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

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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.

A journalist's provocative, spellbinding account of her eighteen months spent undercover will transform the way we think about what it means to be a man

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 11 1/2 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.

290 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2006

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About the author

Norah Vincent

6 books120 followers
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.

Vincent is a freelance journalist and in 2003 she took a leave from writing her nationally syndicated political opinion columns in order to write her New York Times bestselling book Self-Made Man, the story of a woman living, working and dating in drag as a man.

She holds a bachelor's degree in philosophy from Williams College. She currently resides in New York City.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 881 reviews
Profile Image for Ryan Andrew Murphy.
12 reviews9 followers
March 11, 2007
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 confess, so enjoyable that i had to read several passages two or three times before my critical faculties recovered from the shock of recognition. But eventually i became suspicious of this persistent tickling: why is she so keen to speak out about the "suffering" of men trying to pick up women at a bar?

It reminded me of the "black conservatism" of John McWhorter ( a good linguist, but problematic writer)... Both make much of the pitiful spectacle of privilege - but dubiously suggest that since the privileged are pitiful, they're not also powerful. That is, they imply that racism and sexism are no longer extant systems of oppression, but have been reduced to sad epiphenomena of the futile resistance to progress - if only it were so!

Vincent's interesting but irritating book seems deeply invested in the binary (male/female) concept of gender; it reifies the very categories it (ostensibly) seeks to understand. She's right that patriarchal socialization stunts men's emotional growth, but by promoting essentialistic and binary ideas of gender, she's steering in the wrong direction if we wish to overcome this problem.
Profile Image for Ben.
48 reviews3 followers
November 18, 2008
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. Not even close. [...] What follows is just my view of things, myopic and certainly inapplicable to anything so grand as a pronouncement on gender in American society."

So, I recommend the book; I found it funny and enjoyable reading. But please keep in mind that you shouldn't try to glean too much from it. I think the real purpose is to get the reader to think about gender issues. And to possibly say something insightful about one's one experiences. At this I think the author succeeded.
Profile Image for Megan Baxter.
985 reviews658 followers
May 19, 2014
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 statements were based on pretty shaky anecdotes.

Note: The rest of this review has been withdrawn due to the recent changes in Goodreads policy and enforcement. You can read why I came to this decision here.

In the meantime, you can read the entire review at Smorgasbook
Profile Image for sylas.
715 reviews54 followers
July 16, 2007
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 referred to a potential date with the slur "liminally autistic". I literally threw the book across the room.

Read it if you want to, of course. Just know I thought this book was offensive trash.
May 6, 2015
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
Profile Image for Jessica.
2,207 reviews47 followers
November 17, 2008
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 opening of her worldview shows more than anything the true impact of her experience. Well worth a read for anyone who wants to see how feminism is evolving, and for women just plain curious about how the other half lives.
Profile Image for Suzanne.
54 reviews1 follower
September 12, 2008
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 least be able to decipher the amazing creatures whose bodies are strange and different and who act in incomprehensible ways? Well, I do! And this book answers the question for me of what men are REALLY like when women aren't around! This book is so much fun to read. Norah Vincent has the guts and the curiosity - and the sensitivity - to pull off this amazing disguise. You won't believe until she tells you, in great detail, but she is actually able to assemble a disguise that enables her to be totally accepted as a man - and I mean to the extent that she is able to infiltrate a men's bowling league, the dating scene, a high pressure job that will sound familiar to those of us who have seen the movie "Glengarry Glen Ross", an "Iron John"-type of men's retreat, and a monastary. But this isn't just a parlor trick. The author is acutely sensitive and compassionate, with an eye for detail and a heart full of wisdom. She brings new understanding to us women about how men live and how they deal with their emotional pain. It is a sympathetic, humorous, well-written and enlightening book, one of the most enjoyable reads I've had in a long time. Go read it right now!
Profile Image for Sarah.
Author 20 books
October 18, 2008
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 monastery, a men's movement retreat, etc) but that was exactly what she wanted to get a look at, men in specific different habitats, not just all men in general. So I'm not sure why these people are expecting something from this book the author did not even set out to do. I highly recommend this to everyone; it's a great, fascinating read.
89 reviews4 followers
November 26, 2007
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 were closed to her as a woman, but found out that isn't so. One of her conclusions, and I guess this could be good or bad news depending on who you are, is that the white male is just another stereotype now, not some all powerful exclusive club.
Profile Image for Loren.
Author 48 books318 followers
February 26, 2011
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 with the Big Reveal -- telling the people she's duped that she's really a woman and that she intends to write about their misguided attempts to relate to her as a man. This is barely justified as a postmortem of how well she passed and how she might do better at it. Mostly it just seems mean.

For instance, in the chapter on dating, she goes on at some length to paint the straight women whom she met online as damaged, distrustful, manipulative, self-deceptive, and needy. After she reveals herself as just another predator, several of the women still consent to have sex with her. I'm confused how the "psych!" makes the world a better place, or why she proceeded to mercy fuck the women who'd liked her because she was such a good listener. What exactly does that have to do with men?

Perhaps my favorite part of the book was the chapter called Sex, in which Vincent trolls around the diviest strip clubs she can find. She repeatedly buys herself lap dances, then puzzles over what it is men get from them. She finds them embarrassing and degrading for both members of the transaction. Um...might I suggest that you don't have the equipment to fully appreciate the situation? In fact, only one of the dancers actually comments on her limp dick, and Vincent doesn't extrapolate that they probably all have discussed the creepy lurker who can't get off. The lack of self-awareness in the chapter was breathtaking.

The book reads very quickly, which was a bonus. In the end, however, I didn't pity Vincent, who drove herself into depression after her year of using people. I also didn't feel the pity she did for the men who seemed so worn down by trying to live in the confines of their white heterosexual lower middle-class world. I felt sorry for the people who trusted her: welcomed her into their monastery, their self-help circle, their bowling league, their bedrooms. It would have been one thing for her to explore their milieux, gone on her way, and written her book. People come and go in one's life all the time. For her to insist on revealing herself time and time and time again, to rub people's faces in what fools they had been, seemed unnecessary and cruel.

Perhaps the most telling part (and least explored by Vincent) was her desire at the culmination of the men's retreat to be cut by one of the men she'd befriended. She wanted to be physically hurt, to be punished for her deceptions. I couldn't help but wonder if she'd set up all of her investigations as a way to get herself bashed, either as a gay man who couldn't behave appropriately in the homophobic situations she enabled or as a transvestite woman breaching communities which have consciously and intentionally withdrawn from women. Was her depression at the end of the experiment simply the suffering she felt she deserved and couldn't find at anyone else's hands?

I don't have any answers. This is merely my analysis of a flawed ethnography by an admittedly deceptive and captivatingly myopic narrator.

Mostly I'm curious how she scored such a media coup when the book was published.
Profile Image for Kat.
940 reviews
August 28, 2015
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 good dash of amusement.

Firstly, I applaud Vincent for having the guts to live in disguise for more than a year. I understand why that must have been an emotional rollercoaster. That being said, I'm not that enthusiastic about her approach. She seems to have started her project with some sturdy assumptions, she just loved to see confirmed. As her character Ned, she seems to have a thing for the troubled among us: he fishes in all the murky waters. When you visit a trashy strip club, wouldn't it make quite the story if you stumbled upon a dandy? Her descriptions of these raunchy places are unsettling, yes. But these are not the sort of "revelations" I had put Vincent through the entire process of becoming a man for.

She finds that most men really are twisted and behave disturbingly. The women? She dates ones that bitterly refer to men as "meat with a pulse" and feel the urge to hostily discuss abortion (on a first date, yes!). Don't get me wrong, I can sense where these women are coming from, I just can't relate. As a girl, would you go through the entire process of hooking up with a potential love interest over the Internet, only to verbally slaughter him over a coffee? I didn't think so either. Now what are the chances of Ned meeting these women over and over again?

Oh yes, do we live in a fucked up world in which Mars and Venus are equally frustrated. But this conclusion is altogether too simplistic. A woman in disguise, living in a mens' world...these ingredients should at least guarantee a little humor and refreshing insights. Hell, in Hollywood, they'd base six seasons of a sitcom on this. I personally think Vincent's experiment didn't have to leave such a bitter taste in my mouth, or hers.
Profile Image for Donitello.
38 reviews9 followers
December 31, 2008
Unlike many of the people who, to my great surprise, give this book low ratings, I had no feelings of disgust or outrage toward it at all. This may be because I expected it to be neither a scientific work nor some sort of feminist Word Of God. I simply found the topic interesting, the quality of her work acceptable on all counts, and some of her experiences quite surprising (yet resonant).

The most valuable insights I gained from this book are what she herself expressed as the two biggest surprises she encountered:

1) Among other things, she had expected to finally see what the "privileged" position of males in our society was really like. For the main part, she experienced no great privileges.

2) As a part of the "inner circle" of boys-only, she expected to hear numerous open expressions of disrespect for women. To the contrary, she was struck by the deep devotion many of the men -- even sexist Joe Six-Packs -- felt toward the women in their lives.

These two insights were alone worth the price of the book, although there was much else that was eye-opening. The crappy way she was treated by the straight women she tried to date was amusing in a macabre sort of way. (And yes, that too resonated. Unlike some of the other reviewers here, I deeply regret to say that I AM acquainted with many women who fit these descriptions.) In addition, the moment-to-moment harassment of men to keep them in their "masculine" roles was news to me. Yet, once more, it rang completely true as I examined it.

When she ended the book by declaring, "I'm glad to be a woman," I thought perhaps I heard the a faint trumpeting of the end of the "Lifetime Television" era of victim-based feminism. THAT would work for me in a BIG way.
Profile Image for Leajk.
102 reviews70 followers
January 22, 2014
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 and A Serious Proposal to the Ladies).

My initial reaction to reading the book was frustration and anger just as many other reviewers here, and even now after I've calmed down, I can't help but to feel that this is at the very least a very uneven book. Perhaps it has something to do with the varying emotional involvement Norah Vincent had during her stint as a man. During the first chapters I was enraged, in the middle I was indifferent, but by the end of the book (in the monastery and the men's group) I was quite fascinated and intrigued. So I'm going to do a chapter by chapter review to disentangle the book with its strengths and weaknesses.

Note: I noticed that the review got really long so I've added spoiler tags for each chapter to give a overview. All the chapter titles that are within the parethesis are mine, added as guidance for future readers and in jest since I thought Vincent's titles were a bit too... aggrandising.

Chapter 1. Getting Started (or Why are we doing this?)

Chapter 2. Friends (or Bowling is a white-trash pass time or Only men can be true friends)

Chapter 3. Love (or Blind-dating past 30 sometimes sucks)

Chapter 4. Sex (or Titty bars for poor folks)

Chapter 5. Life (or The homosexual repressions of a monastery)

Chapter 6. Work (or Door-to-door-salesmen wear suits)

Chapter 7. Self (or Men's groups are angry, but also sad)

Chapter 8. Journey's end (or Analysis)

When I Was A Boy by Dar Williams sums up my feelings on the subject pretty nicely.
Profile Image for mr. kate.
41 reviews15 followers
September 28, 2011
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.
Profile Image for Louise.
1,631 reviews285 followers
April 19, 2019
s in the now classic Black Like Me Norah Vincent meticulously plans and develops a disguise that will allow her to walk in a another's shoes. For a year and a half she is "Ned" and thrusts herself into different male roles. The book succeeds as a good read, but has limited value in its gender research. Touched on at the end, but not fully developed, was the ultimate fate of the author and how she crumbles from the pressure from living a false life. A dialog on how deceit and pretense can erode a psyche could be an interesting by-product of Vincent's research.

The chapter called "Love" was about dating. While the method was hardly scientific, it was the most enlightening on gender issues. Vincent's observes about how singles "confront" one another and expect to be hurt. She shows the baggage both males and females bring to their interactions. It is here where the disguise is most helpful in eliciting natural responses that might not otherwise be found.

In the chapter "Life" I enjoyed learning about individuals who chose monastic life and how their society is not free from pettiness. Attitudes towards sexuality are shown through anecdotes and were not surprising. In revealing her true self to the monks she receives Christian charity.

The sociological aspects of gender in lap dance clubs and door to door sales have been covered from so many angles that while Vincent's stories are interesting to read, there are no breakthroughs. Who wouldn't be surprised to find sad males, self-hating dancers or attention to the bottom line by dancers and management at lap dance clubs? One doesn't need an elaborate disguise to learn about macho ways to psych-up a sales force, how guys talk on the beat, or the how gender is manipulated to get ahead. These chapters are interesting for the slices of life that they are.

For me, the bowling episode illustrated the fault lines in class more than gender. Vincent is fully unaware. She compares the men's mix of coaching and competitiveness to that her peers at a tennis camp. The men's retreat was interesting in that I haven't read much about these and that they rarely appear in the media.

The male groups chosen may be the most accessible to a researcher, but they, in total do not encompass a very large segment of the male population. For instance, a veteran's group could replace the monastery and perhaps volunteering in a support function (since locker rooms would sink the project) for a major sport could substitute for being on a bowling team. The use of more representative groups would improve the research.

It would also have been better if the writer had a wider perspective. The author used a lot of pop jargon and showed an acceptance of what I come to think of as "media imparted wisdom". Two stand out. Vincent's expectation of racism and union membership (or at least support) among members of the bowling team shows her lack of interaction with blue collar people prior to her research. Vincent believes (and states as fact on p. 258) that Hillary Clinton owes her Senate seat to the women's movement. Clinton won this seat despite the nasty backlash to the women's movement which objectified her and made her its ultimate target. (It is the Sarah Palin generation that has a debt to the women's movement.) The backlash of the 80's and 90's illustrates the entrenchment of gender roles and how much emotional energy was (and still is) vested in them.

Through this research, Vincent becomes very sympathetic to men. She sees the stresses they have and the limited emotional range society permits them to have. These pressures may be similar to the ones bearing on her as she, like them, tries to act the male part.

Vincent's disguise and her acting abilities must have been first rate. She has unique observations and she presents them in a fun way. In many places this is a page turner. The act of doing what she did is an achievement in itself, but this work will not endure as the Griffen classic has for the limitations noted above.
Profile Image for Spider the Doof Warrior.
433 reviews238 followers
June 21, 2012
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 also personalities. Are we really from different planets or do we just have different personalities and such? Do we follow the rules of culture too willingly?
This book is good in the sense that Norah Vincent shattered some of her assumptions and that's always a good thing to do.
She also sneaked into a men's movement retreat and these men talked about rescuing women and wanting to protect them.
This makes me think I would not want that. The book also makes me think that I wish I had a man with a mixture of male/female traits. With long hair and a deep voice who can be himself around me and he'll let me be myself.
That has nothing to do with the book, but it's what it makes me think of.

Also, boys are more vulnerable than girls in a way, yet we try to toughen them up. Then they grow up with women who want them to be sensitive and FEEL and they don't know how because when they fell and hurt themselves someone said "be a man" instead of holding them liked they needed too.
It depresses me that we can't be whole human beings instead of incomplete stereotypes.
404 reviews65 followers
December 6, 2009
This is one of the best books on gender I've ever read. It's a memoir of a woman who lived for two years as a man. She's not a transvestite, and this wasn't something she did for fun or because she felt like a man in a woman's body. She did it because she was a feminist, a former radical feminist, who decided to walk a mile in men's shoes and see the world from their perspective for a while, rather than just resenting them for their power. I have so much admiration for this.

She acknowledged that she could never fully experience what it's like to be a man, but she did figure she could get a good taste of it, and she certainly did. She didn't claim to be totally open-minded to men, and was very frank about her prejudices. A hard part of this experiment for her was the deception, which she felt very guilty for, though she knew it was a necessary part of the experiment. She did everything she could to minimize the damage of her deception. The hardest part of this experiment was the ways that living as her male alter-ego wreaked havoc on her personal identity, and she realized gender roles go much deeper into our personal identities than she imagined.

The most amazing thing about this book is how totally balanced and fair it is. She discovered many ways that men feel powerless in this society and presented them without sacrificing any of her feminist values. She seamlessly showed respect for both men and women simultaneously with a disrespect for both men and women. It never felt like a contradiction, but a well articulated understanding of the complexities of gender roles, and how they can hurt or help both men and women. Norah Vincent is an incredible writer.

Posing as a man named Ned, she infiltrated a men's bowling league, a strip club, a men's consciousness-raising group, a Catholic monastery, a door-to-door sales job, and she dated several women. These were fascinating gender experiments, and together they really demonstrated a lot of sides of male life, the good, the bad, and the ugly. The only criticism I have of this book is that it seemed she focused on the bad and the ugly extremes. This does give a good understanding of these extremes, which I think was her goal, but it doesn't give a very good understanding of men on the whole. Most men are not like the most of the men she met, although she is very good at acknowledging that not all men are the same.
Profile Image for Dan.
78 reviews30 followers
January 16, 2009
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 Vincent, a self proclaimed dyke, goes undercover in realistic drag, living large swaths of her life as a man for a couple of years. This immersion style leads her to question a great many of her own assumptions along the way (a fact that seems to alarm many who have also reviewed this book), but which seems to me to provide a great deal more insight onto the question than other works that seem to throw up their hands and take a "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" outlook.

Along the way, Vincent takes joins an all-male bowling league, takes jobs in several "testosterone-driven" careers, dates countless women and ends up going to an all male therapy retreat. If there was one major complaint I would take with this book, it would be that it seemed front-loaded. The earlier experiences were frequently ones that I could relate to more, whereas later experiences like the therapy group seemed to be dealing with some fairly damaged individuals. It got especially difficult at the end, trying to take away any serious message from people who just didn't seem to represent the larger population - either male or female.

In deciding what to write about this book, I did some reading of the reactions of others. Many have blasted Vincent for being overly sympathetic of the men in her tale and for lampooning women. While I can certainly understand why this is felt, I take some exception to the criticism. In many cases, I felt the author was merely putting herself in the mindset, attempting to play the role as best as she could. Often when she claimed to better understand a certain behavior, I didn't always feel that she was endorsing it. Nor did she equate her negative experiences with some women as being entirely representative of womankind.

I personally felt vindicated by some of the points that she elaborated in her book - often things that I have questioned myself, but never had a second opinion for. For example, her attention to the importance of eye-contact among men and the signals it conveys struck me as entirely true - something I've known instinctively, but never seen written down in black and white. Ditto for the male equivalent of the Madonna/whore paradox, which she chooses to call the warrior/minstrel complex. This being the idea that men are trained to act as hardened individuals, yet should somehow be equally capable of being attentive to and expressive of a large range of internal emotions.

A great deal of her anxiety as her alter ego, Ned, was not so much that she wouldn't 'pass' as a man, but would end up passing as less than a man (i.e. an effeminate/gay man). This is obviously something I can relate to strongly as a gay man myself, and perhaps this biased me. But it was still refreshing to see a voice that straddled the line between the sexes, pointing out the ridiculous nature of the chatter we frequently hear of about men and women being worlds apart.
Profile Image for Петър Стойков.
Author 3 books264 followers
May 10, 2022
Авторката на книгата решава да се преоблече и да види какво е да си мъж в днешно време - и понеже е висока, лесбийка и добра актриса - и се удава доста добре в продължение на година и половина. Тя се записва в боулинг-клуб, намира си мъжка компания с която ходи да порка, посещава стрийптийз клубове, даже ходи на срещи с жени за да види как е романтичната страна на живота от гледна точка на мъжете.

Изводите й са малко шокиращи за голяма част от обществото, особено "либералното" и феминистично настроено такова, както ще успеете да видите, ако прочетете ревютата на книгата в този сайт, особено тия които са с 1 звезда. Там обидени феминистки и борци за "социална справедливост" оревават света, че изводите на книгата не били правилни, че била плитка пропаганда и т.н. Което са глупости, разбира се - фактите са си факти и ако ги наричаш "пропаганда", проблемът вероятно е в погрешността на собствените ти идеи.

А фактите, както ги вижда авторката от живота си в мъжка кожа са, че на мъжете изобщо не им е толкова лесно, колкото тя си е мислела доскоро, и колкото повечето жени, особено феминистките, си мислят. Че да си мъж означава да се съобразяваш с много повече неписани обществени правила, отколкото жените, да имаш много повече задължения и да отговаряш на много повече и на много по-строги социални очаквания.

Книга, която много може да отвори очите на някои хора.
Profile Image for Ashley.
52 reviews14 followers
November 29, 2008
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 read it if not just for the insight into male and female communication and cognition differences, which are often misunderstood because of a lack of perspective.
Profile Image for laura.
44 reviews2 followers
April 5, 2007
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 like to see what it might feel like to walk around for a day in a man's skin, you might like this. Similarly, if you are a man and you're interested in seeing how a woman interprets your point of view, you may like this as well. But don't expect a scholarly work that provides a lot of sociological context or gender theory, because this book gives neither.
Profile Image for Saleh MoonWalker.
1,801 reviews269 followers
December 6, 2017
Onvan : Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again - Nevisande : Norah Vincent - ISBN : 670034665 - ISBN13 : 9780670034666 - Dar 290 Safhe - Saal e Chap : 2006
Profile Image for Frightful_elk.
218 reviews
August 17, 2007
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 her feelings, one cannot help but feel it is giving her a rather eschewed perception of what it is to be a man. She paints a rather lonely and tortured picture of the average man, but she goes to the extreme ends of male culture (strip bars, a monastry, mens self help group, a competitive work place) to find experiences and does not live a rounded of meaninful life as 'ned' her alter ego.

That is not to say her accounts arn't revealing though! But more intresting I found was her discoveries about what and why her gender was important to her. Self confessed tomboy and butch lesbian, she expected to have no trouble being an average joe, but found when passing as a male she came across as effeminate and frequently stumbled into male culture faux-pas's. Being a man she found meant far more than just appearing to be so, she found she was being resocialised into her male persona, and as a female, the stress of this was eventually to great.

So the meaningful thing I took away from this book is that manhood is not about how masculine or feminine you are, even living as a man will not make you one, it is a core part of one's identity. And when we try to live counter to our identity the results, as Norah found, are disasterous.
Profile Image for Sara.
179 reviews124 followers
January 5, 2009
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. The integration of the two voices (polar opposites in formality) causes the book credibility problems, but if you can look past that, you'll find some stellar thinking.

Vincent's foray into the world of men was absolutely fascinating, and made me sad for men in a thousand ways. I am a pushy broad, mostly by lifelong necessity, but I suffer from the same need for comfort that most of the people in the book suffer. Vincent does a lovely job of exploring those double needs (aggression and passivity) in all of us.
Profile Image for Tatiana.
549 reviews
November 29, 2007
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 she was so quick to defend men on everything they do, or side with them (there's one particular scene where she is trying to ask a woman in a group of women in a bar out on a date and the frustration leads her to believe she understands the feelings behind wanting to rape). i think gender relations, men and women are far more complex and have a deeper, more confusing history than she would have someone believe. and forget about anything more in depth than the average white american man and woman, whatever that means, she's not going there, nor does she acknowledge the trans movement and women previous to her who have passed as men and still do, or who actually live as men. bah.
Profile Image for Shellie (Layers of Thought).
399 reviews63 followers
March 4, 2009
I found this book in an international airport terminal's book store, and was really pleased to have done so.
I have always been fascinated by men and how they think, feel, and behave. I always have felt to better understand a man or men would allow me to have better relationships with them. I believe that this is true.
This book allowed me to do this and gave me further insight from the male perpective, ironically from a women experiencing what it is like to be a man by living as one. (By the way the process she goes through is very interesting.)
The author does an amazing job giving the reader insight into what men are really like because she is sensitive and non-judgemental about the male experience. She is obviously an "evolved feminist" whom likes men, which contradicts the myth that lesbians hate men.
I do recommend this book for anyone interested in human behavior, women or men whom are interested in the "male experience", or relationships.
Profile Image for John.
10 reviews1 follower
December 23, 2008
Fascinating insight into the world of men as viewed by a woman. Her conclusions are colored by her specific experiences, of course. I took exception to the chapter on sex. I don't think Ms. Vincent's experiences at bottom-of-the-barrel strip clubs can lead to much that reflects on the type of person who wouldn't go to one.
Profile Image for Rachel C..
1,809 reviews4 followers
February 20, 2015
Author Norah Vincent spent about a year and a half "undercover" as a man. I have to say, I found this book completely engrossing. Beyond the inherent interest of the idea, Vincent is a thoughtful and vivid writer and she has a gift for making the specific come alive, and then connecting it to the universal.

(Small caveats: Some of the activities she chose struck me as a bit gimmicky - the monastery in particular. And YMMV on how comfortable you are with the amount of lying she had to do to more or less innocent bystanders.)

Going into this book, I thought it'd be all about how awesome it is to be a man. Vincent makes it clear early on that this would not be the case, which was a surprise to her as well. A tomboy in childhood and a lesbian, she writes:

"At the beginning of the project I remember thinking that living as a man and having access to a man's world would be like gaining admission to the big auditorium for the main event after having spent my life watching the proceedings from a video monitor on the lawn outside... the real deal live and three feet from my face, instead of seen through a glass darkly. To be sure, there was a time in America when this would have been so, when boardrooms and a thousand other places were for men only... But for me getting into the so called boys' club in the early years of the new millennium felt much more like joining a subculture than a country club... [It] seemed in certain ways a lot like how it feels to interact with other gay people in the straight world."
"I know that a lot of my discomfort came precisely from being a woman all along, remaining one even in my disguise. But I also know that another respectable portion of my distress came, as it did to the men I met in group and elsewhere, from the way the world greeted me in that disguise, a disguise that was almost as much of a put-on for my men friends as it was for me. That, maybe, was the last twist of my adventure. I passed in a man's world not because my mask was so real, but because the world of men was a masked ball."
"I rarely enjoyed and never felt in any way fulfilled personally by being perceived and treated as a man... On the contrary, I identify deeply with both my femaleness and my femininity, such as it is, more so after [my alter ego], in fact, than ever before."
"As a guy you get about a three-note emotional range. That's it, at least as far as the outside world is concerned. Women get octaves, chromatic scales of tears and joys and anxieties and despairs and erotic flamboyance, and now after black bra feminism, we even get vitriol, too... But guys get little more than bravado and rage. Forget doubt. Forget hurt. They take punches. They take care of business. And their intestines liquefy under the stress.

I know mine did.

Yes, it's true guys get good stuff, too. Sometimes they still get a special respect and deference and a license to brag. I found this in the workplace. I got the power to exaggerate, to believe in my 'nine-inch dick' and my '180 IQ,' illusory or not... I had at times the billy club confidence of pure stupid unwarranted self-belief that I have seen in more guys than I can count. I always used to wonder how they did it. Now I know. They did it because a tough front is all you have when there's nothing behind it but the weakness that you're not allowed to show. It's the biggest gift you get, compensation for the rest, as if the culture were telling you, 'We're going to cut out your heart, but we'll give you legs and a VIP pass to make up for it.'"

I found this review incredibly hard to write. I know I'm not doing the book justice with the swathes of block quotations but really what I'm saying is, the author says it best. Take my thumbs up for what it's worth and go get it from the source.
Profile Image for Cass.
488 reviews102 followers
July 28, 2013
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 it tackles the really seedy stuff.

I found the chapter discussing the inner workings of a strip club, even to the point the the author had a few lap dances, really depressing. It was a sombre section of the book, but I don't think it required a female to tell that story, and that is the big problem I have with the book.

The author, a lesbian and feminist, paints with broad strokes. I read about how her male persona (Ned) hits up strips joints with a friend. The friend has a wife and kids at home, and I can't help but feel this is what she expects of all men.

She joins a bowling league, goes on lots of dates, spends time in a monastry, joins a weird mens help group, and takes a job as a hardcore salesman. These are testosterone filled groups to be sure, but hardly representative of men as a whole.

I struggled greatly with this.

I really took great issue with the lives that she messed with as well. Dating women, even getting into the bedroom before revealing herself to be female. Something about all of it bothered me.

She ends the book by checking herself in a mental hospital (which I just noticed is the subject of another book). I just don't get what is good about any of this.
Profile Image for Ruut.
10 reviews
February 14, 2023
Aluksi mielenkiintoinen ja mukaansatempaava lukukokemus, mutta loppua kohti kirja huononi ja alkoi toistaa itseään. Siinä samassa aloin myös huomata kirjailijan ajatusmaailman kääntöpuolia: siinä, missä hän yrittää ymmärtää miehiä paremmin, on hän ilmeisesti sokea osittain stereotyyppiselle näkemykselleen naisista. Kuitenkin neljä tähteä on mielestäni ansaittu, koska kirjailija selvästi ilmaisee teoksen olevan kertomus hänen omasta kokemuksestaan kaikkine aukkoineen ja virheineen eikä väitä kertovansa yleispätevää totuutta.
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