Dangerous women at heart of online forum

Acclaimed writers, researchers and artists are among those taking part in an online forum to explore the idea of dangerous women.

Photo showing the silhouette of a woman standing on a hill

Photograph credit: Liiyung Yeow

They have been invited to contribute to the new resource hosted by the University which seeks to highlight women’s stories, perspectives and experiences.

Organisers say the initiative has been inspired in part by a front page headline from last year that characterised the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon as “The most dangerous woman in Britain.” The headline prompted a debate in the media about what the label might signify.

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Celebrating female achievement

Contributors will be invited to respond to the question “What does it mean to be a dangerous woman?” through a variety of media to be posted online.

The Dangerous Women project is being launched by the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities to celebrate female achievement on the eve of International Women’s Day and in the year ahead.

The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) is inviting commentators to offer responses in the form of essays, videos, images, poetry, or other creative media.

Reflecting on gender issues

Over the next 12 months acclaimed commentators from across the globe will be invited to reflect on contemporary gender issues through answering the project question, and explore the contributions women are making to the world.

The Dangerous Women Project was launched at the Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh.

Stand-up comedian Susan Morrison compered the evening. A panel from diverse backgrounds engaged in a discussion about what makes a dangerous woman in today’s world.

Panel discussion

Panelists included social justice researcher and campaigner Dr Akwugo Emejulu, pioneering chemist Professor Lesley Yellowlees and award-winning author Lucy Ribchester.

Guests were given a preview of the first posts.

The Institute for the Advanced Studies in the Humanities is dedicated to fostering dialogue across cultures and disciplines. We are committed to promoting active engagement between academic, creative and civic organisations and the public. Put simply, we aim to help ideas grow.

Professor Jo ShawDirector, Institute for the Advanced Studies in the Humanities

Already the project has received more than 170 responses and garnered interest and support from Britain to Japan, and Mexico to Australia, including Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland.

Since becoming First Minister I have looked to use my position to send out a positive and strong message to girls and women that there should be no limit to your ambition. Terms like ‘dangerous’ belittle the positions of women in power by implying that we should be feared, not trusted or not skilled enough to do the job. I want to challenge the status quo and set an ambitious agenda to make Scotland a fairer and more prosperous nation where opportunities are open to everyone and where everyone is able to contribute their talent, skill and commitment.

Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister of Scotland

Other contributors who will take part in the project include Anne-Marie Slaughter, President & Chief Executive Officer of the think tank New America; journalist Bidisha SK Mamata, who specialises in human rights, social justice and international affairs; Verónica Cruz Sánchez, human rights activist, and founder of Las Libres; and Sepideh Jodeyri, Iranian poet, literary critic, translator and journalist.

The project is proud to be supported by Mary Beard, Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge.

Contributions will be posted online on the Dangerous Women’s Project website.

Recognising commitment

As another celebration for International Women’s Day a reception took place to mark the University’s Athena SWAN awards.

The Athena SWAN charter was created in 2005 to encourage and recognise commitment to advancing the careers of women in science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine and employment in higher education and research.

In May 2015 the charter was expanded to recognise work undertaken in arts, humanities, social sciences, business and law, and in the professional and support roles, and for trans staff and students.

Inspiring women

At a reception hosted by Vice-Principal People and Culture Professor Jane Norman, an online photographic exhibition was launched, to widen the opportunity to view the University’s Inspiring Women - Inspiring Change exhibition which was created in 2014.

The exhibition shows photographs by leading photographers to celebrate the diversity and influence of the roles these women hold in the University, while capturing their individuality and character.

It features inspiring academic and professional services staff and pictures of female alumni and honorary degrees recipients.

The next stage of the exhibition will include a section on history which will include archive photographs, and a collection on other successful and inspiring women affiliated to the University.

The University is one of 132 universities and research institutes which are members of the SWAN Charter. There are 483 award holding universities and departments.

The awards recognise achievements in having action plans in place which demonstrate progress made on gender equality, and include actions on how they intend to continue to progress.