If you’re Michael Bloomberg, you’re almost definitely dealing with some conflicting thoughts and feelingz as your 12-year tenure as the Mayor of New York City comes to a close. During your years in office you transformed neighborhoods and bolstered the housing boom that continues to sweep the city, remained a staunch (and factually unsupported) advocate of Stop-and-Frisk, and watched as the city’s obesity rate shot up 25 percent since 2002 despite your valiant attempts to curtail soda sizes. If people want their KFC Mega Jug or child-sized Sweetums soda, they’re gonna get it.
So, as a last-gasp effort to convince the folks at home that at the end of it all you’re really concerned about the people, what do you do? Why, you launch a first-of-its-kind public service campaign devoted to bolstering the self esteem and well being of girls aged 7-12, of course. Bloomberg’s project is potentially revolutionary; a well-funded and recognized appeal to a group often marginalized by the “bigger issues.”
The NYC Girls Project — spearheaded by Samantha Levine, Mr. Bloomberg’s deputy press secretary — will feature subway ads, 30-second taxicab videos, physical fitness classes, after-school classes addressing body issues and the media, and a Twitter campaign. “I’m a girl,” reads the slogan on the homepage of the campaign’s website, “I’m a leader, adventurous, outgoing, sporty, unique, smart and strong. I’m beautiful the way I am.”
Why “beautiful,” though? Why not “great” or “dynamite” or “marvelous?”
For a public campaign directly devoted to opposing the notion of valuing calorie counting and makeup application over all, this campaign contradicts its own message — “to help girls believe their value comes from their character, skills, and attributes – not appearance” in its own tagline. For that matter, what about the shy, introverted girls who spend hours poring over books rather than kicking a soccer ball around? What about the girls who’d rather eat worms than do a public speaking project? People are multifaceted and diverse, and girls and women are people, a fact which still seems to fly over the heads of every advertising copywriter and press secretary involved in speaking to girls and women. Granted, it’s a nitpicky transgression, but an important one nonetheless, given that these are the billboards and commercials little she-people will be bombarded with over the next few months.
The girls on the posters themselves are not professional models but real live citizens of New York, and such positive reinforcement is certainly necessary in a world where recent statistics indicate that more young kids than ever before are suffering from depression. Hopefully this campaign will encourage girls everywhere will to see themselves as the valuable and intelligent people that they are, an astonishingly difficult task in the era of teen mom sex tapes.