If you could, by use of some clever algorithm, develop a truly democratic voice, representative of almost any demos in the west, it would speak in a slightly female tone. The absence of women in public life is (or should be) perplexing to anyone with decent democratic instincts.
Outside the Scandinavian countries, (where the whole democratic process seems much less problematical) it seems to be a pervasive issue. Too often we are content to play along with politics of public representation rather than democracy.
A couple of years ago Mary Beard examined the question of the absence of women’s voice in the public square in the LRB Winter Lecture series:
There can’t be a group of female friends or colleagues anywhere in this country (maybe the world) which hasn’t regularly discussed the day-to-day aspects of the ‘Miss Triggs question’, whether in the office, or a committee room, council chamber, seminar or the House of Commons. How do I get my point heard? How do I get it noticed? How do I get to belong in the discussion?
The getting in matters, almost however it comes. So, despite the fact I share Eilis O’Hanlon’s misgivings about where the power still remains (i.e., firmly with older men) within SF, she was also right yesterday to note of O’Neill that:
She has many personal qualities, and change often comes about for reasons that those who think they are in charge haven’t factored into the equation. She’s a new face. And new faces are needed in the North. That contains a dynamic that could surprise us all.
That raises questions for men, as well as women. As Sara asks this morning:
…it is not enough to be satisfied that a handful of women have ‘made it’. There were just 30 women elected to the Assembly in 2016. That’s not even 30%. And my question to all the parties is what are your plans to improve the situation?
However public voice is not just a matter of representation in power, more women need to be heard in open public space. Beard talks about the abuse she took serially on Twitter and generously puts it down to frustration at the thwarted democratic promises that came with social media.
Instead as a classicist she notes that much our social conditioning in this regard is thousands, not hundreds or even tens of years old. She turns to the depth of these social assumptions in Latin texts such as Ovid’s Metamorphises:
… that extraordinary mythological epic about people changing shape (and probably the most influential work of literature on Western art after the Bible) – repeatedly returns to the idea of the silencing of women in the process of their transformation.
Poor Io is turned into a cow by Jupiter, so she cannot talk but only moo; while the chatty nymph Echo is punished so that her voice is never hers, merely an instrument for repeating the words of others.
Which brings me to our own female absences on Slugger. We have had women bloggers, indeed many of them are still on the Slugger books. But there’s something social about blogging, which has the power both to attract, and at the same time repel.
If Slugger’s voice was represented by an algorithm it would list profoundly to the masculine, liberal left and unremittingly nationalist in terms of local politics. That was never the intention from the beginning. But it is largely made up from people who self elect to become writers on the team.
As my libertarian chum of many years standing Tim Worstall once sagely opined, “government is run by those who can stay awake in committees”. So Slugger’s voice tends to be dominated by those of us who are just too thran to quit.
So we need new writers. We always need new writers and new perspectives. But we also need to find women writers who are similarly too thran to give up. Recent recruits Sara, Felicity, Una and others I hope will continue with us and by being there encourage other women to get involved.
To borrow Mary Beard’s three great questions: How do I get my point heard? How do I get it noticed? How do I get to belong in the discussion?
Well, why not start by sending myself or David an email with an idea (400-600) and come and join Slugger?