Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Review: Self-Made Man

"I don't really know what it's like to be a man. I never could. But I know approximately. I know some of what it is like to be treated as one. And that, in the end, was what this experiment was all about. Not being but being received."
-Norah Vincent, Self-Made Man


At the beginning of the semester I read 2 chapters from Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man. As the title implies, Vincent wrote the book on her experiences living as a man in various situations; dating, joining a bowling league, a Catholic monastery, a men's self-help group, and at strip clubs.

Overall, I thought this was a really interesting book and it's a really interesting testament to the theory that gender is a performance (see previous post). Vincent experienced a lot of emotional strife as a result of being a man (and that became the topic of her second book, Voluntary Madness), but what was really interesting to me when reading it was her perceptions of how she was treated differently when people assumed she was a man, and naturally altered her behavior to match their expectations (performance! performance! performance!).

I was not a fan of the strip club chapter and it just seemed to me like she was making really essentializing statements about sex workers, but the other chapters, which were much more focused on her functioning in relation to other people and especially in relation to other men, were really interesting and thoughtful. If you're at all interested in gender performance, masculinity, or how men and women could be more thoughtful in relating to one another, I recommend this book!

Below is a clip of Vincent promoting her book on The Colbert Report in 2006.

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