The problem with ‘being yourself’

Be yourself, were told but thats only another tyranny and theres nothing worse for our self-esteem, says Eva Wiseman

British women feel the same about their bodies as we do about Goebbels, or school dinner. Full of loathe. Our arms are made of old ham; our genitals are like the closed-off wells that it is rumoured small children once died in; our bellies are obscene; our faces, bloody hell our faces are explosion mines at best. A handful of wet clay chucked against a wall. Nose like Broken Britain, skin like an umbrella that came free with the Express . Our thighs are a collective nightmare dreamed in a small tent in Wales. Our breasts are useless gym containers, our arses like an apocalypse.

British girls have almost the lowest self-esteem in the world, with only 20% feeling confident about their bodies. This according to interviews with 10,500 women and girls across 13 countries for the latest Dove self-esteem in women project. Virtually all British women interviewed (8 5 %) said that when they feel bad about the style they look they opt out of life they dont play sport, ensure friends, have a proper chuckle. Seven in 10 daughters with low body-esteem say they wont be assertive in their opinion or stick to their decision if they arent happy with the way they seem, while nine out of 10 females will stop themselves from eating.

Though the study is new, the information, of course, is not. None of this is wildly surprising. Chances are you know, or you are, or you have known a woman, and you have stood with her beside a reflective surface, and you will have heard her tut and rearrange her body to make it seem smaller from a distance. You will have always known she thinks her hips are evil and that she wished to abort her hair.

The two new things that this study tells us are: first, that Britains body anxiety is getting worse. And second, that on top of all this anxiety there is an added cherry. While 60% of women say they believe they need to meet certain beauty standards, 77% believe it is also important to be their own person. And yet werent we promised that if we simply be ourselves, the pressure to gratify beauty criteria would fall away? It seems clear now that the two arent mutually exclusive. Fortunately, we have two shoulders for these devils to sit on. What do you do with a tension like that between the pressure on you to be thin and blonde, and the pressure to espouse your curves, love your imperfections, to enjoy that vague candied sense of sorority with every other woman you encounter? To be strong, brave, natural, real, and at the same time definitely sounds like Jennifer Lawrence when shes just got off a Californian horse.

This obscure requirement for the modern and liberated girl to be herself feelings increasingly pernicious. While we should dedicate Dove credit for its mission to inspire confidence in girls, however wobbly the premise, I fear the modern panic it helps create. First there was that side-eyed word, real females; now theres the order to be yourself authenticity is currency, especially for women. But only if the authentic you is not insecure, or whimsical, or sad, or has that old fret chewing at her throat that she would be more lovable if she was whiter, thinner, blonde. Only if the authentic you believes not only that your body is beautiful but that beauty genuinely matters.

At least the old pressure was prescriptive. You could see the leading edge of it, you could walk around it, subvert it, laugh at it, chuck it in the bin. It is possible to work out exactly why we shouldnt all aspire to look like 15 -year-old Swedish gymnasts and refer back to the listing whenever were feeling uncomfortable on a beach. But its much harder to unpick the problems with the new requirements, especially when they havent even replaced the need to look thin and white, just swaddled it in motivational Instagram quotes. To be yourself, when that means to appear confident, happy, brave and healthy, takes more than Botox it requires , among other things, a refusal of all the societal crap that has brought you to a place where you feel the need to cover up those parts of your personality that are deemed unattractive. And that gap-year-style journey is not only far more expensive than a decent concealer but a reminder that it is still the womans responsibility to feel better about herself. The problem with be yourself is the insisting that, rather than the culture, the adverts, the media and the politics, it is still you who needs to change.

Email Eva at e.wiseman @observer. or follow her on Twitter @EvaWiseman

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With Donald Trump expected to formally accept the GOP’s presidential nomination, numerous protest groups for and against the billionaire developer are preparing to launch dozens of rallies and marches across the Ohio city, which is anticipating 50,000 visitors for the GOP’s quadrennial gathering.


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The Stone Age Is Over. Kansas City Definitely Get The Memo.

The arrival of a new streetcar in Kansas City, Missouri, heralds the beginning of a major technological shift for the Midwestern city.

Lights along the 2-mile transit line, which opens Friday, sense when the sun decides and turn on when it gets dark. If there isn’t anyone waiting for the streetcar, the illuminations dim automatically. They will also send alerts to the city if something is blocking the rail route or if icy roads required to salted.

Kiosks installed at streetcar stops and throughout downtown allow travelers to check the arrival of the next trolley, and display curated content about the city’s restaurants, concerts and sports games.

Residents will also benefit from a public wifi network encompassing virtually 3 square miles of downtown that, along with the lights and kiosks, are part of an infrastructure overhaul in Kansas City that will reduce energy costs, improve traffic safety and increase access to public services and events.

“We consider connectivity as a new utility, ” Bob Bennett, the city’s chief invention policeman, told The Huffington Post. “You can’t get a job without getting on the Internet, and you can’t figure out where you need to go without connectivity. Cities have to evolve.”

Even parking woes would be made easier by the new technology. The city plans to eventually use the sensors along the streetcar line to develop a mobile app that allows drivers to see when parking space become available. And the sensors could help streamline wastewater and stormwater runoff management.

The interactive kiosks may soon turn into small social hubs for locals, and it’s not uncommon to hear people use the booths as a meeting point, Bennett said.

“It’s gotten people’s snouts out of their phones and looking at each other while utilizing 7-foot-tall representations of what they have in their pocket, ” Bennett added.

Kansas City Area Development Council

The kiosks can be synced to smartphones with a mobile app. That style, for example, users who insure an ad for a lunch special at a local coffeehouse can pull up that information on their own device when they get hungry later in the day. In a boost to local businesses, store and eatery owneds can elect to push out ads on the kiosks based on what a user is searching.( Sessions are wiped to protect users’ data .)

“Innovation is coming from everywhere, ” said Tom Touchet, CEO of Smart City Media, which manages the kiosks. “It’s not only a big city game.”

City-wide wifi networks have become increasingly common as local government scramble to address issues of inequality and access to services. President obama has called high-speed Internet a “necessity” and said increased access are essential in a competitive economy. In New York City, thousands of rusty pay phones will be converted into wifi hot spots and charging stations for mobile devices.

As these smart cities proliferate, representatives of the private sector has rushed to partner with municipal governments. IBM, Philips and Cisco, which is helping Kansas City upgrade and manage its digital infrastructure, have worked with hundreds of cities internationally to pilot new technology.

In Barcelona, parks have added irrigation systems that turn on sprinklers when plants need to be watered, and smart trash can notify employees when they are full. Copenhagen installed bike path lights to warn cyclists approaching red traffic lights, and aims to become the first carbon-neutral capital by 2025.

“Data is the asset now, ” said Kim Majerus, a vice president at Cisco who supervised the Kansas City project. “Now the question is, how do cities use it to do things more effectively and provide solutions to their citizens.”

Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is eyeing smart cities of its own. It plans to partner with disadvantaged regions and outfit them with new technology, in addition to using them to showcase its self-driving autoes, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Three connected vehicle pilots, funded by the Department of Transportation, are currently underway to improve pedestrian safety and reduce congestion. The agency is also awarding $40 million for its smart city challenge, which seeks to integrate autonomous vehicles and smart technology into a city’s transportation network.( Kansas City is a finalist .)

“Over time the most powerful technology becomes invisible. It’s about lowering costs and modernizing cities, ” said Herb Sih, a co-founder of the Kansas City-based incubator Think Big Partners, which advised the city on its new project. “There’s an opportunity in Kansas City to solve problems and improve the quality of life.”

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