Self-Made Man – Norah Vincent
January 26, 2010 § 11 Comments
The tagline for this book reads: “One woman’s journey into manhood and back again”.
Translating that, Norah Vincent lives 18 months of her life disguised as a man. Ned, Norah’s man-name, goes places and joins clubs normally exclusively or predominantly male. As Ned, he joins a men’s bowling league, visits strip clubs, dates women (not that as Norah she doesn’t do that already), retreats to a monastery, and even goes to men’s workshops (places where they talk about emotions, not unlike AA, apparently).
The experience, to say the least, is one of a kind.
To be honest, I think the book rubbed me the wrong way from very early on.
I found a lot of the narrative quite sentimental. This being a book written by someone who had the guts to disguise herself and live in a world full of testosterone for more than a year, I had expected it to have a bit more edge. Quite surprisingly, the writing style was a little wishy-washy, and not quite as straightforward as I would have liked.
There were some parts that annoyed me no end. Like this:
… I began to wonder whether the most extreme men resort to violence with women because they think that’s all they have, their one pathetic advantage over all she seems to hold above them.
To not quote her out of context, she says this next:
I make no excuses for this. There are none.
But somehow I was left wondering if the book sounded apologetic for the violence that some men fall back to, regardless of whether it was against men or women. It may not have been her intention at all, and frankly, it could have been me being (overly) sensitive, but it did feel insulting.
She also wrote about how she met men who were struggling to come to terms with emotions that society would not allow them to have. How they had to keep it all in. Again, it felt at times that this was used as some sort of ‘excuse’ to forgive them for rage and anger.
It did get better in the end. Which was the part where she wrote about how she came to terms with herself after spending so much time disguised as a man. Her transformation into Ned was not only a physical transformation, but one that required a psychological change as well. She talked about how impossible it was for her to be both a man and a woman at the same time.
I guess in a way, this book was interesting as an experiment, but not particularly enjoyable as a book to read.
For: LGBT Challenge
*Note: This is submitted for the LGBT Challenge because the author herself is a lesbian. I had initially thought this could also be for the Women Unbound Challenge, but after reading it, I’m not so sure that the book touches on women’s studies at all. Given that the author is a feminist (or, she did Women’s Studies, but I’m not sure if she qualifies as a feminist), I didn’t think the overall theme of the book gave me much insight into a woman’s perspective in society.