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The Electric Smack Shack

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Self-Made Man, by Norah Vincent
dog says hello
Last night I finished reading Vincent's Self-Made Man: One Woman's Journey Into Manhood and Back Again. I'm very impressed.

Vincent went in drag as a guy named "Ned" for a year and a half and did her best to occupy the stereotypical niches of American masculinity, to see what they felt like. (Not good, it turns out.)

One thing that intrigued me is the fact that a lot of the experiences she seeks out are precisely the experiences I've spent a lot of my life trying to avoid precisely because they're so...what's the word...stereotypical. Mandated (hrm) by unthinking tradition and habit. But of course, being a guy I haven't completely managed to escape them either, so it's interesting to see what she makes of them. She finds grace notes in aspects of masculinity that I've never enjoyed or trusted, which makes me think I've probably been too hard on a lot of other guys over the years.

Now I have to go dig out my copy of Iron John...

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Yep, I read that a few years ago and enjoyed it, a bit like reading a report from an alien anthropologist studying earth.

Strangely, some of the women I know who've read it felt that she was unduly harsh to other women, i.e. her generalizations of relationships between women were much harsher than what these female readers had experienced.

That's interesting. One thing I noticed is that, as a woman writer living in New York, she's probably used to competing with other women at a very high level of achievement. By contrast, "Ned" explores his masculinity in bowling alleys, seedy strip clubs, low-income jobs, and singles bars. And a monastery. And a men's movement hug-a-thon. So when she compares male bonhomie to relations between women, she may not be comparing apples to apples simples because of differences in class.


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The strip club experience was different from any strip club experience I've ever had, and some of the conclusions drawn from that rang false for me, for that reason.

And I wonder if the bowling alley experience had been in Texas, would it have been any different? Some part of me thinks so. (Texas is the only place I've ever experienced 'real' bowling, as opposed to 'candlepin', which you really need to follow the link to understand why I don't consider it to be 'real' bowling. And that's the bowling I grew up with, and I thoroughly sucked at it. I didn't know I liked bowling until after I'd been in Texas for awhile.)

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