Feature Story

OWU Professor Inspires New Google Emojis

May 17, 2016 – by Cole Hatcher

Amy Butcher’s New York Times Column Decries Lack of Iconic Women

This deserves more than a simple smiley face, hapless heart, or silly thumbs-up sign. This deserves something much more – iconic.

When Google employees introduced 13 new emojis this month, they credited Ohio Wesleyan University faculty member Amy Butcher, M.F.A., with helping to inspire the images of strong, professional women.

Butcher, an assistant professor of English, decried the lack of such electronic icons in a recent New York Times opinion column titled “Emoji Feminism.” In the essay, she described wanting to congratulate a co-worker on earning tenure and having to settle for emojis of flamenco dancers and unicorns.

Upon learning of Google’s efforts to remedy the digital dilemma, Butcher said, “Although it may seem a small and seemingly insignificant slight, the lack of diversity in our emoji vocabulary mirrors the much larger issue within mainstream culture of a lack of strong female representation, particularly as it pertains to industry and the workplace.

“Considering emojis are used primarily by young women, and at a rate of over 80 percent by the younger generation as a whole, it sets a problematic and tiring precedent that women are only princesses, brides, or beings exclusively interested in pampering.

“Women are diverse, dimensional, and now the majority breadwinners in American homes,” she concluded. “It’s incredibly cool and a great honor that Google recognizes the importance in accurate and respectful representation and, in that way, in revising the everyday narrative.”

After the announcement, Butcher, who was traveling in Northern Ireland as part of an OWU Travel-Learning Course, was contacted by media outlets including the London, England-based BBC Radio 5 live program. Hear her BBC interview.

OWU Associate Chaplain Lisa Ho, also part of the Ireland trip, said it was exciting to see the impact of Butcher’s New York Times essay.

“I seriously could not be any more proud of this woman,” Ho said. “This is what it means to follow your passion and change the world ... even if it’s one emoji at a time! I can't wait to use the new professor/teacher emoji designed just for Amy.”

In addition to her attention-grabbing New York Times articles, Butcher also is the author of “Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder,” a memoir based on the tragedy of a college friend who fatally stabbed his ex-girlfriend.

Her academic interests include contemporary American essays, memoir, narrative essays, travel writing, and flash prose. Learn more about Butcher, Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of English, and the university’s creative writing major at www.owu.edu/english.