A new campaign launched in New York City aims to boost the self-esteem of young girls and help avoid unhealthy body image problems.
NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg is helping to spearhead the campaign, called NYC Girls Project, in an effort to let girls as young as 6 or 7 know that they don’t have to look like what they see in the magazines or on television to be considered beautiful.
The $330,000 initiative mostly consists of bus and subway ads featuring young girls of all shapes and sizes saying great things about themselves, with the unifying message that reads, “I’m beautiful the way I am.”
One ad features 12-year-old DeVoray Wigfall of the Bronx with the quote, “I’m a girl. I’m funny, playful, daring, strong, curious, smart, brave, healthy, friendly and caring.”
In addition to the ads around the city, the campaign will also consist of physical fitness classes for girls, a program addressing self-esteem issues for girls at 75 afterschool programs, and an active Twitter account.
Samantha Levine, a 38-year-old aide to Mayor Bloomberg, first thought of the idea. She is currently the deputy press secretary for the mayor, as well as a project director, and says she was moved to take action after hearing stories of young girls getting plastic surgery to alter their appearance.
“I think being a woman in this society,” said Levine, “it’s sort of impossible to not be aware of the pressures there are around appearance, around weight, around trying to always look a certain way.”
The campaign sets out to be the opposite of what many other campaigns are doing to try and end obesity. Instead of “fat shaming,” they say, they are trying to encourage healthy lifestyle choices while make sure girls know that they don’t have to be stick thin in order to be beautiful.
A porn community known as r/gonewild, an offshoot of Reddit, has become a place where “normal” people can upload explicit photos in the hopes of receiving favorable comments. Defined as a “place for open-minded Adult Redditors to exchange their nude bodies for karma; showing it off in a comfortable environment without pressure,” GoneWild has more than 400,000 subscribers.
Some of the ladies who upload their pictures are tipped out in Bitcoin, an untraceable digital currency. Others are given Reddit Gold, a $30 subscription package for increased privileges on the social news site. The site is free to use, and the number of women who upload photos far outnumber the men, the Daily Mail reported.
Not all of the ladies who put themselves on display do it for compensation. Some just do it as a way of getting positive feedback about their bodies.
“I wasn't quite sure what to expect, really,” wrote anonymous exhibitionist Natural_Red. “I had an OK view of myself, but wasn't quite sure how others viewed me. It was more or less an experiment in self-esteem.”
Natural_Red, 24, who works in advertising and design, arrived at the site during a rough patch three years ago.
“I was kind of in a boring slump in my life, going to school and work, then coming home, eating dinner, and going to bed,” she wrote. “This was something new and exciting, so I thought, Why not?”
There are certainly some negative things about GoneWild. Many people write mean, nasty or creepy comments, and there is always the possibility that a provocative poster will be recognized.
Still, its enthusiasts view it as a good thing.
“I think GoneWild is a great place for people who are looking for a bump in self-esteem, exhibitionists, and people who are just looking for a little something thrilling in their day-to-day lives,” Natural_Red wrote. “It's a win-win. You get a rise out of posting, and other people get boobs.”