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Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year…

Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man (original 2006; edition 2006)

by Norah Vincent

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1,178516,841 (3.5)25
Title:Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man
Authors:Norah Vincent
Info:Penguin (Non-Classics) (2006), Edition: ZZZ, Paperback, 287 pages
Collections:2012 (inactive)
Tags:autobiographical, interesting

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Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back by Norah Vincent (2006)

  1. 40
    Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin (espertus)
    espertus: A classic book on a white man's experiences disguising himself as a black man in the American South in 1959.

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Showing 1-5 of 49 (next | show all)
One of the best books I've ever read about gender roles and society.
( )
  Schlyne | Nov 12, 2015 |
Wow. A woman passes for a man to gain insight into male culture and what it means to be male in modern America. Much more insightful than the Mars/Venus analyses. Interesting to students of psychology, sociology, or Women's Studies. Especially valuable to men ready for introspection, loving wives, and caring mothers of sons. While it is true Vincent is not a scientist, she doesn't for one moment pretend to be, but instead repeatedly reminds that this is as much a memoir as it is an experiment.

I've bought the 'sequel' [b:Voluntary Madness: My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin|3860427|Voluntary Madness My Year Lost and Found in the Loony Bin|Norah Vincent|http://photo.goodreads.com/books/1220241038s/3860427.jpg|3905551], and despite the fact that I try to avoid depressing and intense books I look forward to it because of this author's talent. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Apr 14, 2015 |
Having experimented with passing as a man myself, I started reading this book mainly for ideas about how to be better at it. However, what I found most valuable was Vincent's reportage on the current state of the gender wars from a sort-of-male perspective. One reviewer has already commented on the problems feminists have dealing with men. I think Vincent provides a lot of first person insight into this issue. One caveat, this is truly one person's take on her experiences. There are more insightful books out there for people interested in things like what the men's movement is like and what life in a monastery is like. ( )
  aulsmith | Dec 8, 2014 |
An enlightening account of what it really means to be a man in our society—the good and the bad. This book goes on my list of books everyone over 16 should read. I expected Vincent to be surprised by how not-green it is on the other side, but I was the one whose eyes were most opened. She passed as a man for 18 months and learned that trying to change something as ingrained as gender is dangerous to one’s mental health—she had a breakdown and checked into a hospital to recover. Her methodology was to break down the different aspects of daily life—friendship, dating, sex, work, etc and then found ways to most fully experience those aspects. My personal favourite section was when she spent three weeks at a monastery. One of the most fascinating things was that when Vincent stopped wearing her drag (beard, binding) people still saw her as a man proving that people will accept you for what you present yourself to be. ( )
  vlcraven | Nov 24, 2014 |
I'm not super pleased about it being an abridgement, but since the author is reading it, I'll have to assume she had a hand in how it was trimmed.

I'm really glad I read (listened) to this book. Vincent is thorough and honest about getting to the core of her observations. This is what I appreciated the most about the story. Throughout it, she makes it clear that she is drawing conclusions based on her observations and the observations themselves take primacy over the conclusions based on them.

She is open about her preconceptions and biases as much as possible. She doesn't disclose her political leanings except is an an aside about abortion politics on first dates (Vincent is a conservative) but I found it somehow easier to empathize with conservative values coming from a lesbian woman trying to pass as a man.

Throughout the book, I did not see my own experience of masculinity mirrored in what Ned/Norah saw. I recognize it as true, but I think she was looking for a stereotypical version of masculinity that has not been my experience. That doesn't make her story invalid, I just want to be clear that being a dude is a richer, broader, and more varied experience than shown by the range of sad-sacks she sought out. For example, she bases work experiences on a door-to-door sales job. Dating is based on trying to pick up strangers at bars or internet dating sites. And group identity is based on a "men's movement" retreat. There is a lot more to masculinity than these brief glimpses. However, these brief glimpses are revealing and I think she's done fantastic work reporting them.

I used the term "sad-sack" before to describe the men Ned and Norah spent time with. I meant it to be casually insulting, but it is worth pointing out that she did not spend a lot of time with successful males. There aren't any stories of pride in work well done, the weird locker-room euphoria that comes from winning a sporting event, pride in providing for one's family or filling a set role society lays out for us. The men Ned interacts with all seem to be pride-deficient. I think pride is overdone, but it does seem to be a massive part of the social construct of masculinity I've experienced. She spent her time with Barney Fife and Fred Mertz visions of maleness, she didn't seem interested in finding Andy Griffins or Ricky Ricardos to spend time with. It could be that these stronger, better adjusted men are relatively rare or it could be that she has a set image of maleness that she was looking for.

In any case, this is an interesting and valuable book. The quest for empathy and insight is to be applauded. Vincent herself is explicit that she's just reporting her own experiences, but readers should be aware that this is just one woman's journey into manhood and not manhood in its entirety.

For a different vision of masculinity, I recommend reading Phillip Roth's Portnoy's Complaint. His treats male-ness with less kindness or gentleness than Vincent does, but it is a literary genius covering aspects of masculinity that Vincent does not. ( )
  nnschiller | Sep 18, 2014 |
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But this my masculine usurped attire . . .
Conceal me what I am, and be my aid
For such disguise as haply shall become
The form of my intent . . .
Disguise, I see, thou art a wickedness
Wherein the pregnant enemy does much.

-- Twelfth Night
Were it not better,
Because that I am more than common tall,
That I did suit me all points like a man?
Lie there what hidden woman's fear there will,
We'll have a swashing and a martial outside,
As many other mannish cowards have
That do outface it with their semblances.'

-- As You Like It
To my beloved wife, Lisa McNulty,
who saves my life on a daily basis.
First words
Seven years ago, I had my first tutorial in becoming a man.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670034665, Hardcover)

Following in the tradition of John Howard Griffin (Black Like Me) and Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickel and Dimed), Norah Vincent absorbed a cultural experience and reported back on what she observed incognito. For more than a year and a half she ventured into the world as Ned, with an ever-present five o’clock shadow, a crew cut, wire-rim glasses, and her own size 111/2 shoes—a perfect disguise that enabled her to observe the world of men as an insider. The result is a sympathetic, shrewd, and thrilling tour de force of immersion journalism that’s destined to challenge preconceptions and attract enormous attention.

With her buddies on the bowling league she enjoyed the rough and rewarding embrace of male camaraderie undetectable to an outsider. A stint in a high-octane sales job taught her the gut- wrenching pressures endured by men who would do anything to succeed. She frequented sex clubs, dated women hungry for love but bitter about men, and infiltrated all-male communities as hermetically sealed as a men’s therapy group, and even a monastery. Narrated in her utterly captivating prose style and with exquisite insight, humor, empathy, nuance, and at great personal cost, Norah uses her intimate firsthand experience to explore the many remarkable mysteries of gender identity as well as who men are apart from and in relation to women. Far from becoming bitter or outraged, Vincent ended her journey astounded—and exhausted—by the rigid codes and rituals of masculinity. Having gone where no woman (who wasn’t an aspiring or actual transsexual) has gone for any significant length of time, let alone eighteen months, Norah Vincent’s surprising account is an enthralling reading experience and a revelatory piece of anecdotally based gender analysis that is sure to spark fierce and fascinating conversation.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:51 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

For more than a year and a half Vincent ventured into the world as Ned, with an ever-present five o'clock shadow and a crew cut--a perfect disguise that enabled her to observe the world of men as an insider. With her buddies on the bowling league she enjoyed the rough and rewarding embrace of male camaraderie; a stint in a high-octane sales job taught her the gut-wrenching pressures endured by men who would do anything to succeed; she frequented sex clubs, dated women hungry for love but bitter about men, and infiltrated all-male communities including a men's therapy group and even a monastery. She ended her journey astounded--and exhausted--by the rigid codes and rituals of masculinity.--From publisher description.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 4 descriptions

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