Woman Lived as a Man for 18 Months
Lesbian Feminist Norah Vincent lives as a man for 18 months, goes nuts and is happy to get back to life as a woman.
Vincent's status as a woman is what makes her observations of male behavior fresh - introducing herself to some guys in a bowling league, she's touched by the ritual howyadoin’, man-to-man handshake, which, “from the outside . . . had always seemed overdone to me,” but from the inside strikes her as remarkably warm and inclusive, worlds away from the “fake and cold” air kisses and limp handshakes exchanged by women. But in its best moments, “Self-Made Man” transcends its premise altogether, offering not an undercover woman's take on male experience, but simply a fascinating, fly-on-the-wall look at various unglamorous male milieus that are well off the radar of most journalists and book authors.
That bowling league, for example. Norah-as-Ned commits to it for eight months, becoming the weak link on a four-man team of working-class white men. (Vincent has changed the names of the characters and obscured the locations to protect the identities of her subjects.) The resultant chapter is as tender and unpatronizing a portrait of America's “white trash” underclass as I've ever read. “They took people at face value,” writes Vincent of Ned's teammates, a plumber, an appliance repairman and a construction worker. “If you did your job or held up your end, and treated them with the passing respect they accorded you, you were all right.” Neither dumb lugs nor proletarian saints, Ned's bowling buddies are wont to make homophobic cracks and pay an occasional visit to a strip club, but they surprise Vincent with their lack of rage and racism, their unflagging efforts to improve Ned's atrocious bowling technique and “the absolute reverence with which they spoke about their wives,” one of whom is wasting away from cancer.
- 2006 Review by The Observer
- Self-Made Man: My Year Disguised as a Man
The dating adventures are the most breathtaking. Ned is on the receiving end of women's boring, self-pitying monologues and endless tirades about what bastards men are. His dates all suspect he is as bad as the rest of them: 'They made every man they met into a wolf, even when that man was a woman.'
Guess what a feminist says about the book.
- Feminist Fridays: A Review of Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent
- April 12, 2013 by Molly Wetta
Norah Vincent is a “conservative lesbian” journalist who for a year and a half, dressed as a man and to explore gender identity. Written in a very accessible and witty manner, Self Made Man is a fascinating, if problematic, read. While the anecdotes she shares of her experiences seductively draw you in to the story, the conclusions that Vincent draws based on her own observations and interactions are painted with far too broad of brushstrokes. Dangerously essentialist, she writes about masculinity as if it were a solid, eternal, and universal thing, rather than fluid and personal. She shoves aside the way it intersects with race, class, and other axises of identity. Bowling leagues, strip clubs, and first dates are interesting places to explore versions of masculinity, but it's not as if these can hold the truth about what it means To Be a Man across time and space and within different cultures.
The merit in this book is it's premise: masculinity is confining. But instead of dismantling gender stereotypes, it reinforces them. As someone who would never be able to pass as a man, I found it interesting to read about the experiences of someone who did, but it was not enlightening. I'd recommend this book with reservations. As long as you don't go lucking for The Truth about Men, it's an engrossing read.
- Norah Vincent on NPR
A few new details and callers including a transsexual detailing their experiences having undergone the switch. Norah initially believed that “women are more evolved than men(!)” LOL. She subscribed to gender as a social construct, but now thinks its also in the brain. She finally says that “men should express their feminine side more”.