Reflecting on dangerous widows

When the Dangerous Women Project was launched last year, I immediately found myself wondering if I was a dangerous woman. I wondered if there was anything about my life that could be construed as “dangerous”, or if I was just your average, run-of-the-mill woman. Of course, I knew that just the act of being an outspoken woman who would dare to live an independent life, doing as I pleased, made me dangerous. In that respect, most western women are dangerous – but is that dangerous enough to be called dangerous? (I don’t know.)

My PhD supervisor, Professor Hazel Hall, had mentioned on a couple of occasions that I should write something for the project but I wasn’t really sure what I could contribute. Again, I just couldn’t see how I was any more dangerous than the next woman. But then she suggested I write something about widowhood, maybe incorporating some historical views of widowhood along with my own personal experiences.

And all of the sudden, I began to recall all of the moments that have passed since I began to carry the Badge of Widowhood. I started to recall all the times I was told to act differently, dress differently, mourn differently, and just live differently. Because as a widow, I was different. I was no longer a run-of-the-mill woman. No, widowhood branded me as a danger. Not to myself, but others.

Once I realised that widows are dangerous women, I realised that I had something to contribute to the project. And so I began to write.

Actually, it took me quite a while to start writing. And once I managed to start, I had to stop on several occasions because the task was too daunting; too upsetting. I wanted to find a way to write about an emotionally charged issue – without being too emotional. After all, I didn’t want to upset others. So I took to Facebook to share that I was struggling to write the piece without getting too emotional. I guess I expected some sage advice from my friends about how to distance myself; about how to draw out the emotions without being emotional. After all, I figured that they would want to read it eventually and they certainly wouldn’t want raw emotions. Right?

Well (and I shouldn’t be surprised by this!) a couple of my very wise friends suggested that the emotions were needed; they were required. After all, widowhood is (whether others want to acknowledge it or not) an emotionally charged topic. And history is filled with instances of women being asked to kerb their emotions. So why should I, writing for a feminist cause, want to kerb my emotions?

Then, after trying to pour my emotions into an article, I realised that I didn’t know how to separate my personal experiences. And as the Dangerous Women Project isn’t my own space, I didn’t want it to be about “me” but rather about widows in general. Only then I realised that I don’t feel I am (or should be!) the voice of widowhood.

So, I pecked out a few sentences. Thoughts, really. Mere words, in some cases. I was just trying to get a theme going; I was just writing to see if I could inspire myself.

And that’s when I fell into the idea of “widows are dangerous women because…” where each “reason” was some skewed perspective of the non-widowed. (Some non-widows, clearly not all.) With that tagline in mind as a framework, I went back to Hazel to admit that I was still struggling – in a large part because of the emotions. But she kindly offered to look it over for me. And then, in a magical way that she has honed over time, Hazel moved the text around to make it work. Her editing skills helped to make my random thoughts flow into a cohesive narrative. (And she offered some great historical points of reference, too!)

The result was my contribution to the Dangerous Women Project, Dangerous (young) widows, which was posted on 17 January 2017. It is an emotional (but not too emotional) look at how widows in the modern western world might be thought of as dangerous.

The piece suggests that:

  • Young widows are dangerous women because they remind us of a mortality that we don’t wish to consider
  • Young widows are dangerous women because they want to steal the partners of others
  • Young widows are dangerous women because they bring the weaknesses and insecurities of others to the fore
  • Young widows are dangerous women because they play by “different” rules

You can read the full text here.

The Dangerous Women Project was launched on International Women’s Day 2016 and will run through International Women’s Day 2017. I am honoured to have been a part of this great series of empowering stories about womanhood and I hope that my small contribution has helped others in some way.

And, again, thank you so much to Professor Hazel Hall for her help in making my submission a possibility. Her confidence in me has helped in more ways than she may ever know!

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