Small Thoughts: Women These Days by Amy Butcher, Brevity, May 14th, 2018

There is something strangely mesmerizing about the violence directed at women in our current society. Anyone who has watched Law and Order: SVU knows this. Anyone who has watched Mindhunters on Netflix knows this. Anyone who has read an Anne Rule book watched or read interviews and accounts of Ted Bundy knows this. Anyone who is excited to see the new Zach Efron biopic about Bundy knows this–yet we all pretend as though this type of violence is rare. On the fringe. Removed. It is other. But the truth is it isn’t other. It’s on our doorstep and the victims and perpetrators are people we likely know–or could know–and see often in the background of the selfies we take, the moments we share with friends, we spent in the park or at the beach or in the movie theater.

butcher_It is prophetic that the author of this piece has the last name of “Butcher,” as she compiles all the headlines after a year of Googling “Woman Walking” and here are the results. I won’t share, but it is a long list of murders, rapes, abductions, maimings, destruction of perceived weakness. Like any ultra-violent piece, it raises questions of masculinity. What is it? While this piece is titled “Woman These Days” it should be titled, “Men These Days,” because the men in this piece are the agents of change and the women the unlucky ones who cannot seem to escape a societal phenomenon that perceives their pain and death as a spectacle to gasp at, but not to end.

The end of the piece is a slap to the face of anyone who believes feminism is harmful to the female gender. Of course, I’d posit that anyone who thinks feminism is a bad thing has an incomplete/ignorant understanding of what feminism is. But the ending of this piece is a snippet of conversation between the author and her male partner: the love of her life–as he explains that feminism is nothing more than a bunch of women that hate men, and how feminism is hurting the entire gender.

Paired with all the news reports, this ending strikes the heart of any reader. It turns the argument that feminism is about hating men on its head. Is it women who hate men in our society, feminist or not? Or is it men in our society who cannot grasp the vulnerabilities of womanhood and so lash out in anger, hatred, and violence?

Read the piece on Brevity’s website by clicking here.

Forgetting by Abigail Thomas, Brevity, Issue 57, Jan 2018

This short piece of nonfiction is what the title suggests, but also so much more. Abigail Thomas is older now than she once was. She’s in her 70s, still publishing, still writing memoirs. She even, if you read the little bio at the end of this piece, has 4 children and 12 grandkids. It is, perhaps, no surprise that she has written this piece. My father, who is also in his 70s now, is less forgetful than he once was, but is also forgetful.

But this piece is about the feeling of remembrance as much as it is about the act of forgetting. It’s about how to remember as we grow, about what we’re forgetting. At first, it’s about the small stuff. The real small stuff. Like keys, which you won’t forget for long if you lock your door. But then there’s a small section at the end of the piece that asks the question of what do we want to come back as. And this too is a rememberance, of sorts. A remembrance of what Thomas believes fish are or aren’t. A remembrance of the physical world, rather than intangible thoughts. I like this piece because it touches on issues I often think about as well. (B)

Midwestern Gothic by Barrett Swanson, The Believer Magazine, Feb/Mar 2018

So, not a short story, but a creative nonfiction essay that is thoughtful, disturbing, and illuminating all at once.

The author, Swanson, was in college when he friend, who went to a different college, was found dead in a river. The official reports were of an accidental drowning, but Swanson couldn’t help but wonder if something else might have happened. While he suppressedĀ the conspiracy theory for the well being of his friend’s family, and for his own sanity, years later the smiley face murders theory comes to his knowledge.

The theory, or conspiracy theory depending on who you ask, posits a killer or network of killers across the United States that targets athletic, popular, and prominently (though not exclusively) white male college students. The symbol of the smiley face was found near or at least some hundreds of yards from many of the bodies found over the years, which some say proves a link. Swanson, for some years, believed–or at least entertained the idea concerning his friend–whose death was one of the possible smile face murders, as a spray painted smiley face was found near a bridge not extraordinarily far from where Swanson’s friend was found.

Swanson uses his friend’s death, in this piece, as a launch pad for a variety of issues, not least of which is the over-consumption of alcohol on, or near, college campuses–but also the willingness of Midwesterners to believe in conspiracy theories whether they are political, social, extraterrestrial, etc. But Swanson reels himself back from what could have been a dive into unsubstantiated flat earth theories with some cold facts near the end of the piece.

“Roughly 3,800 people drown each year in the US, and seventeen-to-twenty-four-years-olds constitute the most common age group, after unobserved children.

“Drowning on a weekend is 48 percent more likely than drowning during the workweek. Almost all the men [as well as Swanson’s friend] thought to be murdered by the Smiley Face Killers were found on a Saturday or Sunday.”

This piece is perhaps less about conspiracy theories and more about the willingness of white males in the U.S. to believe they are the target of some nefarious plot. It’s a story and account I’m thankful to Barrett Swanson for sharing and teaches readers about the struggles our country is going through right now.