The last few weeks and months have seen a great inflow of new talent. I’m particularly pleased that we have made a start on flipping the dominance of the male voice in Slugger’s blogging team. Earlier in the year in her lecture for the London Review of Books Mary Beard noted that the sidelining of the women’s voice
…is a well-known deafness that’s nicely parodied in the old Punch cartoon: ‘That’s an excellent suggestion, Miss Triggs. Perhaps one of the men here would like to make it.’
We now have some great new female voices both on the regular team and coming in as guests. But they remain in a tiny minority on Slugger. This must continue, not for the sake of some well meaning political correctness, but because otherwise we will not hear what 50% of the population has to say on the matters of the day.
Which brings me to the reason for the post: ie, another 50% of the population which is rarely heard in public (except in anger, reflexive defence or ridicule) is the unionist voice in Northern Ireland. It’s not just on Slugger, nor is it just recently.
When I started Slugger off back in 2002 it was with the express intention of researching for a paper on the future of Unionism in Northern Ireland. Accordingly we were able to dig up a lot of fresh insight that threw a constructive light on the inner life of political unionism, it’s strength and its weaknesses and share that more broadly.
Over time we have had outstanding contributions from unionist bloggers like Turgon, and DUP Councillor Lee Reynolds who historically wrote for us under the pen name Fair Deal. But again, if you look through the current archives, you’ll see it is those of a republican, nationalist or just plain old Irish Catholic background who’s voices predominate.
This absence of voice leads to all sorts of distortions. One of the most obvious being the ‘does he take sugar’ contraction of unionism to a sum total of the political utterances of party political politicians. The other is, ironically, that oft thrown line that Slugger is somehow some kind of pro-unionist conspiracy.
The irony is that this only makes sense in the context of an apparent withdrawal (or perhaps it feels like an expulsion) of the unionist voice from public discourse. Such one-sided storytelling (even if it is unplanned or unintended) is now, as it was in 2002, a dangerous state of affairs.
We are trying to reach out privately to unionist writers, but it would aid us greatly if you have something you’ve wanted to say, or would just like the opportunity to articulate in a public space from a broadly unionist point of view.
Ping an email to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll try to get you a start. Even if you have emailed before, ping us again and bring it back to the top of the editor’s pile? To change the world, you must first find your voice and then speak into it…
…a critically self-aware tradition: one that is determined to reveal its conflicts and paradoxes and to raise bigger questions about the nature and purpose of speech, male or female [nationalist or unionist? – Ed].
Mary Beard, LRB
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty