Alan, 46, of New York City found an outlet for his unconscious desire to nurture closer to home. Like many men his age, he had a moment when he realized that kids were absent from his otherwise full life.
With passages like these, Flip The News is designed to stop you in your tracks. The Tumblr blog debuted two weeks ago and swaps gender and/or race in mainstream news stories. In the process, it packs a wallop by exposing bias.
The result, lurching reads that have showstopping lines like, “As an altar server, she once stabbed out her lit taper in the eye of a girl who was mocking her.”
Take “You Don’t Have to Have Kids to Be a Great Father,” which flips the genders in an article in The Atlantic, transforming a bittersweet picture of childless women adopting pets and mentoring young girls into a portrait of men finding outlets for their nurturing instincts. In the process, it examines our assumptions about who is “naturally” nurturing and invites some tough questions about why we tend to accept the notion that all women long to be mothers, while men’s sense of self-worth is rarely thought to hinge on fatherhood.
The phrase “paternal instinct” feels awkward; we are forced to recognize that infertility has an emotional impact on men as well as women; and most of us likely trip up on the image of a man “gearing up for a good cry of the Sally Field in Steel Magnolias caliber.” In fact, the piece also reminds us just how rarely we discuss fatherhood as a key aspect of men’s identities, whereas “women’s issues” are so frequently conflated with mothering.
Swapping out gendered words isn’t a new idea; for example, Danielle Sucher’s “Jailbreak the Patriarchy” extension for the Chrome web browser (also available for Safari and Firefox) will automatically swap the gender used on any web page you visit.
But Flip the News’s simple premise belies a profound exercise: It presents us with one opportunity after another to confront unconscious biases about gender, and make them conscious. The blog’s carefully curated collection of stories includes both subtle inquiries into whether there could be a female equivalent to the hoodie-wearing Silicon Valley wunderkind stereotype, alongside broader criticism of how working mothers are treated by the mainstream media.
It’s a devastating experience in some ways. It’s also enormously fun. For proof, look no further than “A White House counsel known for his shoes,” which skewers a Washington Post blog and dares to imagine a world where a man could wear Christian Louboutins to a meeting in the Oval Office—and be dubbed a “litigatrix.”
For now, though, we’re stuck with this world,where the US secretary of state has to field questions about her fashion, but a male film director is considered “open-minded” if he casts a woman in a lead role. Sadly, I foresee no shortage of fodder for Flip the News.