Things ashy tend to attract my attention so in the spring of 2016 I was interested to come across the acronym iASH. Based at Edinburgh University, iASH stands for the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities.
Some of the female academics who belong to it have set up the Dangerous Women Project. Every day for the year between the International Women’s Days in 2016 and 2017, the project is intended to provide a different answer to the question what does it mean to be a dangerous woman?
The piece which follows is a shortened version of my submission to the project. It was not selected, perhaps because I make sweeping statements without attribution and without a long string of academic qualifications behind my name.
And yes, these Q &As are intended to be provocative.
I offer this reassurance to all male readers. I love a couple a guys; I like several others very much; I have met nurturing and supportive guys just as I have had trouble with heartless, horrible women.
But I remain unimpressed by certain types of men, none of whom will read this far, and I really do not care for the current male-dominated system.
Q&As for Dangerous Women
How do I become a dangerous woman?
From the moment you are identified as a woman, you are dangerous to someone.
What makes women dangerous?
Female bodily functions combined with any of the attributes and qualities listed below in alphabetical order: appearance; beliefs, be they political, social and/or spiritual; courage; creativity; desires; empathy; frustration; heart; hormones; imagination; independence; intellect; intuition; rage; sexuality; tears.
Who thinks women are dangerous?
The answer most congenial to feminists engaged in the struggle for equality is unrepentant patriarchs and the organisations they control.
The saddest answer is the combination of genetic inheritance and life circumstances which may make a woman dangerous to herself.
The most uncomfortable answer is other women, particularly those who uphold the values of the patriarchy. It is easy to point the finger at the mothers and grandmothers who subject girls to genital mutilation, but for all women who live in societies which encourage competitiveness and envy it is difficult to stand aside from rivalry with cleverer, prettier, younger or more successful women. For a small example, remember the last time you were tempted to join the fashion police.
How does the patriarchy deal with dangerous women?
The crudest of the weapons used by the patriarchy to silence dangerous women are violence, rape and isolation. They are terribly effective.
The patriarchy also deploys more subtle tools, such as the written word. Around 2,800 BCE the stylus was wrested from the hands of accountants and for most of the next 5000 years almost all laws, histories, philosophies, stories and doctrines were written by a few men to the advantage of themselves, their paymasters or their gods. Dangerous women were, and still are, denounced or edited out.
Over the last two centuries, the patriarchy has had to adapt, not least because it has needed women to join the labour force. The comparatively few women who ascend into the ruling élite on merit are not uniformly supportive of or compassionate towards their less fortunate sisters. Regardless as to whether women actively uphold patriarchal values or have been cowed into passive acceptance of them, the patriarchy relies on them as workers, consumers and believers. Where every hard-won improvement in the lot of women counts as a victory, little is done to change the actual system.
Have women always been regarded as dangerous?
According to the written record, yes.
The more or less voluptuous female figurines unearthed at Stone Age sites have been interpreted as signs of a golden age when humans lived in harmony with the earth and each other. However, the figurines range in date from c30,000 to 4,000 BCE; the sites are spread across Eurasia and in contemporary societies where female deities are venerated respect is not always extended to real women. Sadly the golden age is probably more mythical than historically accurate.
Gender roles come closest to balance and harmony in cultures where food is easily obtainable and where custom dictates that newlyweds live with or near the bride’s family, not the groom’s.
Will women always be seen as dangerous?
Always is too long a word while transhumanists are working on technologically enhanced post humans. The ideas of no more messy emotions, no more awkward, painful bodies and a form of immortality are attractive for some.
In the meantime, women will present a danger to the patriarchy for as long as gender identity is ranked above shared humanity. While many men hang on to their sense of entitlement, it is easy to forget that men and women are all humans who face the same threats to our existence as a species.
What can dangerous women do?
The short answer is anything they set their hearts and imaginations on. This includes rendering the patriarchy redundant if collectively they are minded so to do.
At least in the form of global corporate capitalism, the patriarchy is more fragile than its armoury makes it appear. Capitalism depends on two mutually exclusive factors: continuous economic growth and a planet with finite resources. That fundamental contradiction means that the system cannot be repaired by tinkering from inside. Its collapse is inevitable but it could crumble harmlessly if the women on whom it relies withdraw as much energy from it as possible by buying only the simplest of necessities from it and ceasing to buy into it at the emotional and/or spiritual levels.
Given the failures of dogmatic ideologies, a more sustainable future requires looser, more lateral frameworks which can be easily adapted to meet local needs.
Are women dangerous, courageous and loving enough to recreate a world fit for all human beings?