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Self-made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again

     by Vincent, Norah

Self-made Man: One Woman's Journey into Manhood and Back Again

For a year and a half, author Norah Vincent passed as a man in a variety of situations. Her inspiration for the book was the evening a friend of her's decided they should dress in drag and head out. She was surprised to find that walking down the street in a New York neighborhood their disguises worked. However, she did notice that she was treated differently, recognized and yet ignored. This experience intrigued her and she wanted to know more. Thus began her journey into the world of the white American man as a man. Her journey would take her through the high testosterone-filled world of sales and seedier experiences in strip clubs It would also give her glimpses of life as a common working class man in an all men's bowling league. In one of the most interesting passages, she spends time in a monastery posing as a potential postulant. Additionally, one chapter relates her experiences dating as a man. Throughout she gains insight into the way gender is constructed and reinforced voluntarily and coercively by men and women.  

This is a fascinating book, though probably not for everyone. While few of Vincent's insights are truly original (most have been covered by the very small men's movement as well as a part of the larger feminist movement), Vincent's experiences ring true and provide an eyewitness account. She sees that while possible to take the man out of the culture, one cannot remove the culture from the man. One theme that runs through the book (in hindsight according to the author) is that American masculinity in general is deception. Vincent struggles with her own deception in passing as a man and eventually has a nervous breakdown.

Reviewed by dd, 7/09. Other reviews by dd.