Saturday, July 11, 2009

Book Review: Self-Made Man

Journalist Norah Vincent shares her experiences posing as a man for a year and a half. As “Ned,” Vincent tries to hit on women, find applies for work, goes to strip bars, and joins all male groups like bowling and an all-male monastery-like setting as she tries to understand what it’s like to be a man in a “man’s world”. She seems to be incredibly successful in her costume as well as her persona and seems to pass as a guy in virtually all these settings.

The concept of this book caught my interest. I’m fascinated by these journeys people take when they infiltrate a different aspect of society in camouflage as it were, like in “Black Like Me.” It’s interesting to also learn how their perceptions color their experiences.

After completing the book I realized something about it didn’t quite work for me and initially I wasn’t sure why this was. I considered that maybe it was partially because Vincent didn’t reveal men to be a People of a Different Species that Dr. John Gray (just to pick on one) would want me to think.?

The truth is also that the first chapter didn’t capture me. This is where Ned joins a men’s bowling group. I guess this relates back to what I wrote previously. The guys’ conversation was pretty mundane. I was also less interested in the all male group chapters because what interested me more was to Vincent’s experiences hitting on women and getting a job.

Vincent’s insights as to how men treat one another compared to how women treat one another was intriguing. Based on her experience as Ned, men weren’t as willing (compared to her experiences with women) to share their feelings but despite this, according to Vincent, they shared a strong bond. Vincent made a point that she felt this bond to be stronger than what she felt with other women. So does this mean you don’t have to share feelings with one another to still feel close?

Throughout it the 18 months as Ned, Vincent found it she had to be on constant watch of how she behaves and found it hard to express herself as easily as she would if she was a woman for fear she would be exposed as a woman or seen as feminine. Incidentally she also wrote that what made her masculine as a woman was no longer masculine when she was a man. I wondered if she would’ve expressed herself more naturally if then her experience would’ve been different.

I recommend this book for entertainment and because it’ll fairly certain it’ll likely make you think.

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