Newsflash: Even Dykes Have a Hard Time Being a Dude

Or so it goes in Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised As a Man.

Norah Vincent decides that there's no better way to understand what it means to be a man than to become one. She dons some fake stubble, takes a couple lessons on how to give out social cues of manliness, snaps in her tits with a sports bra, throws on bro-wear and swaggers out into the street.

And people buy it. Without question. This is unnerving - how far do people buy into the facade we present to the world? Unequivocally, it seems.

The first part of the book is full of duh moments - guys can't look each other in the eyes, well sure, it means fuck me or fight me. And that guys are initially more accepting of other men yet always hold each other at arms length in other ways - yep yep.

Vincent gets interesting when she infiltrates more specialized male-only environments.

A stay at a monastery is a painful, heart wrenching look at what happens when men live in a place where emotion is stripped away almost completely. What really surprised me was the all-consuming fear of homosexuality. I understand that it wouldn't be allowed but that it is such a constant fear and perceived threat was perplexing - until you understand how repressed are the emotional lives of these men. Of course what's missing is the female element which normally allows men a safe place to get in touch with their feelings.

Also gripping is Ned's attendance of meetings of men who subscribed to the men's movement. I had no idea such a thing existed. Tired with suppressing their emotions, filled with anger at fathers who had abandoned them etc. these men attempt to assist each other in a world that is constantly preventing them from becoming whole individuals. The women's movement is crucial and we have a long way to go but even though sneered at, at least it is universally seen to exist. The men's movement isn't even a blip on our radar, it's too shameful a thing to even exist for many.

Yet, these men need to stop demonizing their mothers, for God's sake. Mom's a product of the society that represses you, as well.

This is a quick and engrossing read; Vincent uses straightforward, unfussy language that refuses to distract the reader from the subject at hand.

Should be required reading for both sexes.

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