"I am beautiful the way I am" posters will be a new addition to the landscape of messages blanketing New York City.
The city is attempting to improve girls' self-esteem by approaching the issue as a public health concern. The New York City Girls Project will address the issue through after-school programs, free fitness classes and a public awareness campaign.
"New York City is one of the most diverse cities in the nation with strong, successful women in every area of leadership," New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg said in a statement. "Yet girls are struggling with body image issues at younger and younger ages, a struggle that has negative public health consequences: including eating disorders, bullying, alcohol abuse, early onset of sexual activity and obesity. New York City is going to take a leadership role in sending a message about what really should matter – their skills, their beliefs and who they are and who they are going to be, not what they look like."
A diverse cross-section of girls is represented in the campaign materials, which target girls ages 7 to 12. All drive home a singular message: “I’m a girl. I’m smart, a leader, adventurous, friendly, funny. I’m beautiful the way I am." The messages will go up in the city on Monday and will run for four weeks on buses and eight weeks on the subway.
Considering that the media landscape is saturated with unrealistic images of women and advertisements promising everlasting beauty, can the campaign's message get through to these girls? Therapist Dr. Tiffanie Davis Henry says it's a start.
"Insisting upon each girl that she can do anything, and empowering her to love and appreciate all that she is, is something that will stay with her throughout her days," she told HLN. "The more they hear it, the more they will believe in it."
However Babble.com blogger Carolyn Castiglia says the posters may actually do more harm than good.
"These posters do nothing to dismantle female expectations by overemphasizing gender in a way that sounds to the mind’s ear like the vapid cry of a bimbo character trying to rationalize to her savvy male counterpart why she’s incapable of doing a simple task," she wrote recently.
"In spite of wanting to eradicate the pressure girls feel to live up to societal beauty standards, these posters only serve to reinforce the idea that being beautiful is a girl’s number one responsibility," she continued.
Dr. Davis also points out that the campaign could be strengthened by including the parents. Girls need to hear positive messages reinforced at home, she says.
"Many programs miss the mark when they neglect to include the entire family," she said. "I believe that what this program sets out to do is great, but I don't want these girls do go back home to an environment where they're verbally chastised for their weight, or made fun of because of their changing, developing bodies."
What do you say to your daughter to boost her self-esteem? Tweet your thoughts to @KyraHLN with the #RaisingAmerica hashtag or weigh in on Facebook.com. And for more conversations like this, watch Raising America every week day at 12 p.m. and 4 p.m. ET on HLN.