Self-made Man

Author Norah Vincent lives 18 months as a man to study gender, checks herself into three mental institutions after the crushing depression that follows.


20/20 segment on Norah Vincent, who lived as 18 months as a man and wrote a book about it.

Pretty interesting segment and I may pick up the book.

Some choice quotes:

Men are suffering.  They have different problems than women have, but they don’t have it better. They need our sympathy, they need our love and they need each other more than anything else.

Interviewer: Do you think women understand what it’s like to be a man?

Norah: Not at all. No clue.  No idea.

Interviewer: Did you like being a woman before “Ned”?
Norah: I did, but I like it more now because I think it’s more of a privilege.


Woman lives as a man for 2 years as an experiment

They wanted a man to be confident. They wanted in many ways to defer to him. I could feel that on many dates, the unspoken desire to be held up and led, whether in conversation or even in physical space, and at times it made me feel quite small in my costume, like a young man must feel when he’s just coming of age, and he’s suddenly expected to carry the world under his arm like a football. And some women did find Ned too small physically to be attractive. They wanted someone, they said, who could pin them to the bed or, as one woman put it, “someone who can drive the bus.” Ned was too willowy for that, and came up wanting.


Yet as much as these women wanted a take-control man, at the same time, they wanted a man who was vulnerable to them, a man who would show his colors and open his doors, someone expressive, intuitive, attuned. This I was in spades, and I always got points for it, but feeling the pressure to be that other world-bestriding colossus at the same time made me feel very sympathetic toward heterosexual men, not only because living up to Caesar is an immensely heavy burden to bear, but because trying to be a sensitive new age guy at the same time is pretty well impossible. If women are trapped by the whore/Madonna complex, men are equally trapped by this warrior/minstrel complex. What’s more, while a man is expected to be modern, that is, to support feminism in all its particulars, to see and treat women as equals in every respect, he is on the other hand often still expected to be traditional at the same time, to treat a lady like a lady, to lead the way and pick up he check.

Expectation, expectation, expectation. That was the leitmotif of Ned’s dating life, taking on the desirable manly persona or shrugging off its dreaded antithesis. Finding the right balance was maddening, and operating under the constant weight of so much political guilt was simply exhausting. Though, in the parlance of liberal politics, I had operated in my real life under the burden of being a doubly oppressed minority – a woman and a lesbian – and I had encountered the deprivations of that status, as a man, I operated under what I felt in these times to be the equally heavy burden of being a double majority, a white man.

Women and men communicate differently, often on entirely different planes. But just as men have failed us, we have failed them. It has been one of our great collective female shortcomings to presume that whatever we do not perceive simply isn’t there, or that whatever is not communicated in our language is not intelligible speech.”

“If women are trapped by the whore/Madonna complex, men are equally trapped by the warrior/minstrel complex. What’s more, while a man is expected to be modern, that is, to support feminism in all its particulars, to see and treat women as equals in every respect, he is on the other hand often still expected to be traditional at the same time, to treat a lady like a lady, to lead the way and pick up the check.
—  Norah Vincent in Self-Made Man

“Gender lives in your brain, it’s something much more than costume”. 

If you have 20mins to spare today, this will be worth it. Share it with everyone you know who will benefit, women and men alike.

A Self Made Man on 20/20 (The undercover journey of a gay woman as a man)

     Unfortunately I’m not able to embed these videos here.  I’ve linked to an article about this woman in the past.  These videos are from the episode of 20/20 that featured her story.

     Norah Vincent went undercover as a man for 18 months, dating, hanging out, going to a men’s retreat and even going to a monastery.  The experience radically changed her views on men.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

‘I remember when I was in the army,’ he’d say, 'and I was drunk off my ass as usual. And there was this huge guy playin’ pool in the bar I was in. And I don’t know why, but I just flicked a beer coaster at him, and it hit him right in the back of the head. And he turned around really slowly and he looked down at me and he said in this really tired way, 'Do we really need to do this tonight?’ And I said, 'Nah, you’re right. We don’t. Sorry.’ So he turned around, and fuck me if I didn’t just throw another one and hit him again, right in the back of the head. I don’t know why I did it. No fuckin’ idea. And I knew when I did it that he was gonna kick my ass, so I turned around and tried to run, and I slipped in a puddle of beer and fell on my face, and he just picked me right up and bashed the shit out of me. And the funniest thing about it was that the whole time he was punching me, he kept apologising to me for having to do it.’
—  Norah Vincent (from The Guardian)
Macho like Me - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Her motivation for making the documentary was many stranded relationships with men[5] together with a stereotypical view that men have it easier in life than women after growing up with her brother being "treated like a crown prince, while she and her sister were judged purely on their marital prospects".[6] So Lee sets out to see if the grass is greener on the other side having the view to want to prove that men have it better than women with all the strength and freedom she attributes them.[7] It turns out, though, that she gets a new view that surprises her, as her experience as a man returns her surprising conclusions that makes her question the gender roles and the true meaning of being a "woman" or "man". What started out as a critique of male-gender advantages turns into an unexpected personal enlightenment in which she deconstructs the male identity and portrays all types of men on the verge of nervous breakdowns.

Before there was Norah Vincent…

Anonymous asked you:

“i’m just kind of sick of this mental illness hierachy where well-off rich white ppl with (usually not life-long debilitating) depression & anxiety use their personal experiences to speak for all of us” same. i don’t want to say that people who “only” suffer from depression or anxiety have it good or anything, but sometimes when i read what some of them say about us with other kind of mental illnesses it really pisses me off.

yeahhhh i mean in ways this is a mixture of different issues, like, one is that there are mental illnesses that are sort of unquestionably more stigmatized than others.  and unfortunately that stigma is often also perpetrated by other mentally ill people with less stigmatized disorders, like norah vincent in her book.  there’s just something profoundly annoying about people who were depressed for a little bit and then decided that they’re the Expert on mental illness, especially the Expert on those crazy people that they’re quick to assure you they’re not.    the other issue is that there’s a huge range of experiences with mental illness in general, and especially with depression and anxiety because they’re less likely to be as debilitating and chronic as something like psychosis.  because of that, there’s a huge extra leap in stigma and the treatment people with chronic and severe depression and/or anxiety experience compared to say, the people who experience low-level anxiety or a few depressive episodes that last maybe 6 months each time.  not to say that these people don’t deserve treatment and respect - they do! especially since without it it may morph into something more chronic or severe! but all the same their experiences aren’t going to be the same as someone for whom depression is a lifelong chronic illness.
like this is why i kind of resent all those ¼ campaigns trying to normalize mental illness bc these campaigns always seem to predicate on how these ppl are just like everyone else and there’s not much talk of dysfunction and being disabled or how even people who’ll have mental illness so debilitating that they’ll never be able to work deserve normality and respect.

Men get married, but their sexuality doesn’t then magically disappear amid the bliss of family life. Hence the preponderance of married men loping off in shame and secret to the strip club.

Sometimes even respectable men with respectable lives have primal ugly stuff bracketed somewhere in their minds, kept in its place apart from the purported love that goes with the responsibilities of fatherhood and husbanding. How could it be otherwise? Much as they might have liked them to, these drives and desires didn’t somehow cease to exist in respectable company. It was only society’s prevailing myth, or perhaps female wish fulfillment, that had pretended otherwise. As a result, individual men and women were left to sort out the sordid reality on their own, hurting and getting hurt because sometimes it was too hard to successfully resolve the conflict between baseline male sexuality and the civilized role of a man.

These clubs and the thoughts and feelings that produce them are the squalid subbasement of male sexuality in which a lot of men have at least one foot or toe firmly planted. No matter how high they ascend in the civilized world, no matter how tall, how dapper, how educated or savvy they stand in the stratosphere of age and accomplishment, a lot of average guys still have a nudie film loop flickering in the back of their minds. And the more educated, politicized, refined they become, the more ashamed of their base proclivities they often feel.

Self-Made Man (2006), by Norah Vincent