Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Lessons from nature

I crossed a country road other day and stumbled into a field brimming with white poppies. It was unexpected and joyful. Just rows and rows of them bobbing in the breeze. Their crumpled, white petals sat like cotton mob-caps upon green heads.

A red poppy amongst white poppies
No wallflower

A little further on, my friend and I spotted a single red poppy, amid a sea of white. The metaphor was irresistible: the one that stood out from the crowd. Further on still, we spotted another red poppy, or another free spirit determined to make its mark.

Last weekend, I spent two days with hundreds of bloggers at the BritMums annual jamboree. It was a seething, bubbling mass of blogger-brains, all trying to fit in and each trying to be different. Perhaps this is the dilemma we all face: how to be part of a community whilst hanging onto our individuality.

"We need to put ourselves in a position where we get a bit frightened."  

In the BritMums keynote speech, broadcaster and campaigner Emma Freud told us: "You are all about kindness and celebrating what you value most - life!" She had been recently stung by a Daily Mail article denouncing her as 'worst dressed' at the Glamour Women Awards. She told us that mummy bloggers were the bulwark against this culture of bitchiness. 

But this is not just about bloggers and cheap news fodder. As President Obama once said, you need to "be the change you want to see in the world". In other words, don't just wait for change to happen. Eleanor Mills, the editorial director of The Sunday Times, put it another way: "We need to put ourselves in a position where we get a bit frightened." (She was talking at BritMums about changing the climate of everyday sexism.)

It is true that we run with the crowd because it is a safe place to be, but we also need to stand up for what we believe in. To be a red poppy amongst white poppies. To be brave.

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