While I loved the concept of this book, I thought that Norah Vincent came across as incredibly naive in her presentation of her experiences as Ned. Maybe she lived a very sheltered life as an out lesbian in the 2000s, but it was as if she'd not read any sociology or feminist or gender studies books in the last 20 years, even though she quotes from some. She takes many of her specific experiences and overgeneralizes them to apply universally, and she doesn't come up with much that I didn't know about the other sex by my teen years (without going undercover). Yes, not all men are unmitigated jerks, and many men are not allowed by society to be intimate and emotional (except for anger), and some sex workers are unhappy, and some monks aren't well socially adjusted, and door-to-door salesmen are often sleazy, and dating between genders is just fraught with perils...
Given all that, she writes well, and she traveled through some interesting places. I also hope that many of the issues she thought might be universal and hardwired are actually products of societal conditioning, not genetics, and we can try to open up our range of possibilities and make the differences between us all less painful in the future.
serinlea reviewed Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again on
Helpful Score: 13
Apologies in advance for the long review...sorry, I'm a big gender theory nerd.
"Self-Made Man" had an intriguing premise and a somewhat interesting execution, but ultimately fell a little flat for me.
The bizarro-contradictory conclusions Norah Vincent draws from this study show that she was completely the wrong person to do a study like this. Ideologically, Vincent follows the mold of Camille Paglia...lesbian, libertarian, and "feminist" only in that she doesn't spend a lot of time around men. After spending 18 months cross-dressed as a man for this book, infiltrating a men's bowling league, a monastery, a strip club, and other male-only domains, this is what she determines:
1) Gender roles are toxic and hurt men as well as women.
To which I say, "No kidding! Feminists have been saying this for at least the last 25 years or so...when was The Second Shift published, exactly?"
2) Feminists are to blame for the pain masculinity causes men, or at least, they're to blame for somehow ignoring the plight of men at the expense of the advancement of women.
Um...no? See above; feminists have been the ones fighting against societally-enforced gender roles, both masculine and feminine.
3) Despite the fact that it's "toxic", gender is so deeply felt that it simply must be inborn and unshakable. Her quote: "There is at bottom really no such thing as that mystical unifying creature we call a human being, but only male human beings and female human beings, as separate as sects.
Look, I'm sorry your experiment in cross-gendered living messed with your sense of self so much that you voluntarily checked into the psych ward afterward, but please do not extrapolate from your personal experience to everyone else on the planet. Also, how in the world does this fit with your other conclusions? Something can be strongly felt -- incredibly so -- without being inborn and immutable.
Despite Vincent's wacky assumptions and prose that fairly dripped with condescension for anyone not an upper-middle-class New Yorker, I enjoyed reading about the nuts and bolts of her experience. I just find myself hoping that other, less transphobic people decide to repeat the experiment and write about it.
Tracy F. (tsf) reviewed Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again on
Helpful Score: 8
This was an amazing read. I'd never have the guts to try what this woman did. What an amazing peek at what men are like when (they think) we're not around. And the notes on the different way people treat others based on the gender they perceive is interesting also. As a female manager of a group of men, I found it a most enlightening read. .... and they really are thinking what I think they're thinking about me. and every other woman on the planet.
I attempted to listen to this book at my workplace. Impossible. The car and a drive is your best bet. Alone is best too, so you can concentrate and have your thoughts to yourself. The reading style of the author is one of the least pleasant I have ever heard, both delivery and modulation of tone. I am guessing she is letting us hear her 'man' voice, but it is barely tolerable. Listen to it for the candor,insights and uniqueness of the story, but do not subject anyone else to the reading, that's just cruel. I now intend to get the paperback,so I can underline some of the especially good writing and salient points.
Very unique book, I have to admire the commitment by this author to her project. (Indeed one of the latter chapters addresses the toll the project took on the author). Although I enjoyed the book overall, I thought that it ran out of steam during the later chapters. However, I would still recommend it to women curious about what life is like in a man's world.
I hated this book. I was intrigued by the premise and wanted the book to be more about how the world saw Norah/Ned instead of her observations of the repressed issues that the men she interacted with were dealing with.
I thought it seemed like an interesting concept, but I had no idea how revealing it would actually be. In the introduction, Vincent discusses the process she used to become Ned, and how the whole book project came about. Then she dives right in.
In the first chapter, Ned joins an all-male bowling league. Although Vincent doesn't specify which chapters/events take place in which of the 5 states and various cities she visited, the bowling league seemed to me to be somewhere in the Mid-West. At one point during this chapter, she describes a scene in which all the men stop bowling to watch one of their league-mates bowl a perfect game. I would never have imagined that could have me in tears, but it did. The way she described the scene from the inside out was just incredible.
I think that the reason this book was so amazing is because as much as a man could try to write about the inner circle and workings of male relationships, it's just normal to them. They wouldn't be able to describe it in the same way as someone who is used to female relationships. It also gave Vincent a lot of insight into how women can be perceived by men, and why.
The last adventure Vincent went on as Ned was to join a Men's Movement meeting and then attend one of their annual retreats. The insight she gives into the state of men today, the difficulties they face, and the ignorance most of our society has about it is truly eye opening.
I found the book fascinating and touching. In the end, Vincent ends up having a breakdown and committing herself to a mental hospital. The stress of pretending to be someone else, worrying about being discovered, and the guilt of deceiving people day in and day out did her in. The last chapter, where she describes the unforseen early end to her experiment is insightful and passionate.
Sheryl A. (sheryl319) reviewed Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again on
Helpful Score: 2
Great book! The book is well-written, easy-to-read and held my attention. I finished it in a couple of days. The author spent 18 months as a man by basically infiltrating different social and work groups to learn more about the male experience in the world. She joins a bowling league, works as a door-to-door salesman, visits a monastery, goes to sex clubs and dates women as a man. She is very observant and gains some really great insights into the male psyche and also some insights about women too. She reveals herself as a woman to most of the people she befriends and discusses the implications of this and also how the experience affected her.
This is a book where a woman goes undercover to discover what men are like in places where men are simply that, men. You may start the book by peering through a window but will end up looking at a mirror
JavaJuice reviewed Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again on
Helpful Score: 2
Wow. That's what I felt during & after I read this book. As someone who is interested in relationships and how people interact with each other, Norah Vincent allowed me an insiders look into what it was like to be a woman who dresses and trys to act like a man in a man's world. It is also a look into how Norah reacts within herself as she 'plays' this part. I like that fact that this isn't a scientific book per se, but more of a real life experience. It truly is an amazing chapter of Ms. Vincent's life.
This book is a great raw account of Vincent's experiences living as a man. Her experiences were so varied along with the many different types of men she encountered. I feel like I was granted a window into the world of men and gained an understanding that every person is as different and unique as their experiences allow.
Self-Made Man is a clever but inaccurate title for this book. Lesbian journalist Norah Vincent wasn't on a transgender or transvestite exploration; rather, like a Shakespearean heroine, she disguises herself as a man to see how the world would treat her as Ned. And write a book about it. Her observations over a year and a half are well organized in discrete chapters such as friendship, sex, love, life, work, and self.
Most women won't have a tepid response to Vincent's accounts of infiltrating a bowling league, a monastery, and a men's liberation support group, frequenting strip clubs, dating women, and selling door-to-door. Those who hate it would cite her obviously biased perspective as a white, middle class homosexual woman stepping into unrepresentative slices of male life, and the cliched conclusion that men and women alike are stifled by their gender roles. Those who like it will value the insight her disguise, which afforded the ability to observe men in male-only environments, offered her, hopefully with which the sexes might better understand each other.
What I found most interesting, however, was the psychological impact this experiment had on Vincent herself -- which leads to her next book, Voluntary Madness. I found her writing articulate enough that I will read the "sequel."