by YingYing Shang

She has two large front teeth with a wide gap in between, but a radiant smile. Her eyes are almond-shaped, crinkling into crescents whenever she laughs. Her thumbs are not opposable.

My sister Melissa is 9 years old, and has Charcot-Marie-Tooth, a form of muscular dystrophy that in particular, affects her peripheral nerves in her hands and legs. She wears leg braces and uses a walker. But she, and every other girl out there, deserves to know that she is beautiful, which, as cliche as it sounds, is from the inside out.

There are many types of girls, of all skin colors, ability levels, body shapes, and backgrounds. Yet our culture worships one standard of beauty—that of the fashion magazines, loaded with hypersexualized advertisements featuring only tall, thin, Caucasian women.

My sister Melissa may not fit their standards, but the reality is that all girls look to the world around them to appraise their own worth. As she enters the difficult transition of the preteen years, I want to forge a better world that will judge her for the value of her thoughts, not how she looks or walks. I want her to keep her confidence in herself and the abilities that she DOES possess.

I support the Keep It Real Campaign because physical beauty should not influence how teen and preteen girls perceive their worth.

This is my sister, but this is also YOUR daughter, your niece, your neighbor, that is having trouble seeing the beauty in herself because of illusory images perpetuated by the media. 3 out of 4 teen girls feel depressed, guilty, and shameful after leafing through a fashion magazine for 3 minutes. If those girls flipped through more reality and less Photoshop, this would not be an issue.

But we can stop it! If we want the next generation of girls to grow up seeing real girls, real worth, and real relationships, we need to take action. Join the Keep It Real Campaign, in which SPARK, Miss Representation, and I Am That Girl, petition Seventeen Magazine to show one unPhotoshopped picture each issue. That’s just a start to combat prevalent distortion of ideals about beauty!

I am 16 years old and I have a dream.

I have a dream that when Melissa is the age that I am now, she and every girl like her will be able to read a magazine and still feel beautiful, no matter what their height or weight, disabled or not.

By in order for this to happen, we girls and women need to join together and change the world, one image at a time. Courageous SPARK blogger Julia Bluhm took the first step by starting this petition. I know I’ll be fighting alongside her for magazines to show us real girls, real worth—for my sister and for yours.

Will you?