The New York City government has just launched a $330,000 campaign to feed the homeless — wait, no, that's not it. Stop crime in at-risk neighborhoods? Fund preschools for underserved youth? Nope, not that either. Tell young girls that they're beautiful? That's it.
The NYC Girls Project, started by Mayor Bloomberg's deputy press secretary, bills itself as "a public education campaign geared toward girls ages 7-12 appearing on buses, subways, and phone kiosks and featuring a diverse group of girls performing activities like reading, playing sports, and drawing with the words: ‘I’m a girl. I’m smart, a leader, adventurous, friendly, funny. I’m beautiful the way I am.’"
The sentiment there is nice. The ads, with smiling young girls and bright, kid-friendly lettering, are also nice. The emphasis on inner beauty as opposed to outer beauty? That's nice, too. But it's not the government's job to be nice, or to compliment strangers via an ad campaign.
How creepy that the city government is telling children how they should feel about themselves. A child's self-esteem is not the government's responsibility — a child's well-being is far too important to trust to a bureaucracy. That's why it's a parent's job. Teachers can help. So can older siblings and mentors and babysitters and coaches and so on. Teaching a child basic self-respect is a crucially important job — but it is not a job that the mayor's office can do.
Why did anyone at City Hall think this ad campaign was necessary, or a sound use of government funds? Jezebel reports, "The project was developed by Samantha Levine, Mr. Bloomberg's deputy press secretary, who says she was disturbed by news stories of little girls wearing shapewear and getting plastic surgery to improve their looks." That certainly is disturbing. But these little girls aren't driving themselves to Macy's and buying Spanx with their allowance money. They're not making their own appointments at the surgeon's office. It's a parent or guarding who is doing those things. These ads aren't targeting the adults who make those decisions.
Self-esteem is, by its very definition, anindividual feeling. It is unique to each person, and it comes from within. No government campaign is going to elicit that character value from the masses. There is no use in spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to spread the same message that Bruno Mars has been singing for years. The same message spread by the Girl Scouts and the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. A message that is positive, but that can't be brought home to a young person without the influence of an adult role model in his or her life.
It is not up to the government to define what beauty is. It is not up to the government to then push that definition onto young people with a taxpayer-funded media blitz. Roll it back, shut it down, make it stop — and let girls be girls.