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Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again

3.27 of 5 stars 3.27  ·  rating details  ·  3,782 ratings  ·  687 reviews
Narrated with exquisite insight, humor, and empathy, the author uses her firsthand experience--the 18 months she masqueraded as a man--to explore the many remarkable mysteries of gender identity.
Hardcover, Large Print
Published June 1st 2006 by Thorndike Press (first published 2006)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Becky
Mar 02, 2008 Becky rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: nobody
This book has a great premise -- a woman attempting to live as a man, to gain access to the "secret lives" of men. This could have been a very successful magazine article. As a full-length book, though, it's awash in pseudo-insights that range from maudlin to downright offensive. The author comes up with nothing anybody with half a brain didn't already know: "masculinity" is just as much of a potentially crippling construct as "femininity" is. Big surprise.

The author seems to try hard to empathi
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Ryan Andrew Murphy
A transphobic tirade masquerading as feminist adventure story? That was my first thought of what to say about this book (to highlight its most serious problems), but of course there's more to it than just that.

Vincent (a "conservative lesbian" according to answers.com) is a skilled narrator with a seductively casual style which she, unfortunately, uses to thread her tale with dubious normative and essentialistic asides.

Reading her "sympathetic" descriptions of male experience was, at times, i
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Petra X
This is a proper three-star book. It is enjoyable but lacks the distinction or pleasure-factor that would elevate its rating higher. The most interesting part was her interaction with the monks.

The author cross-dresses etc to be a man among men not for the thrill of 'passing' as it were. She doesn't either entirely succeed or convince. The book seems to be a collection of interesting articles rather than an exploration of an alternate self, in other words, it lacks depth.

Finished 2007
sylas
Jul 16, 2007 sylas rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one.
This book infuriated me. I would like to give it negative 3 stars. Unfortunately that's not possible.

Vincent makes broad generalizations about various groups of people based on their gender, race and class. I found her perspective to be incredibly elitist and classist; her analysis of her experience "living as a man" is deeply rooted in her unexamined privilege as a middle-class, non-disabled white woman.

My fury kept me from completing this book. The final straw came when she disgustedly referre
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Loederkoningin
Imagine you're able to pass as the oppossite sex. At work, in a club, when you're roaming the streets. That would be intriguing, exciting, yet odd and scary at the same time. What would you do? What would you like to find out? Where would you start?
Norah Vincent made it happen, with the idea of studying men among their own, their interaction with females and both sexes' place in society. What I personally expected: sociological insights, remarkable - and worrisome - stories, eye openers and a g
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Jessica
While it's clear that Vincent likely carries lifetime subscriptions to Bust and Ms. and carries a certain generational badge in her feminism, I find the book useful for its willingness to cross what I've always considered the last frontier of feminism - getting past the us v. them and moving, however slowly, towards a more mutually understandable social world. Her insights into the infinitesimally small ways in which we cue gender in social settings are fascinating reading, and the gradual openi ...more
Ben
Reading other people's reviews on Goodreads I pretty much agree with what most other people have to say, at least the moderates among them.

However, I will say this: it seems that the people that disliked the book and wrote reviews about it didn't throughly read the book. In particular, they did not read the end of the first chapter where Norah has her disclaimer: "I conducted and recorded the results of an experiment is not to say that this book pretends to be a scientific or objective study. N
...more
Leajk
Jan 22, 2014 Leajk rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: misandrists?
Shelves: gender
Perhaps my minds was set against this book from the moment I got it, it wasn't what I had asked for. It was given to me by my brother as a Christmas present. Maybe he thought I needed something more modern and pro-male than some of the books I had on my Christmas wish-list (which included The Worth of Women: Wherein Is Clearly Revealed Their Nobility and Their Superiority to Men (view spoiler) ...more
Suzanne
I love this book!! I have read it over twice now, and I know I will re-read it often. The situation is that the author begins a quest to learn more about what it is like to be a person of the opposite sex. Don't we all wonder about this at least occasionally? Don't men and women often shake their heads in total bewilderment of the curious, unfathomable - even bizarre and seemingly irrational - behaviors, thoughts and feelings of whatever sex you are not? Wouldn't you like to understand or at lea ...more
mr. kate
what I have to say about this book is you should read it. and you should be very very angry. Vincent does a disservice to everyone by ignoring the complexities of our world. Her treatment of women and her anexation of trans-narratives prove her shortsitedness by proving once again that there is only one narrative that of the white middle class male. Generally she seems to be pandering to a straight white audience who want to believe that everything they ever thought about gender/sex was true.
Frightful_elk
Aug 17, 2007 Frightful_elk rated it 2 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: women + those intrested in gender studies
This is an intresting sociological study of manhood from a woman's point of view. It's certainly a provocotive book, which offers a lot of food for thought, although Norah's own journey is not paticularly in depth or comphrehensive.

She struggles a lot with the guilt of decieving people into thinking she is a man, and so her relationships as a man are only ever superficial. As soon as she begins to develop a closeness with anyone she reveals that she is female. While it is very easy to relate to
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laura
Apr 05, 2007 laura rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: sociologists, gender studies types
I read this book hoping for a lot of sociological insight - but the author is not a sociologist, nor is she necessarily a feminist. I see that I'm not the first reviewer on goodreads to note that she seems to oversympathize with men, and almost acts as their apologist in certain chapters. Still, there are very subtle differences she describes in detail about living life as a man instead of a woman that were so fascinating to me that reading the book was totally worth it. If, as a woman, you'd li ...more
Tatiana
my roommate (lesbian) said reading this book was like reading a book about penguins - fascinating, but completely useless for everyday life. my reaction was a bit stronger. i disagree with almost everything she said in the book, found her to be extremely close-minded about gender and sexuality (for a lesbian no less), and very condemning of women and defending of men in every situation she was in. i'm not sure exactly why she was so harsh on women, considering she is one and dates them, nor why ...more
Loren
Full disclosure: I've cross-dressed once. I passed. I didn't change any of my mannerisms or jewelry. I wore my regular glasses and my regular jeans. People see what they expect to see. Wish I could upload the photo so you could see it too.

In regard to Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man, let's begin by saying: girlfriend has issues. While she was ostensibly going undercover as a man to research how men (read: white heterosexual lower middle-class men) really are, a whole lot of the book is concerned w
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Brandon O'Neill
Nov 26, 2007 Brandon O'Neill rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults interested in gender relationships
Very interesting book. A New York liberal, lesbian, feminist takes on the role of a man to see what men are all about. As Ned, she joins a bowling team, works selling merchandise in a high pressure sales job, visits strip clubs, goes on dates, stays at a monestary for a while, and goes to meetings of a mens movement. Her insights into gender are interesting, and not something that I think too much about, to be honest. She thought that being a white male would open up all kinds of doors she felt ...more
A
Another late review. Well, OK...

My rating on this is actually hovering between a 2 and a 3. The difficulty here is that Vincent has some skill as a writer and actually does give some insight on the differences between genders in our culture, but there is also something offputting abut her attitude and highly questionable about certain conclusions.

Part of my issue is that going in, she seems to over-estimate the awesomeness of being a guy. Certainly there are some freedoms and expectations of pow
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Cass
I abandoned this earlier this year, for some reason this morning I picked it up and started reading it again. It took me the day to finish, so I didn't give it my most earnest attention.

It was a hard book to like because there was just so much vulgarity about it. On the surface I was expecting a deep incite into a female perspective of the male world. The book does deliver some really interesting stuff, but it is not whole. The book does not offer a well-rounded look at the male world, instead i
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Sara
It's difficult to explain why I liked this book so much, and I will agree wholeheartedly with anyone who says they hate it.

First of all, Vincent's tone may be off-putting. I had a difficult time immersing myself in the first chapter, and there were several spots in the later chapters that held me at a distance. She uses slang words for sexual parts in her everyday writing voice, which wouldn't be a difficulty if the rest of the book weren't so philosophically complicated and tonally academic. T
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Nicola
In an undeniably fascinating piece of investigative journalism, Vincent poses as a man (with male clothes, sports bra and fake stubble, but no surgery) and details her experiences of work, socializing and self when perceived as the opposite gender.

It’s an interesting read and Vincent makes many insightful observations about gender and society. Some of those observations are, admittedly, tough to read. This slightly gritty quality to the book is compounded by Vincent’s obviously hard emotional jo
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Megan Baxter
Norah Vincent, unfortunately, does no such thing. And that is the irritating thing about this book. When she is specific, talking specifically about what she experienced and the stories she is told by the men she interacted with, it's pretty darn good. But then, every time, she extrapolates from that to tell us about how what she experienced is what all men experience. Keep it small and personal, and let your readers draw their own conclusions. Because many of those grand philosophical statement ...more
Kstn
Aug 21, 2007 Kstn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those who just want to explore gendered experiences
some forms of socialization into masculinity explored through her donning of differnt male identities, such as the power-pumping salesman, the average-joe bowling night, the monk, etc. she even dates. the most interesting part for me were the surprising discoveries...how people reacted to her as him, how they reacted to her when they discovered she wasn't a him, how she reacted to being perceived as him.
however, she strikes me as transphobic with many of her conclusions, and is pretty oblivious
...more
Ashley
This book explores men's emotions, and the possibility and necessity of a "men's movement" so that men can be free to be who they want to be and not just what they are expected to be. "...it wasn't being found out as a woman that I was really worried about. It was being found out as less than a real man, and I suspect that this is something a lot of men endure their whole lives..." Really interesting insight, especially the stay at the monastery and dating. The book has slow points but I would r ...more
Emily
For some reason my mother thought that a 'mushroom' cut was a good hairstyle for me when I was younger. For some reason I agreed. Keep in mind that in seventh grade I weighed approximately 20 pounds MORE than I weighed at the END of my pregnancy. So think 'ROUND'. Round face, round belly, round butt, round haircut. I indeed had curves, just none of them that made me feminine.

A totally devastating moment that has been permanently burned into my brain occurred when all the seventh graders got to
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Danny
The premise of Self-Made Man is one that ought to grab your attention and be good for some entertainment value, even if the book were horribly mangled in its execution. Fortunately for me, Vincent did an excellent job in the balancing act, keeping her tale delightfully salacious while also sharing a new perspective on a question which has become monotonously tiresome in its everyday ordinariness.

What is it that often makes men and women seem like such different species? To tackle this question
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Synesthesia (SPIDERS!)
This was a fascinating book. I'm not sure I totally agree with the conclusions she made about men and women, but if men and women are so unhappy why do they bother following these rules?

Me, I'm an odd person. There's things I don't understand. I'm a gender shapeshifter myself, bisexual, an atypical female who doesn't like high heel shoes and squees over well done mushy scenes in movies. So, the male/female dichotomy confuses me. There's genitals, testosterone and estrogen and such, but there's a
...more
Eden
I picked up this book with a lot of hope. An educated author writing non-academically about an exploration of gender roles while wearing the sheep's clothing. This is something I did with a high degree of success for nearly 7 years, for personal, not journalistic reasons, and I wanted to see if my experience of masculinity from a non-trans person was mirrored.

And Vincent continually disappointed and pissed me off. First off, she refers to the person she's performing in the third person CONSTANTL
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Wendy Perkins
Although an interesting experiment, and probably one that many of us have given some thought to performing ourselves had we the right body types, mostly what Vincent achieves here is to expose her own prejudices. In trying to gain some insights into male culture and attitudes, she chooses three of the most extreme--and hence, non representative--examples she could have chosen, and invariably discovers that the men she meets are flawed people with a great deal of personal baggage that may, or may ...more
Sarah Nicole
Oct 18, 2008 Sarah Nicole rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: feminists
This book was eye-opening in ways I could never have imagined. I picked it up because I thought it would be interesting but I had no idea it would shake my very foundations as a feminist and make me reconsider all these ideas I'd had about the patriarchy and male privilege. It's really given me a lot to think about and I am grateful to this book for being so very thought-provoking. Most of this book's detractors think that its author spent too much time among atypical gatherings of men (a monast ...more
Men D.
Fact to editorial ratio is all wrong in this book. Norah Vincent should've stuck to a literal recollection of the experiences she had while dressed in men's clothing. The book fails when she tries to analyze her experiences. She concludes that masculinity is a constant, vigilant performance scrutinized and corrected by other men, but doesn't consider that this might just be the conclusion of somebody's whose masculinity is premised on deceiving others. Her fishy logic with respect to her analysi ...more
Wendy
I started this book and that is about where I ended. I disagreed with the author almost instantly. There are so many stereotypes in the first chapter to make any reader question her approach to this book. I think that she is overly defensive of the male characters that she documents. She is a woman, even though she might not feel that she "belongs" as one, that degrades women and womanhood. This book goes against everything that I believe and is not even close to the lives and characters of the ...more
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Vincent was a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies from its 2001 inception to 2003. She has also had columns at Salon.com, The Advocate, the Los Angeles Times, and the Village Voice. Her essays, columns and reviews have also appeared in The New Republic, The New York Times, The New York Post, The Washington Post and many more regional newspapers around the country.

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“Women and men communicate differently, often on entirely different planes. But just as men have failed us, we have failed them. It has been one of our great collective female shortcomings to presume that whatever we do not perceive simply isn't there, or that whatever is not communicated in our language is not intelligible speech.” 11 likes
“Gratification kills desire. And constant gratification kills it permanently” 1 likes
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