A 'Self-Made Man' called Norah

What she found has shocked women, but men are rejoicing
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The Independent Online

Norah Vincent has led a full and varied life. She studied for a degree in philosophy. She wrote a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times. She was a senior fellow at a defence industry think tank. And she lived for 18 months as a man.

What Ms Vincent discovered during this time has shocked women, and is being used as a rallying cry by men.

Self-Made Man, which will be published in the UK in April, pulls no punches. To women, she says: "Men are not what you think." To men, she says: "You have it harder than people know."

After a year and a half working, socialising and dating as a man, she has concluded that men and women "live in parallel worlds".

Ms Vincent had the idea when she saw a reality TV show in which three people changed their gender for a day. Only the woman who dressed and acted as a man was not immediately found out. So, with help from a "drag king" friend, she snipped off tiny pieces of her hair, which she glued to her face to form a five o'clock shadow, and bound her breasts. She even shopped around for a "comfortable" prosthetic penis.

Going by the name of Ned, she says she was not once recognised as a woman. She joined a Catholic monastery ("I wanted to know what celibacy does to a man") and became a member of an all-male, blue-collar bowling league, where the symbols and subtleties of male friendship were revealed. A handshake "was an instant inclusion... Woman-to-woman introductions often seem fake and cold".

During the 18 months, Ms Vincent developed an affinity for men that surprised her. She writes of muscular men who feel "objectified" by women and quiet men who are often ignored. One of the hardest things about maleness was the expectation that she should not enunciate her feelings. "As a guy, you get about a three-note emotional range," she says. "Women get octaves, chromatic scales of tears and joys and anxieties."

Women did not get her sympathy. Although they complain of men's domineering ways, it was the women who dominated most of their conversations. Dating women, she reveals, also turned her into "a momentary misogynist".

American women have responded with a mixture of guilt and scorn. On the whole, men have rejoiced.

Whether the same debate will rage here, when the book is published by Grove Atlantic, remains to be seen.

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