Written by Melinda Snodgrass
When I was first invited into the anthology entitled Dangerous Women it was then known by a different title — Femme Fatales. Which has a particular and rather negative connotation. Various dictionaries describe such a person as a seductive woman who will ultimately bring disaster to any man who gets involved with her or a woman who lures men into dangerous or compromising situations. It’s a very noir attitude summed up by generations of male detectives stating — “From the minute she walked in I could tell the dame was trouble.” And I confess I wrote that story though the woman in question is a revolutionary and a freedom fighter so she damages the man in pursuit of a good cause.
Later the title was changed to Dangerous Women which broadened the definition of what constituted a dangerous woman. In addition to the manipulative sexual connivers were added female warriors both real and imagined.
Ultimately I felt all of these approaches begged the question of what actually makes a woman “dangerous” and is that merely another way to say empowered? What allowed women to break free of the roles that had been assigned to us?
I think it was technology. Access to technology can offer women choices they might otherwise not have possessed. There is a reason some places ban women from driving, or try to keep girls from going to school. You give a woman mobility and knowledge and society changes, and that is very dangerous to the status quo.
Give her a gun and things change more. There’s an old adage that states. “God didn’t make men and women equal. Colonel Colt did.” The invention of the firearm put men and women on a far more equal footing when it came to self-defense and even in combat. Now with fighter jets and drone warfare battlefield ability is no longer limited by upper body strength or the length of your arm.
I keep coming back to education, and its importance for women’s rights. There’s an invention that makes it possible. That can place education, particularly higher education, within reach of women. It’s the Pill which I think fundamentally changed society, and why there is, even today, push back against its wide spread use. Women can study and enter the work force, build a career when they have safe and reliable contraception and can plan and time childbirth.
We can all point to women whose actions branded them as dangerous to their particular time and society. Whose bravery inspires us all — the suffragists fighting for our right to vote, Rosa Parks refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back of the bus, Malala fighting for the right of girls to go to school, but maybe the one that deserves our greatest thanks is Margaret Sanger who worked in the early part of the twentieth century for contraceptive rights, and in fact underwrote the first research that would ultimately lead to the invention of the birth control pill.
From the Tor/Forge December newsletter. Sign up to receive our newsletter via email.
More from the December Tor/Forge newsletter:
- Introducing Dangerous women by Gardner Dozois
- Fighter Aces You Probably Haven’t Heard Of by Carrie Vaughn
- Unexpected Dangers by Brandon Sanderson
- Anthology Collection Sweepstakes