Ohio Wesleyan’s Amy Butcher Explores Violence in Two Newly Published Essays
As she works on a new book delving into issues of women, fear, and danger, Amy Butcher asks a simple question: “Why does it not unsettle us more?”
An assistant professor of English at Ohio Wesleyan University, Butcher explores the topic in a “found” essay published by Brevity, “Women These Days.” She also examines gun violence and the transience of the lives lost by bullets in an essay published by Literary Hub, “Gun Violence: America’s Great Common Denominator.”
For her found essay on women, Butcher collected sentences from national media reports over the past 12 months concerning violence against women. She found the disconcerting data by searching for the word “woman” paired with various, innocuous verbs such as “cooking,” “shopping,” and “dating.”
In the essay, she writes:
“An Ohio woman was shot dead while cooking Thanksgiving dinner. … The body of a North Carolina woman was found in a shopping center parking lot at dawn. … A California woman was found dead and stuffed in a trash bag on a sidewalk. … Police are still searching for the suspected rapist. Police are still searching for the suspected murderer. Police are still searching for the suspected assailants. …”
Butcher discusses her yearlong research and the resulting essay in an accompanying Brevity commentary, stating:
“I’m working now on a book about women and fear and danger, and one of the hardest parts of writing it is grappling with the fact that male intimate partners – husbands, boyfriends, fiancés, lovers – take the lives of three American women on average daily. That’s more than death by car accident, death by suicide, death by cancer. … Why does it not unsettle us more? These deaths exceed the causalities of 9/11 every three years, and yet no one dares declare war on this uniquely particular, domestic terror, not foreign or distant at all but in the very same spaces where we throw birthday parties, flip pancakes, string Christmas lights, grill ballpark franks.”
In her gun violence essay, Butcher recalls being awakened by gunshots outside her California apartment that left one man dead.
“I think about that Sunday now and I think of the wound kept hidden. The man America forgot, just as we forget daily the men and women, the little children, the moviegoers, the Sunday Baptists, the celebrating coworkers, the nightclub dancers, the veterans workers, the high school students. The people buying mall hotdogs. The people at the country music concert, swaying in all that denim. …
“In the hours that followed, I watched faces pass beneath the window, wondering whom among us would be next to die, who among us we’d forget.”
Butcher, M.F.A., joined the Ohio Wesleyan faculty in 2014. Her work has been featured on National Public Radio and the BBC, and her essays have been published in Harper's, The New York Times “Modern Love,” The New York Times Sunday Review, The Washington Post, The Denver Post, The Iowa Review, and many more. A graphic essay, co-produced with Ohio Wesleyan alumna Martha Park ’11, is forthcoming this summer with Granta. Her first book is “Visiting Hours: A Memoir of Friendship and Murder.”
Learn more about Butcher, Ohio Wesleyan’s Department of English, and its creative writing concentration at www.owu.edu/english.