"Male like me" is the general idea of Ned/Norah Vincent's year and a half undercover as a man. Vincent is a tall lesbian, who has a masculine mien. After one night out in costume accompanying a drag king friend, and experiencing how differently people respond to men, even in passing on the street, she decided embark on an intensive research project. Dressed as a man, Vincent infiltrated a men's bowling league, strip clubs, the world of online dating, a monastery, some sales jobs, and finally a men's group.
Right in the beginning she acknowledges that her having deceived so many people in her research may not seem okay to many of her readers, and it turns out it isn't so okay with her either. Vincent's reporting is sort of a one woman psycho-sociological study. It's very interesting, but you can't help feel that her sample group is too small. Sometimes she seems undercover as an educated member of the middle class, more than as a woman. And even with the disclaimer, I often felt angry with her for invading mens' private spheres--and even more so for revealing herself to some of them.
Still and all, Vincent's sympathy/empathy for men after walking a few hundred miles in their shoes is informative. Startling and maybe a little off-putting is her not infrequent dislike for women. Or maybe that's just straight women? Just straight women feminists? So maybe I'm a little defensive. I think I'm justified, though, because although I saw understanding and sometimes pity for the women Norah dates or observes dancing naked as Ned, I didn't see as much humanity in how she deals with them as how she deals with every man she encounters. To be fair/give her her voice, this is a bit of commentary on the topic (from the Love chapter, on page 129),
I disliked these women and women in general because they--we--fall prey, as we must, to self-interest and chauvinism. I became a misogynist for a time becuase I expected better of women, because in the beginning I expected nothing of men. Anything they did was gravy because like a lot of women deep down I didn't think men were capable of much. In that regard, I was every bit as bad as my dates.
Where Vincent's narrative is the most edifying is when she talks about how men relate to and care for one another. It isn't as obvious or easy as the interactions between women, but it is just as supportive and even kind, just different. But then again where she says how competitive women are and how the male athletes she encounters are much more helpful than the women athletes she'd known in her past, I don't entirely believe her. I mean it may be true in her experience, but I want a larger survey.
Something really struck me in the Work chapter, and that was a new spin on the old story about how men are more assertive on the job. The old story is that they ask for raises like they deserve them and all that, whereas women are meeker and so don't rise as quickly or get equally rewarded. Well in Vincent's estimation, that interaction takes place on the other side of the table at least as much as it does on the worker's side. Management reacts to men differently. Well, everyone does. A man can get away with a Reservoir Dogs style aggression. They can respond to a question like, "...give me me two or three qualities that best describe you" with "Confident. Competent. Ambitious." and be seen as confident, competent, and ambitious. If a woman said the same things, she'd be viewed as arrogant, bitchy, and I'm afraid "ambitous" would have a whole 'nother flavor. Just ask Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Through her journey, Vincent, who had "been considered a masculine man all [her] life," discovers how truly feminine she is.
Finally, something I learned from the Sex chapter:
Did you know that "frottage" is a fancy word for dry-humping? I never saw that word on a SAT vocab list!