Kristina Jameson is a persona heading The Gender Flip Series—a series of retakes on literary classics in which gender roles are reversed. She stands in for the creator of the project, Victoria Reeve, who developed this technique in 2009 to teach her literary studies students about unconscious gender bias. Although Gender flipping isn't new, it tends towards the practice of flipping a single character's gender, and this leaves the world pretty much unchanged. Though the character's perspective may seem changed, the social relations and expectations that govern women, in general, remain the same. In short, we have little to gain in understanding how these divisions impact real lives.
In the examples offered here, all aspects of gender are flipped. The constraints of history and wardrobe remain for the most part, but the world, at least in so far as gender is concerned, is radically transformed. Issues of race are addressed as much as it is possible to do so respecting the work. Although these transformations focus on gender, old prejudices, as these are overtly expressed, are not reinforced. But that is the limit of this project's capacity to deal with the racism evident in the habit of exclusion. It is not possible to remake the worlds of these novels entirely and insert historical material and peoples routinely overlooked through bigotry. New works need to be written to fulfil such aims.
As far as gender is concerned, the effect of reading a wholly flipped text can be unnerving. The reading experience may be halting, at first, as your mind adjusts to the measure of these distinctions and you suddenly realise that things were and are worse than you imagined. At times, humorous, there is inevitably a point at which the reality of these constraints and the terrible impact they have on the lives of men and women become a serious issue. We are living under the yoke of times past, and it's time to change.
You can see examples of Kristina's flipped narratives in the Blog, which is made up of chapters from classic texts and short stories, along with some commentary. Please feel free to use these examples for teaching, if you work in the tertiary sector.
As for Kristina Jameson and the question of why she is doing this, I can tell you that Kristina began her life as a character in an unpublished novel written more than twenty years ago. That novel foregrounds a change in circumstances: from Tina (a downtrodden young woman working in her sister's guest house in Scotland) to Dr Kristina Jameson, an academic lecturing on literature at university. Although the novel only hints at this alteration to her standing in the world, Tina's rise in fortune is meant to represent the potential for change in any woman's life once she steps out of the constraining beliefs that limit her.
Why use a persona?
Kristina Jameson is more than her creator: she is any woman and every woman (and man) who seeks to change the world for the better by improving the standing of women and girls. Her aim is nothing less than equality. At present, due to copyrights, she's flipping old texts only. That's as much as she can do. But the problem persists in contemporary literature--whether literary fiction or commercial fiction. Still, it is hoped that one day, writers of such works will come to realise that they were under the spell of faded values when they composed their earlier works and they will decide to flip them. An easy remedy, perhaps, but effective. Readers will have a choice of versions (why not read both), and academics will have something to get their teeth into as they measure the differences between the two works.
WHY GENDER FLIPPING?
Making the change for a better world
We've come a long way along the road to gender equality, but much remains to be achieved. Women's standing in the world is still in need of improvement. Social standing accounts for many of the attitudes that affect women's lives in material terms. Equal pay is a matter of value. For example, how do you rate a woman's contribution? If you were unsurprised by that question, then you have some deep-seated biases at work in your thinking: gender should not be an issue when it comes to determining an individual's contribution or performance.
Reading the books in this series will not only help you to discover how deeply rooted are the social conventions that limit women's lives, for, whether you are a woman or a man, reading these texts will help you to unearth your own unconscious biases. In doing so, you'll either be ready to step out of the beliefs that have held you back, or else you'll be well on the way to tackling those social values and norms that inform your own beliefs. I'm guessing that you're here, reading this page, because you care about the impact such beliefs have on the lives of women and girls. You want to make a change, but changing the world seems daunting. Yet it's easier than you think: if you and others can overcome the patterns of hierarchical thinking responsible for gender inequality, then we are all well on the way to achieving a better world for all. Equality means greater freedom and opportunity for all: liberating men from the social expectations that define their world, as much as opening up opportunities for women to achieve their goals.
Kristina Jameson stands as an example of what there is to be lost and found in the gender stakes; she writes: "To the women who read these flipped literary classics, I invite you to change your life also—to step into the opportunities that await you once you learn to see through new eyes."
If you are a man or a boy, then reading these books will help you to understand to a fuller extent the social values and constraints that affect the women and girls in your life. As Dr Jameson says,
"The Gender Flip Series was created with this in mind: it takes the university seminar to the wider world through the experience of reading. Literary works achieve this by creating the virtual sense of an interiority that is other than your own. It is not simply that you look upon another's world and see through that person's eyes; there are times in which you are that other individual, thinking and feeling within the safety of the virtual space of the novel you are reading. This is, fundamentally, how we learn to empathise. And that's how real change happens—through feeling as another.