31. Self-Made Man:One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again by Norah Vincent
I heard a lot about this book when it first came out, but never really felt compelled to pick it up until I read Vincent’s more recent book Voluntary Madness. I enjoyed that book, and she referred to Self-Made Man in it and how her experiences writing that book lead her into the depression she was experiencing during her writing of Voluntary Madness. So I decided to check it out.
Basically Vincent spends 18 months impersonating a man and inserting herself into situations that she deemed extremely male in nature to in order to see how she could fit in as a man and to learn about what it’s like to be male. She spent time on a bowling league, working in an extremely brash male dominated sales job, living in a monastery, patronizing strip clubs, and joining a men’s group based on John Bly’s Iron Man. She also entered the dating scene. She eventually revealed herself to many of the people she interacted with including her bowling team, some of the monks, some of the people she interacted with at the strip club, and a few of the women she dated.
I had a hard time with this book mostly because I couldn’t get past all the people I felt like she was betraying. Pretty much all of the people she eventually told about her experiment (all the name of writing a book I might add) seemed to be okay with it. Although that’s coming from her mouth and may or may not accurately portray their true feelings. Three of the women she dated even slept with her after she told them the truth even though they were self-professed heterosexuals (Vincent is actually a lesbian). I took issue with that only because the book is dedicated to her beloved wife and I have to assume she was at least in some sort of committed relationship during the time that all this was going on.
She attempts to absolve herself at the beginning of the book saying that all that she suffered spiraling back into a depression, which she claims is a result of the cognitive dissonance she experienced while being a woman living as man, is far more horrible than any deception of the people she was interacting with.
Also I’m not sure that she found out anything all that relavatory in the process. I don’t think she told me one thing about being a guy that I didn’t already know, so I’m not sure that this book was worth all the pain she caused herself or others even if she doesn’t want to own up to that.
That being said it wasn’t a bad book. Vincent is a good writer. If you decide to read it just don’t expect any great revelations and be prepared to feel a bit icky about her betrayal of the people she is interacting with. Particularly in the dating section. I give it a 6 out of 10.