August 26, 2015

One Woman's Experience of Manhood

It's such a rare opportunity to get a woman's view of man's world, so when my friend and subscriber, John Richards sent along this example, I thought there was good reason to share it. It's about how Norah Vincent, a lesbian feminist, spent a year and a half disguised as a man.

John said, "While I don't necessarily agree with her view of men, her piece is one of those that works against the common notions of men as perpetrators, women as victims, and seeing traditional forms of masculinity as dangerous or destructive. I also like it because argues for equality between genders – not an easy thing at all. I think this would be great discussion material for a young men's group."

In 2006, Norah Vincent disguised herself as a man. By going undercover, she got access to man's world. She was doing immersion journalism, and to do so, she went through an extensive makeover and appeared as the male "Ned." The disguise included taking acting lessons, clothing, fake facial hair, and some strategically placed padding in a jockstrap!

With her Ned identity, she joined a bowling team, took on a high pressure sales job, visited strip clubs, and even spent time in a men’s therapy group. In doing so, Vincent got a view of manhood that hardly women don't normally get to see. In the process, she went a little crazy, and learned that being a man isn't as easy as she thought.

As you'll hear her explain in the video clip, she discovered that whatever male privileges and natural camaraderie between men may exist, guys pay a big price in their own battle with male sexual stereotypes. She learned about how men are supposed to embody masculine strength, endure pain, be competitive, be athletic, and the importance of competency in typically masculine skills. In addition, she felt men had to deal with being socialized against vulnerability and compassion, and had to struggle with learned, limited emotional expression. One of her realizations which resonated for me is when she said, "There's a tremendous potential for more tenderness between men."

"There is a time in a boy’s life
when the sweetness is pounded out of him;
and tenderness, and the ability
to show what he feels,
is gone."

Norah Vincent.

For a more in-depth understanding of Norah Vincent's experience, you can read her book, Self-Made Man: One Woman's Year Disguised as a Man. In the book as well as in the video, she goes into more detail about the guilt she still feels about having deceived the men who so readily welcomed her into their circle of friendship. I'll be curious about what gets stirred up for you in this clip.

If this clip doesn't show up use this link.

What are our boys learning about masculinity,
femininity, and all the other gender options
showing up in today's world?

By way of disclaimer, let’s be very clear, this is only one woman's perspective on manhood. It is full of her judgments, misconceptions, and sweeping generalizations about men. You and I both know lots of men who do not fit her model of what constitutes manhood today. But her story is still an oddly informative experiment. In addition to her observations about men, for better and worse, her experiment invites us all to ask hard questions about what our boys are learning about being a "man," femininity, and all the other gender options showing up in today's world.

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1 comment:

  1. Larry W.12:07 PM

    I love reading your blog, but today's entry about a woman going undercover to spy on men was disgusting. We already knew everything she "uncovered" and it was a ploy to sell her wares. Now, whenever men get together or at work, play and anywhere we can add the concept of spying to add to our list of things male.
    We have enough to do to bring boys and men together in real, safe places.


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