If you do social media, yesterday was a pretty good day to be online. It was International Women’s Day and there was so much positivity, so much celebration. It got me thinking about all the wonderful women I know, some of whom I owe a lot to, but in particular it got me thinking about some of my fellow women bloggers right here on the Isle of Lewis.
So, before the International Women’s moment passes by completely for another year, I want to give a massive, feminist-y shout out to the other ‘blones who blog’ — Catriona, Jane, The Other Katie… Jenny, too, and Sarah up in Orkney just because I like her.
This is a blog post that I’ve actually been meaning to write for a while because I find it interesting that, while women have no actual power here in the Outer Hebrides, where our council is run entirely by men (I kid you not; we have no female councillors), I have noticed that it’s largely the women who are writing the narrative. And I like that. In fact, I like it a lot.
The thing about blogging is, unlike politics, you don’t need to wait for someone to give you a seat at the table for you to get involved. You can just get out your own table — and set it up anywhere you like. You don’t anyone else’s permission to do it.
I started blogging exactly two years ago this month and I was very apprehensive about it.
I didn’t really have a plan or know what I wanted to do — beyond talking about arts, culture and politics with a small p. All I really knew was that I had to start blogging because I needed an outlet for writing.
The fact of the matter was, I couldn’t get a job as a journalist and it had become apparent that, if I wanted to write, I was going to have to make that space for myself.
My first blog post, ‘To Blog or Not To Blog?’ explored all my angst about that but, as it turned out, starting a blog was the best thing I could ever have done as a writer. I do have a few followers and get quite a lot of shares now — but by far the most important thing is that it has enabled me to find my voice again as a writer and journalist.
It has brought me paid work, as I’ve said before, allowed me to campaign publicly for causes I believe in, and it brought me an award too, for Top Story of the Year at the Highlands and Islands Press Awards in February, which was a real highlight.
After years of being out in the cold, that was a lovely thing. It was validation from my peers in the industry and it meant a lot.
I’ve also been invited to write for Bella Caledonia — again, another highlight — and have made BuzzFeed too, when they picked up my blog on Trump running for President (still ugh). I’ve been on the Johnnie Beattie show a few times too, although I don’t enjoy live radio very much.
But there have been lots of lows and times when it hasn’t been all plain sailing. To be honest, it’s never easy because at the very least it always takes a time commitment, even if what you are working on is non-controversial.
Some moments, though, can be particularly stressful, including a period last spring when I wrote a blog about Sunday swimming — anything to do with Sundays here is controversial — and I struggled to cope with the backlash. I came off social media and I didn’t blog for two months.
The way back from that was, as it is for so any writers, through writing itself. Once I had written it out, with a post ‘Facebook fatigue and finding balance again’, I was back in the saddle.
Fast forward to this January and another blog I wrote, this time about An Lanntair’s Sunday opening trial (spot the connection?), had also exploded and I was again under pressure (and getting more wrinkles by the day).
The difference this time was that I was becoming more aware of where I fitted as part of a network of (predomindantly female) socio-cultural commentators. I was no longer feeling so isolated or exposed. My head might be above the parapet but it wasn’t the only head.
From the other blogger who messaged me to say “thanks for taking the hit on this one” to the one who retweeted me, saying “now this is brave…” — all of that makes a massive difference and I started looking at this collective of women as something rather special.
So today, I want to tell you about some of these other blones (Lewis slang for females, for those who don’t know).
The first Lewis woman’s blog I’d come across, almost immediately after starting my own, was Katie Macleod’s award-winning travel blog storiesmysuitcasecouldtell.com.
She has been blogging for years.
It was so good that I actually felt pretty despondent at first — but I got over it. I’ve learned from her as well as being entertained by her, so expat Katie is my first recommendation.
Although Katie is living in New York City now, she writes lovely pieces about the Outer Hebrides from time to time (check them all out in the Scotland category of her ‘Destinations’ section) as well as other culture issues — I particularly enjoyed her recent ’10 Habits To Help You Read More (Or, How I Read 52 Books A Year)’.
Next up in the roll of honour is Catriona Murray who blogs at www.posttenebraslux.co.uk. Her blog is mainly about her Christian faith and is extremely well written. More than any other, I’d say Catriona has had the hardest time publicly but she’s still creating and more power to her.
She is also, personally, hilarious — although I am still suspicious of anyone who drinks mint tea with raspberry infusion instead of straight up strong coffee…
Catriona and myself have loosely decided that there should be some kind of union for Lewis women who blog, since we get a hard time so often. And we also think our meetings could benefit from being fuelled by gin. Harris, obvs. Maybe we could even get a sponsor deal…
JANE H MACMILLAN
Another blone to mention is Jane Hepburn Macmillan. Jane, whose blog is called Living in the Outer Hebrides, is a musician — she’s a fabulous fiddle player — and works for the Harris Tweed Authority. Jane has been writing since last summer. Again, it’s all part of the rich tapestry.
Finally — and this is not an exhaustive list of everyone who is blogging; just those who are touching on cultural matters — I want to mention Jenny’s blog about her experience as a ‘Mamaidh of a Gaelic Medium Child’. A teacher to trade and now pregnant with twins (congrats, Jenny!), she is writing about her young son’s Gaelic journey through Gaelic Medium Education.
And then there’s Sarah Norquoy. No she’s not Hebridean. She’s not even in the Hebrides — but she is doing an island thing (check her out at norqfromorq.com) and I really enjoy her blog.
Her ’To All The Women’ blog post from last year remains one of the best things I have read in connection with International Women’s Day. I challenge you not to be moved as she writes about all those women who helped put her back together when her life fell apart.
Two final shout-outs, since we are between International Women’s Day yesterday and Mother’s Day coming up on Sunday.
Firstly, a big thank you to Stornoway Gazette editor Melinda Gillen for finally being the local editor who would give me a job — and publishing the story of my press award so generously (she gave it loads of space and used a large picture) — and a last (but not least) thanks to my mum.
My mum has been my greatest cheerleader when it comes to my blog and that has made all the difference when times are tough. She watches all the comments, too, and sometimes gets mad on my behalf. “The cheek of them,” she will say.
She is one feisty lady and I’m appreciating that more and more as I get older too.
There is a great misperception out there in the big wide world that Lewis women are meek and just do what they’re told but any man who has grown up in these islands would laugh out loud at that suggestion. Nobody tells Lewis women what to do or what to think — and they never did.
I give you the story about my own granny, years ago, who had been trusted with the proxy votes for both her husband and her brother, who couldn’t get to the polling station themselves.
Off she went to vote for all three of them. My grandfather and great-uncle had always voted Labour… but in that election they voted Tory. Lewis women were not meek then (perhaps not even law-abiding) and they are not meek now.
There is so much more I could say about Lewis women — and I’m going to bring Catriona, Jane and Katie on here for a guest blog soon, so look out for that. To be continued!
- Picture taken by Leila Angus of Brighter Still.