Friday, 31 August 2012

Being a Blogger and Being Scottish. Cultural Cringe.

I've been pondering something lately but I am not firing on all cylinders so feel free to challenge me...

Why are there so few parenting blogs written by Scots and based in Scotland?

The more I thought about this, the more I recalled a book by Carol Craig called The Scots' Crisis of Confidence. While the book focuses on Scottish politics, industry and culture, its basic premise can be applied here to blogging and self expression by Scots in the media too. 

Craig says that the Scots' tradition of equality, a fine thing when it is equality of opportunity as it used to be, has become a lack of respect for individuality and a stultifying culture of conformity, which is inevitable when we redefine equality to mean "equality of outcome". We are ashamed of success or the lack of. The book is excellent and provides an in-depth analysis on how this cultural cringe affects areas of Scotland's enterprise, arts and culture, even the way we view our accents and our language as second rate. The things that we are most proud of are the things that we are also the most ashamed of. Take deep fried Mars bars, tartan hats, The Broons, Susan Boyle and Football for a small selection of examples. We produced these are so are inherently proud of these when another nation ridicules them. But we diminish our success or our opinions by drawing attention to our failings. 

Book review aside, the conclusion is this: that as a nation we have an inferiority complex. We feel the need to stifle our individual abilities. This will take time to change and me writing a blog post on it certainly isn't going to alter anything but it's glaringly obvious to me that in the face of a deluge of parent bloggers south of the border that this could possibly be something that affects Scottish bloggers. I think that a connection to this Scottish Cringe as she calls it, is why we aren't producing as many bloggers as our Southern friends. 

We have an inbuilt self deprecating switch that seems to me to be at odds with the amount of self promotion you have to do to survive as a parent blogger. We (or at least I think that we are) are a nation of sceptical thinkers. My Google Reader this week has been full of posts that say Well, I've never been a huge fan of these crisps but now that I have tasted the new flavour (read: now that I have been given ten free packets) I think they are the most wonderful crisps in the entire world. Or I always thought that [insert shoe brand here] was old fashioned but no longer as this new range is fantastically comfortable and fashionable. Written, I presume, whilst the blogger was breaking the shoes (free) inI inwardly cringe and go to my email inbox to turn down more PR requests for me to hawk their products. 

I occasionally dip my toe into networking and promoting my blog in what can only be described as a pathetically coy fashion. I hanging around staring at my shoes muttering, "psst! Here's a link to my blog, it would be lovely if you would read it." and then I run for the hills. As a nation we are ridiculously uncomfortable with self-promotion and for those of us who, albeit however temporarily, stick our heads out and shout our http address we are in fear of being regarded amongst our fellow compatriots as full of ourselves. 

One of the biggest stumbling blocks in my blogging career I have encountered is presentation and tone of my blog. I am, what would be considered in real life, one of the more experienced parents (my eldest is nearly 13, has special needs and I have a two year old toddler, and worked with children for five years). Parent bloggers usually start blogging about all the firsts we experience as parents and the tone of their blogs are inquisitive. Everything is all shiny and new and bit scary and quizzical at times. Then as the children grow and more are subsequently produced, the tone then becomes authoritative. Guides start to be produced about potty training, weaning and many other aspects of parenting. 

This is not an ego problem connected to the individual. As parents in real life, this assumed authority gets bred into us by health professionals and educationalists. Society seems to expect us to become experts after only one try. I remember two midwives being completely ignorant of my cries of "Yes, I've done all of this before but ELEVEN years ago! I've no idea what I'm doing!" Having done something once does not qualify you as an expert in anyway. That's something that I learned at a university conference in conversation with an eighty year old Classicist who still mused about all of the things about Greek history and language that he is yet to learn! Parent bloggers who dispense advice have to sound like they know what they're doing, like professional parents and that is not something that sits well with us Scots. 

This is a major hurdle when blogging in the genre of parent or even as mummy bloggers. A friend of mine asked me for advice recently and referred MY blog and I just about died of shame! Flapping my arms about in a panic, I was quick to reiterate that in no way was my own little corner of the blogosphere about how to parent! Jesus, no! I've no idea how to parent and I'm making it up as I go along with varying degrees of success. The test of time will be what they turn out like in the end. If and only when I am blessed with grandchildren, will I have then earned the right to dispense advice like a wise old owl. 

Self-confidence increasingly matters in the modern world and none more so than in a self-published on-line blog. The fact that the Scots collectively and individually lack confidence has enormous implications for economic growth, enterprise, physical and mental health, creativity, personal relationships and even, parenting skills.  It becomes a widespread ‘cannae do’ attitude.

Or perhaps it is just me...

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them."

Bruce Lee


  1. Reading this post from you... I thought "my God, does she comes from my country?" You described Scots like you/they were Slovenian... We are the same... afraid of our success and angry because someone else did the same thing we thought about it for loooooooooooong time, but we didn't have enought guts to do it... So, I know the feeling... :o)

  2. Interesting. I so hope to see more Scots parenting bloggers over time.

  3. What an interesting post. I have wondered why there are so few bloggers (not just parenting) at all in Scotland.
    Is it a cultural difference in ability to self promote, the cringe, if you like?
    Dunno... It might be that the uptake in Scotland is a bit slow, like it is of many things. I don't mean that as a criticism, just a fact. Look at fashions etc seeping their way north.
    As an English woman who lives (and blogs) in Scotland I'm not sure what I think about it. I'll ponder and get back to you.

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