Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man
Self-Made Man One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man Author:Norah Vincent A journalist's provocative and spellbinding account of her eighteen months spent disguised as a man Norah Vincent became an instant media sensation with the publication of Self-Made Man, her take on just how hard it is to be a man, even in a man's world. Following in the tradition of John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me), Nor... more »ah spent a year and a half disguised as her male alter ego, Ned, exploring what men are like when women aren't around. As Ned, she joins a bowling team, takes a high-octane sales job, goes on dates with women (and men), visits strip clubs, and even manages to infiltrate a monastery and a men's therapy group. At once thought- provoking and pure fun to read, Self-Made Man is a sympathetic and thrilling tour de force of immersion journalism.« less
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serinlea reviewed Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man 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.
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.
Tracy F. (tsf) reviewed Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man 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 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.