Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man

by Norah Vincent

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101201343
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/19/2006
Sold by: Penguin Group
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 551,883
File size: 620 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Norah Vincent is the author of the New York Times bestseller Self-Made Man. Previously, she wrote a nationally syndicated op-ed column for the Los Angeles Times. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times, The New Republic, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Self-Made Man

One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again
By Norah Vincent

Viking Adult

ISBN: 0-670-03466-5


Chapter One

Seven years ago, I had my first tutorial in becoming a man.

The idea for this book came to me then, when I went out for the first time in drag. I was living in the East Village at the time, undergoing a significantly delayed adolescence, drinking and drugging a little too much, and indulging in all the sidewalk freak show opportunities that New York City has to offer.

Back then I was hanging around a lot with a drag king whom I had met through friends. She used to like to dress up and have me take pictures of her in costume. One night she dared me to dress up with her and go out on the town. I'd always wanted to try passing as a man in public, just to see if I could do it, so I agreed enthusiastically.

She had developed her own technique for creating a beard whereby you cut half inch chunks of hair from unobtrusive parts of your own head, cut them into smaller pieces, and then more or less glopped them onto your face with spirit gum. Using a small round freestanding mirror on her desk, she showed me how to do it in the dim, greenish light of her cramped studio apartment. It wasn't at all precise and it wouldn't have passed muster in the daylight, but it was good enough for the stage, and it would work well enough for our purposes in dark bars at night. I made myself a goatee and mustache, and a pair of baroque sideburns. I put on a baseball cap, loose-fitting jeans and a flannel shirt. In the full-length mirror I looked like a frat boy-sort of.

She did her thing-which was more willowy and soft, more like a young hippie guy who couldn't really grow much of a beard-and we went out like that for a few hours.

We passed, as far as I could tell, but I was too afraid to really interact with anyone, except to give one guy brief directions on the street. He thanked me as "dude" and walked on.

Mostly though we just walked the streets of the Village scanning people's faces to see if anyone took a second or third look. But no one did. And that, oddly enough, was the thing that struck me the most about that evening. It was the only thing of real note that happened. But it was significant.

I had lived in that neighborhood for years, walking its streets where men lurk outside of bodegas, on stoops and in doorways much of the day. As a woman, you couldn't walk down those streets invisibly. You were an object of desire or at least semiprurient interest to the men who waited there, even if you weren't pretty-that, or you were just another piece of pussy to be put in its place. Either way, their eyes followed you all the way up and down the street, never wavering, asserting their dominance as a matter of course. If you were female and you lived there, you got used to being stared down, because it happened every day and there wasn't anything you could do about it.

But that night in drag, we walked by those same stoops and doorways and bodegas. We walked right by those same groups of men. Only this time they didn't stare. On the contrary, when they met my eyes they looked away immediately and concertedly and never looked back. It was astounding, the difference, the respect they showed me by not looking at me, by purposely not staring.

That was it. That was what had annoyed me so much about meeting their gaze as a woman, not the desire, if that was ever there, but the disrespect, the entitlement. It was rude, and it was meant to be rude, and seeing those guys looking away deferentially when they thought I was male, I could validate in retrospect the true hostility of their former stares.

But that wasn't quite all there was to it. There was something more than plain respect being communicated in their averted gaze, something subtler, less direct. It was more like a disinclination to show disrespect. For them, to look away was to decline a challenge, to adhere to a code of behavior that kept the peace among human males in certain spheres just as surely as it kept the peace and the pecking order among male animals. To look another male in the eye and hold his gaze is to invite conflict, either that or a homosexual encounter. To look away is to accept the status quo, to leave each man to his tiny sphere of influence, the small buffer of pride and poise that surrounds and keeps him.

I surmised all of this the night it happened, but in the weeks and months that followed I asked most of the men I knew whether I was right, and they agreed, adding usually that it wasn't something they thought about anymore, if they ever had. It was just something you learned or absorbed as a boy, and by the time you were a man, you did it without thinking.

After the whole incident had blown over, I started thinking that if in such a short time in drag I had learned such an important secret about the way males and females communicate with each other, and about the unspoken codes of male experience, then couldn't I potentially observe much more about the social differences between the sexes if I passed as a man for a much longer period of time? It seemed true, but I wasn't intrepid enough yet to do something that extreme. Besides it seemed impossible, both psychologically and practically, to pull it off. So I filed the information away in my mind for a few more years and got on with other things.

Then, in the winter of 2003, while watching a reality television show on the A& E network, the idea came back to me. In the show, two male and two female contestants set out to transform themselves into the opposite sex-not with hormones or surgeries, but purely by costume and design. The women cut their hair. The men had theirs extended. Both took voice and movement lessons to try to learn how to speak and behave more like the sex they were trying to become. All chose new wardrobes, personas and names for their alter egos. The bulk of the program focused on the outward transformations, though the point at the end was to see who could pass in the real world most effectively. Neither of the men really passed, and only one of the women stayed the course. She did manage to pass fairly well, though only for a short time and in carefully controlled circumstances.

But, as in most reality television programs, especially the American ones, nobody involved was particularly introspective about the effect their experiences had had on them or the people around them. It was clear that the producers didn't have much interest in the deeper sociologic implications of passing as the opposite sex. It was all just another version of an extreme make-over. Once the stunt was accomplished-or not-the show was over.

But for me, watching the show brought my former experience in drag to the forefront of my mind again and made me realize that passing in costume in the daylight could be possible with the right help. I knew that writing a book about passing in the world as a man would give me the chance to explore some of the unexplored territory that the show had left out, and that I had barely broached in my brief foray in drag years before.

I was determined to give the idea a try.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Self-Made Man1. Getting Started
2. Friendship
3. Sex
4. Love
5. Life
6. Work
7. Self
8. Journey's End
Acknowledgments
Author Interview

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

A thoughtful, entertaining piece of first-person investigative journalism . . . Self-Made Man transcends its premise altogether. . . . So rich and so audacious . . . [I was] hooked from Page 1. (David Kamp, The New York Times Book Review)

Vincent’s account of how she ‘became’ a man is undeniably fascinating.” (Los Angeles Times Book World)

Eye-opening . . . Self-Made Man will make many women think twice about coveting male ‘privilege’ and make any man feel grateful that his gender is better understood. (The Washington Post)

[Vincent] can be as perspicuous and exact as Joan Didion or Gloria Steinem at nailing a hitherto disregarded truth about the sexes in a single elegant and witty phrase. . . . This is a brave and often fascinating book, with Vincent . . . offering us perspectives that are entirely fresh and new. (The Times,London)

Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION
The true story of Norah Vincent’s audacious gender-bending experiment, Self-Made Man is a fascinating account of a year and a half spent discovering how the other half lives. Remaking herself as a man named Ned, Vincent exposes the truth by experiencing it; the men she meets, as well as the man she becomes, not only alter her perceptions of the opposite sex forever, but, in doing so, deeply affect her understanding of women and herself.

Vincent, fearless from the first, begins by tackling the stereotypes of male competition, aggression, and sexual swagger. To her chagrin, she discovers truth in the clichés. Within the bastions of high-pressure, low-wage sales jobs, her assumptions about male hierarchies and power displays are confirmed; in visits to strip clubs, the combined objectification and resentment of women are indeed on display. Vincent, the intrepid social scientist, does not simply observe but gets into the mud and participates. She talks the talk, she walks the walk; she competes for sales and ogles women. She doesn’t reject the rituals but instead begins to understand the form of male culture as well as the functioning behind it.

Sympathetic but never simpering, Vincent’s humor and heart strike a balance throughout Self-Made Man. Joining a bowling league, a men’s therapy group, even a monastery, she insinuates herself into the secret world of male intimacy and forms lasting friendships. She learns the codes of conduct when men are alone, not only what they speak about but how they do it—the meaning behind silence, the subtle nuance of physical gestures, the difficulty of living within the ideals of masculinity. In her disguise, Vincent delves into the pressure of social expectations and peers behind the curtain of manliness, exploring what it means to be a son, father, partner, or breadwinner. Never limiting her focus to simply being male, she also peers through the looking glass at her own gender and exposes some unpleasant truths about women’s contributions to sexual inequality. She is as unrelenting an analyst of herself as she is of society.

Candid, compassionate, and witty, Vincent has written for the Washington Post, Village Voice, and Los Angeles Times, and she brings the full force of her experience to bear on the battle between the sexes. Her sharp intellect, emotional honesty, and keen perception combine to create a book that is difficult to sum up and impossible to put down. Self-Made Man both confirms and explodes stereotypes, ultimately presenting manhood as a complicated and contradictory experience that deserves greater attention from both sexes. Whether male or female, readers will find Self-Made Man a compelling, illuminating read and one that is certain to spark conversation. This, Vincent would agree, is the first step toward better understanding between the sexes.

 


ABOUT NORAH VINCENT

Norah Vincent left her job as a nationally syndicated opinion columnist for the Los Angeles Times to research this book. Her work has appeared in The New Republic, the New York Post, The Village Voice, and The Washington Post, among other journals, and she has appeared on numerous radio and television talk shows.

 


AN INTERVIEW WITH NORAH VINCENT
Can you describe the process of your readjustment to life as a woman? How long did it take? Were there any surprises involved? What, if anything, do you miss about living as a man?

Living as a man taught me a lot about the things I most enjoyed about being a woman in the world, things I consider to be the privileges of womanhood—the emotional freedom, the range of expression, the sexual and social power we can exercise over men. Returning to my life as a woman was about reclaiming those privileges and taking greater satisfaction in them. Here’s one small example, which may sound hopelessly old-fashioned and silly, but it made me smile so warmly: The other day a clerk in a store turned to me and apologized for having to refer to pornography in front of me during a discussion he was having with a male customer. I found it very thoughtful and sweet. When a man does something like this now, I connect again with all the vulnerability that I felt as a man in front of women, and I remember all the conversations I had with the men in my men’s group about their need to take care of and protect women. Not all men behave the way this clerk did, of course, but nonetheless I feel a deep sense of the respect that men like him have for women and I feel grateful for it. It’s nice to feel that someone is looking out for you, or trying to, and worries about offending or debasing you even in speech, and this is something I never felt as a man.

It took me months. Probably a good six months to really get back into being a woman. And this is partly because I had some unpacking to do. It wasn’t just a matter of returning to myself, because I am a different person now than I was before I embarked on this project. I feel more womanly now, more in touch with my femininity, than I ever did before I lived as Ned, and that has taken some getting used to, though it has been very pleasant.

I don’t miss anything about being Ned. The few social advantages I discovered in manhood—the swagger, the self-confidence, the entitlement—I’ve learned to incorporate into my life as a woman. Everything else I was happy to discard.

How has your concept of being a woman changed since your experience as Ned, in both general and personal terms?

Being able to incorporate the lessons of manhood into womanhood is, I suppose, one of the best examples of how my concept of womanhood changed because of Ned. In my view, this is the greatest liberation of feminism, a liberation that men haven’t yet experienced in their own roles. They haven’t really been allowed to express traditionally feminine qualities, and they are limited as a result. Having lived as both a man and a woman, it seems to me now that the definition of womanhood, at least as I live it and as I believe our culture defines it, is so much larger, can happily encompass so much more, than the definition of manhood. I can borrow from the boys—wardrobe, mien, temperament—and still be all woman. The reverse is not really true, or at least it wasn’t for Ned. He had to shed all my female qualities and, as a result, became much smaller. I like to say that in that respect Ned can fit in Norah’s pocket.

What influence do you think the media have on sexual roles? Do you see any trends that alarm or encourage you?

I think that the media reflect more than they influence. They show us images of ourselves, often idealized images to be sure, but I don’t think they invent out of whole cloth. They’re not that creative. Sexual roles are a very intimate business, I think. They change at the microcosmic level first. Individuals, often obscure individuals, are the creative ones, and they’re the ones who end up changing the way we think and behave, and the media in turn digest those changes and spit them back at us as trends. If there’s a trend that disturbs me it’s probably that tendency on the media’s part to homogenize originality, to dumb it down and sell it back to us as the norm.

Are there any public figures whom you admire for expanding social definitions of gender? Do you have any heroes—personal, political, or literary?

Though I disagreed with her often, I admire my friend the late Andrea Dworkin. Some heroes/heroines, in no particular order, are: Hamlet, George Orwell, Joan Didion, Graham Greene, W. H. Auden, Elizabeth Bishop, and Elizabeth I.

In Self-Made Man, you discuss the relationship between childhood experience and understanding gender roles—for example, fathers withholding affection in order to create tough young men. What advice would you give to a parent today to help him or her avoid imprinting gender expectations on children?

Having no children myself, I’m hardly in a position to judge, but if I had to say, I suppose I would suggest leniency when it comes to children’s self-discovery. Too often parenting is a kind of narcissism. Parents see their children as little more than extensions of themselves, or potential re-enactors of their lost youths and missed chances. This is toxic to any child’s self-actualization, especially when it comes to matters as intimate as sexuality and gender identity. If a child shows a proclivity for a particular style of dress or hobby or pursuit that the parent may not deem gender appropriate, or does not himself like, I think it is the parent’s duty to resist showing disapproval, or, worse, distaste, and to encourage the child to be most authentically himself or herself in every way possible. God knows, the child will find enough disapproval in the outside world. Our parents are the first and foremost people whose job it is to love us entirely for who and what we are, and that means, when it comes to the expression of our individuality, letting us be.

Short of dressing up as a member of the opposite sex for a year and a half, how can a person begin to break free of gender clichés? Is there such a thing as a beneficial stereotype?

As has often been said, stereotypes are born of truth. I found this in my research. They are useful shorthands that help us to make sense of our world. The danger lies in being slavishly devoted to them, or allowing them to cloud our judgment when it comes to seeing and treating another human being as a person and not a set of categories. Similarly, gender roles are born at least in part—perhaps in large part—of natural inclination. Women may always be the primary nurturers on this planet, perhaps because something in our hormonal drives directs us toward intimate and interpersonal life or because we give birth. Maybe instinct conditions us far more than we know or may want to believe. The same is true, I think, for men. Perhaps their hormonal drives will always make them more physically competitive and better suited to high-pressure, teleological pursuits. This may mean that no matter how we jigger it, by virtue of who we are as creatures, women will always tend to predominate in the nursery and men the boardroom. This doesn’t mean, however, that either sex should be mindlessly shackled to a prescribed or straitjacketed role, even if the vast majority of each sex tends to make a traditional choice. The key word here is choice, the cornerstone of feminism. Women should be able to choose whether to work or stay home, and so should men. Breaking free of stereotypes means being true to yourself and being flexible within your choices. You can, after all, be a stay-at-home mother and not be a shrinking violet, and you can be a type-A breadwinning dad and still join a knitting group if that’s what turns your crank, or vice versa and a thousand other permutations as well.

Self-Made Man not only exposes the truth about contemporary manhood but is quite intimate in its discussion of your personal history, sexual identity, and emotions. How do you feel having so much of yourself in the book? How did you decide what to reveal and what to keep private?

I tried to write about everything that I thought was relevant, even if it didn’t reflect particularly well on me. I had to overcome a lot of shame, for example, about mental illness in order to write honestly about my breakdown. A number of people who read the manuscript early on told me to take certain things out because they made me sound nuts. But it’s precisely the things that embarrass or discomfort you the most that are most important for you to write about. That’s the good stuff. I don’t mean that endless navel gazing is desirable or makes for good writing. Tempering the urge to overwrite the especially mucky parts is important, but I didn’t want to edit out the weird bits altogether simply because I didn’t want people to know that I’d been in the bin, or that I’m not always the most attractive person on the planet. Of course, the downside of this is that if you’re extremely sensitive, as I am, it means you need to protect yourself from people who take a malicious pleasure in sharpening their blades on your misfortunes and brandishing their cleverness at your expense.

The psychological toll of your experiences as Ned is both frightening and completely understandable. If you did the experiment again, knowing what you know today, what—if anything—would you do differently? Do feel that the knowledge was worth the pain?

Ignorance is courage. If I’d known then what I know now, I could never have embarked on the project. Yet, all the same, I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. The knowledge was absolutely worth the pain; especially because part of what I learned was how to better take care of myself psychologically in my everyday life. I listen to my emotions much more carefully now. I take care of myself. I take responsibility for my own psychic health, and that’s a daily practice. The lesson I can apply to my next project is that I can never again try to be someone else, someone that I’m not. I can and will immerse myself in situations and environments in order to write about them, but I will never again do so as another person.

Among the people you met as Ned, what range of reactions do you expect the book will receive? Do you think they will recognize themselves?

As a writer friend of mine told me when I embarked on this project, “When you write this intimately about real people, you are an assassin.” And he’s right. Almost invariably people object to something you’ve written about them. Either they say you got them wrong, or it didn’t happen that way, or that’s not how they remember it. I expect some of the Rashomon effect: The story of the same event will be told ten different ways by ten different observers. All the versions will be true and none of them will. The people in the book will recognize themselves. They’ll agree with the compliments and they’ll object to the disparagements, and that is to be expected.

This was a difficult, even dangerous experiment that consumed a year and a half of your life. What’s next?

Ned is going to be an extremely hard act to follow. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what to do next, and I haven’t hit on anything definitive yet. I’m trying very hard to resist the Hollywood temptation to find a formula that works and work it to death. I’d like to follow my imagination and have an adventure and that’s all I know right now.

 


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS
  • If you could switch genders for a day, what would you do? Why? What sort of man or woman do you think you would be?
     
  • Vincent is candid in admitting the assumptions she made about men. What assumptions do you make about the opposite sex? Your own? Who or what shaped these ideas?
     
  • Have you ever relied on sexual stereotypes for your own benefit? Have you ever challenged sexual convention? What prompted these behaviors? How were they received?
     
  • In her introduction, Vincent refers to her experiment as “meddling” (p. 18)—why do you think she labels it as such? Do you agree?
     
  • Discuss the two quotations at the beginning of the book. What does each one mean? What is their combined effect?
     
  • Self-Made Man is organized around experiences of friendship, sex, love, life, work, and self. Why do you think Vincent structured the book this way? How does each section relate to the others?
     
  • Of all the men Vincent befriended, who was the most intriguing? Did you see any similarities to the men you know in her acquaintances?
     
  • Compare and contrast the author’s relationships with Jim and Paul. How does each man reflect the success of Vincent’s experience?
     
  • Think back to your expectations of the book before you read it. Which of Vincent’s revelations shocked you the most? Which was most encouraging?
     
  • If you could ask Vincent one question, what would it be?
  • Customer Reviews

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    Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 38 reviews.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I did not like the way it was written. I felt she unnecessarily talked about her lesbianism a lot. There were times where it fit with the story, but mostly not. She didn't provide much of an insite into men as I would have liked.
    clamato on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    Chose this for my bookgroup a while back. I was intrigued but worried how the group would react to it. It was interesting and everyone thought the same but the overall concensus was that the vulgarity of it detracted from a great story. It was an interesting exercise in the human condition but Norah Vincent took it down to a level it did not need to go. I thought it was a brave endeavour and was so interested in reading this book but I lost track of it because of all the foul language that just was not necessary.
    bobbieharv on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    A journalist/lesbian becomes a man for a year to see what it's like to be a man, and what men are like when women aren't around (pretty scary sometimes). The chapters where men and women are most different were the most interesting, e.g. when she went to strip clubs (pretty horrifying and misogynistic) and dated women. At the end it got to her, and she became psychologically screwed up as a result (I actually read this book because I saw her latest book, about being in a mental hospital, in the library and decided I'd read about what screwed her up first). All in all, except for the few chapters that fell a bit flat, like the monastery and sales job chapters, this was a fascinating frightening tour through the male psyche. No wonder she cracked.
    breakerfallen on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    A fascinating story, if one approaches it as more of a travelogue. I don't agree with her broad generalizations of "women" or "feminine" versus "men" and "masculine," but her comparison between her as female and her as male, both in her perceptions and how she was perceived, made for a very interesting read. In the end, I feel I learned more about the author's view of herself and how she vies the different genders than I did about "manhood" or its many permutations.
    sherbear917 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    Norah Vincent is a writer who decided to leave her job at a nationally syndicated newspaper to conduct her own sociological experiment on gender relations. The subject? Herself. She received voice coaching, make-up lessons and other training to learn how to look and act like a man. With her outward appearance transformed, Vincent embarked upon a journey throughout the different facets of manhood. She made friends, dated, worked, bonded and partied, all in a male guise. She dared to reside in a monastery, frequented crude strip bars and even joined a men's support group. Self-Made Man chronicles her experiences, relationships, and most importantly, her insights into the male psyche from a female perspective. The book offers a unique taste of what it is like to be a man and the contradictory messages men receive from women. Vincent explores the challenges that men face when they are expected to be brave and strong but are criticized for lacking sensitivity and emotional depth. Vincent has written an interesting and thought-provoking novel. I can honestly say that I learned a lot from the book and as the reader discovers, so does Vincent herself. My only problem with the book is the way it is fragmented into different sections with little fluidity between the chapters, which causes a fair amount of repetition. I do recommend this book but beware of the choppy writing style.
    rstanfield on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    This book offended me in so many different ways. To begin with, her "study" was filled with so many flaws. I have a BA in Cultural Anthropology, and this is a good lesson in how not to do a social study. The most troubling part of it for me was the deception involved, especially when it came to dating. She didn't just go on a single date with a women, she let them get emotionally attached to her before she broke the news that she was actually a woman. Did she even take the emotional well-being of the women into consideration? The dating world for adults is hard enough. I had to stop reading when she decided to try to go to a monastery. At this point her study was beyond unethical and so flawed, that I didn't want to waste any more time. Besides that, it was making me so angry, I had to put it down for my own well-being. If you decide to read this, just keep one thing in mind. These are not facts based on a real study. These are her opinions and her perceptions based on an unethical and flawed experiment. Keep in mind who she is; a white female lesbian, middle-classed (and yes, this does matter). All of her perceptions are seen through her eyes, not through the unbiased view of a completely neutral party.
    phyllis.shepherd on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    The author belabors every point in the book. How often and in how many ways do we need to hear about how degrading lap dances are?
    mms on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    A fascinating look at the dynamic of gender and a sad journey to paranoia and mental breakdown. The importance of this "memoir" cannot be overrated.
    wickedlibrarian on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    My husband was the one to tell me about this book, after he'd read an article about the author's experiment in Time magazine. It has some amazing and valuable insight in how both sexes think, act, and react in our social world. I came away from the book feeling like my eyes were more open about how men feel/act/think, but more informed about my own sex as well.
    justablondemoment on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    I wanted to read her second book where she spent a year in a mental ward, then found out this book was a part of what made her breakdown and thought I should read it 1st. Not sure if that was a good idea or not. I could not get into this book. In defense of the book I only read the 1st chapter and part of the second so it may have gotten much better. To me it was just the whole writing style, not the idea behind the words. I wanted to know more how she FELT as these things were happening and she was experiencing them. Instead it came out reporter style with just this is what happened and that made it a little catching but in the end to dry for me to continue. Shrugs...dunno I'll try the other one.
    cestovatela on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    I strolled past Self-Made Man on the bargain table at Border's for more than a month, wondering whether it would be intriguing or simply the vitriol of an angry woman. I am glad -- no, grateful -- that I finally picked it up. Norah Vincent, who is neither a transvestite nor transgendered, wants to know what's like to be man. With the help of a voice coach, a make-up artist, and a muscle-building work-out routine, she spends 18 months living as her alter-ego Ned. The results of her experience are a far better guide to the opposite sex than trite drivel like Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus. Each chapter explores a facet of her male life: joining a men's bowling league, working, strip clubs, dating, living in a monastery and joining a men's support group. She enters each of these venues expecting to find a privileged world where men wield power, ridicule homosexuals and make racist jokes. Instead, the truth turns out to be much more complex. Of her dating experience, she writes:"Women were very hard to please. They wanted me to be in control, big and strong both in spirit and in body, but also tender and vulnerable at the same time, subservient to their whims and bunny-soft...As much as these women wanted an in-control man, they wanted a man who was vulnerable to them, a man who would...open his doors, someone expressive, intuitive, attuned. This I was in spades, and I always got points for it, but feeling the pressure to be that other world-bestriding colossus at the same time made me feel very sympathetic toward heterosexual men...A man is expected to be modern, to treat women as equals in every respect, [but] he is often still expected to be traditional at the same time, to treat a lady like a lady, to lead the way and pick up the check."Perhaps these things are common sense, but it was the first time I heard them articulated in such a clear-headed way. Part of what makes the book so fascinating is that the writer is a lesbian who is often called "butch" or "masculine." But, as a man, she is often perceived as "fag" by both male and female audiences. This is probably why she excels at considering each chapter from both a male and female perspective, and although some chapters are less insightful than others, the book made me reflect carefully on what I expect from the men in my life. I recommend this book to people of both sexes, both single and in relationships. Everyone could learn something from it.
    Lilac_Lily01 on LibraryThing 8 months ago
    Norah Vincent lived for 1 1/2 years the life of a man. In a drag costume she joined an all male bowling club, went to work in a high pressure sales job, dated women and even participated in a men's self-help group. In "Self-Made Man" she shares what she discovered about the other sex while working under cover. This book was an entertaining and quick read although the insights gained weren't as deep as one could have hoped for. However, Vincent manges to disprove her own thesis that men have easier and better lives all around. In the end the female reader will at least gain some understanding and sympathy for the male life experience.
    allthesedarnbooks on LibraryThing 11 months ago
    I first heard about this book when the author appeared on The Colbert Report. (One of my favorite shows!) The concept intrigued me: a woman, disguising herself as a man, and writing about it. A lot of my favorite novels revolve around this type of cross-dressing (the Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce, or The Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw are examples) and I was interested to see what the results would be in real life, in the present day. The results are well-written and interesting. Vincent provides insight into not only the ways in which men are treated differently than women, but the psyches of both genders. Definitely worth a read.
    Meggo on LibraryThing 11 months ago
    An interesing look at the hidden underside of being a man. Vincent passed as a man in various situations, such as in a bowling league, in a monestary, on the road as a door to door salesman, in a strip club (as a patron, natch) and at an all male retreat in order to see what life was like from the other side of the street. What she discovered is that men are just as conflicted as women, except with fewer socially acceptable outlets to communicate their stress and frustration. A key insight she discovered through this process is that gender is as much mental as it is physical -- she could send signals of 'male' or 'female' while looking the same, all depending on her own headspace at the time. All in all, however, this book left me curiously unsatisfied. I was hoping that there was some secret to be found, some golden ring that only men had access to, and in reality, men and women struggle with the same issues and same desire for validation.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    I read this for my book club and enjoyed it. As a female who has only brothers (3), I grew up acutely aware of gender differences & was very interested in reading about the author's experience living as a male.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    Just finished reading. Her prose is so flowery and overdone, her writing style throughout the book seemed like one big exercise in literary masturbation. She -almost- got it. Eighteen months living under the duress that every modern man lives with for his entire life led her to check herself in to a mental hospital to recover, yet she still referred to men as oppressors, rapists, war-mongers, and still believes in the Patriarchy?. Three weeks of dating straight women in the guise of a straight man led her to admit that she was developing into a misogynist, yet everyday men are still expected to sympathize with any woman who cries about chivalry being dead. It's almost amazing how some women, even in the face of empirical evidence and subjective experience, still cling to hive-mind lies about men.
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    Charlotte_Isabella More than 1 year ago
    I believe that Vincent's Self-Made Man is a compelling work of research that must have taken a lot out of her to write and research. I believe that Vincent's word choice was extremely well thought out, and the ideas in her book were sociological genius. I know that cross dressing for research has been done before, but it gave new insight for a woman who rarely understands men. I believe it gave a small window into the brain of a man, and a wake up call to any woman: sometimes women are just as bad as men say we are :P
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago
    hound48 More than 1 year ago
    some interesting parts, but it's from a narrow perspective. i'd like to see this study done by a woman who prefers gentlemen.
    Anonymous More than 1 year ago