The reaction to Norah Vincent's Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again has been decidedly mixed. David Kemp, in The New York Times, was let down towards the end but found most of the book gratifying:

[I]n its best moments, Self-Made Man transcends its premise altogether, offering not an undercover woman's take on male experience, but simply a fascinating, fly-on-the-wall look at various unglamorous male milieus that are well off the radar of most journalists and book authors.

Then there was this from a LiveJournal writer:

The book was very interesting, the kind of insight it offered into men's lives was very valuable to me, but it came to this dead end where we're supposed to feel bad for men. She hinted as social reform, at including men in the fight against 'patriarchy', but it all fell flat for me because it was a big blamefest. Fathers not paying attention to their sons, mothers chiding feminine behaviour in boys, women expecting mates to be both macho and tender at the same time. It's a pity-party, not social reform.

And finally, this from the Shouting Thomas blog:

What a farce! What condescension! And, what does she discover? Why, we men don't beat up our wives just for fun! Imagine that. You couldn't just, say, read Ernest Hemingway and Henry Miller to know what men think. No, we need a lesbian feminist to interpret the strange world of masculinity.

It's not that we need one, exactly, but who else will speak up for the guys? If we do it, anything we say will be dismissed as self-serving bloviation, and few are the straight women who are inclined to say anything on our behalf these days, especially if they suspect they're being overheard by persons wearing "Crush the Patriarchy" shirts.

Vincent, I think, is one of very few women who actually has a grip on that nebulous concept called "male privilege": yes, it exists, sort of, but oh, what a price is exacted for it!

[I]t wasn't being found out as a woman that I was really worried about. It was being found out as less than a real man, and I suspect that this is something a lot of men endure their whole lives, this constant scrutiny and self-scrutiny.... [T]hat, I learned very quickly, is the straitjacket of the male role, and one that is no less constrictive than its feminine counterpart. You're not allowed to be a complete human being. Instead you get to be a coached jumble of stoic poses. You get to be what's expected of you.

Add to this the reasonable probability that your Significant Other finds you lacking in something or other were you perfect, she'd distrust you from the word Go and it's no damned wonder we die nine years sooner. I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm glad at least one woman can see it from this side of the aisle: if there's one, it's not unreasonable to presume that there's another. Maybe even straight.

The Vent

  1 February 2006

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 Copyright © 2006 by Charles G. Hill