Child (9 Lives)

This article is part of a weekly series adapted from our latest book "The Nine Lives of Women" by our founder, Christine Marie Mason. This installment is the fifth in the series.

Chapter 1: Foundation 


Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful? I can't believe what God has done, through us he's given life to one, isn't she lovely, made of love?- Stevie Wonder

Part 1: The Girl Child

Do you find it strange to begin a book on women's sensuality, sexuality, and reproduction with birth or childhood? Usually, we start talking about these things as girls approach their first period. But by then it's a little late.
Girls at menarche (the onset of menses), don't suddenly appear fully formed, like Venus on the half shell. By this point they have accumulated a decade or so of impressions and ideas about themselves, their bodies, and their worthiness from their family, culture and direct experience. They've been given many messages on how they should behave. If they enter adolescence with boundaries and a strong sense of self, they are set up to enjoy their bodies, to  know what they want or don't want, and to know how to talk with others easefully about their concerns or questions, and to defend themselves if needed. 
This chapter is about helping a girl develop a solid base, so that she can grow into a woman who enjoys a healthy relationship with her own body, and her sensual and sexual life. I look at some of the core developmental tasks, as well as the unique challenges of the time we are living in. We consider not only the biological, but also the cultural experiences that a young girl may encounter as she develops into a conscious, happy, capable, sovereign human being.

Trusting a Child's Inner Knowing
Children are born sensual—tasting, touching, and taking in everything. When left to their own devices and not interfered with too much, children self-regulate. Toddlers, for example, when allowed to feed themselves over the course of a week from a snack table, might eat nothing but grapes for a whole day—but by the end of the week they will have eaten a complete and balanced diet (if there's no white sugar present). In resting and sleeping habits as well, young children seem to take care of themselves, and fall asleep easily if their nervous systems aren't dysregulated or overstimulated. We can trust nature that children know how to grow from a baby into an adult human; it’s in their blueprint.
That said, children are incredibly adept at changing how they behave and act to meet the needs of their environment. They are programmed to survive, and they will twist and turn their inner architecture, hide their essence, and distort their natural psycho-emotional growth, to ally with the family, and to meet the conditional love they find in the family or in culture.
Many of these family and cultural conditions are loving, but there are a number of common distortions that have a poor effect on a future woman’s self-esteem and the way she relates in intimacy and to the world, such as:
  • Being valued for how they look and little else
  • Being body shamed
  • Being preyed upon sexually by family, "friends" of the family or strangers
  • Being bossed around or silenced 
  • Being overly responsible, or taking care of their parents, prematurely
  • Being mistreated verbally or physically   
  • Being subject to gender-based limitations
  • Having repressive religious ideals imposed upon them.
To start a girl child on the path to healthy sensual, sexual and reproductive life, we start young-  by doing exactly the opposite of these things.
(P.S., if you didn't have these in your upbringing, its never too late to practice: appreciate yourself for your myriad gifts and ways of being in the world, celebrate your body as it is, speak your mind with power and clarity, liberate yourself from people, situations and institutions that, in words or deeds, are harmful or disrespectful to the essence of your being. It's never too late. And offer that to other women and girls.)

Stay Tuned for Next Week: Chapter 1, Part 2