Dangerous women

A unique initiative that explores the concept of dangerous women has been completed with the help of an alumni-funded grant.

The Dangerous Women Project (DWP) is a mixed-media online platform exploring how, when and why women are perceived as dangerous.

Inspired by a label

The project was inspired by a series of news headlines that labelled First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Shami Chakrabarti, the Director of Liberty, as 'the most dangerous women'. It seeks to answer several questions, including: Who gets to say a woman is dangerous? To whom does she represent danger, and does she think of herself as dangerous? What does the label ‘dangerous woman’ mean and what do similar acts of misogyny tell us about our society, politics and identities?

The project is led by Dr Peta Freestone and Professor Jo Shaw from the University’s Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH), an interdisciplinary centre of research, dialogue and partnerships.

Theatre seats with Dangerous Women merchandise
DWP Closing Event

All forms and shapes

DWP was initially launched on International Women’s Day in March 2016.  Contributors from all over the world were asked to respond to one question: ‘What does it mean to be a dangerous woman?’ The project then tackled this question by collating and presenting the 365 individual stories that were submitted as responses.

And one year on, the project has concluded that there isn’t a single answer to the question: ‘dangerousness’ comes in all forms and shapes.

Dangerously successful

Beyond the initial question, the project has achieved success in creating a community spirit that transcended the online platforms. According to Dr Freestone, one of the biggest successes of the project was that it became a community and not merely a collection of blogs and posts.

DWP has become more than a collection of blogs and comments. It has managed to cross the political divides and geographic boundaries to define various challenges and expectations that women have faced, and continue to face today. The project has attracted more than 1,000 submissions and it now includes readers from across the world.

The project attracted contributors from more than 50 countries and included a mixture of research and recollection, as well as poetry and prose about women’s lives, loves, traumas and triumphs.

And the UK’s two ‘most dangerous women’, Nicola Sturgeon and Shami Chakrabarti, submitted contributions to the project, with Ms Chakrabarti also giving the annual Ruth Adler Human Rights lecture on the dangerous women who most inspired her.

Some of the project posts went viral. A video submitted by Edinburgh alumna Agnes Torok, a spoken word performer and poetry workshop leader, received more than a million views online.

People at the theatre for the Dangerous Women Closing Event
DWP Closing Event

Continuing the danger

DWP will remain online for a minimum of one year and discussions are taking place to develop the gathered material into other resources, including a print publication.

The Dangerous Women Project has managed to break away from the idea that International Women’s Day is just one day a year.  It demonstrates that gender equality issues are everyday issues, as urgent now as they ever were. Our aim was to go beyond this annual flurry of attention on gender issues and continue the conversation for an entire year, which we achieved.


The Dangerous Woman Project was supported by an alumni-funded Innovation Initiative Grant (IIG), which support teaching, research and student experience at the University.

IIG funding of £2,000 enabled IASH to employ part-time a student in the role of communications assistant who designed the logos, website banner and other communications materials for the project, while providing the student with valuable work experience.

Related links

Student Experience Grants replaced Innovation Initiative Grants (IIG) in summer 2018.

Student Experience Grants

Dangerous Women Project

Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities

Edinburgh Fund