Norah Vincent was your average left wing, feminist, lesbian, mid-thirties professional woman—until she decided to become a man.
No, I don’t mean she got a sex change. But she did decide to go undercover as a man for 18 months. Specifically as Ned Vincent. In her 2006 20/20 Interview and book Norah revealed what it is was like living as a man. She worked as a man, lived as a man, and even dated women as a man.
As a 5’10”, athletically built woman she could pass for a slender man of average height. Her reasoning, as she states in her book on the topic, Self-Made Man: One Woman’s Journey into Manhood and Back Again, that she wanted to learn what it was like to live in a man’s world as a man. Norah says, “I wanted to make friends with men. I wanted to know how male friendships work from the inside out.” Furthermore, she wanted to prove to the world that it could be done. A woman could cut it as a man. After all, isn’t that what feminists are always saying as they haughtily laugh, “I can do anything better than you.”
She joined a men’s bowling team. Expecting to be kicked off for subtly challenging the assumptions of men on the team, she found she was accepted with open arms. Eventually she found true camaraderie, and was surprised, despite frequent cussing, BS-ing, and masculine straight-talk. She admits that she came in as the judgmental one, expecting to find a bunch of racists, misogynists, and generally pathetic losers who liked to bitch about their wonderful, servile wives. She admits she was wrong, and that what men were looking for was non-judging friendship. Intimacy was the desire, in the male sense of it. Intimacy, different from, though not inferior to, the female intimacy to which Norah was more accustomed.
Considering it necessary to enter one of the most daunting fields Norah decided to date some women. She thought it would be easy. As a feminist she had been taught that women just wanted a chick in a man’s body. But, she was sorely mistaken.
Rejection after rejection taught her that women not only want a man to take charge, against all politically correct mantra of today, but that the warp and woof of the dating culture fell to the men. Men had to get up the courage to ask, had to buy everything (a financial hardship Norah notes), had to pursue, pursue, pursue with absolutely no promise of victory.
Norah lamented at her impression of women on dates. She says they drone on about the minutia of detail of their daily lives. Emotional outflow, unreserved. She was even being attacked by the woman as they were letting off their frustration at failed past dates on new dates. She even became angry with women because of this frustration.
It’s disheartening to be rejected. But men are the heroes in God’s meta-narrative, and women the damsel’s in distress. So we men pony-up and go get ‘em again. We’re made for it. Or as Norah’s friend, Curtis, told her “Rejection is a staple for guys…. It’s part of the game. It’s expected.” When women attempt that it’s like trying to saw a log with a hammer.
Oddly, Norah went on some dates with men as a woman during this experiment. She recollects that she actually felt more cherished by the men than the women. She enjoyed being pursued.
But the crushing cultural differences didn’t end with the dating world, or the guy’s nights out, which included ventures to a strip club (not an activity for true men, but leeches with penises). Ned appeared at a car dealership, followed later by Norah. She found as Norah the car dealer was friendly, a little flirtatious, and congenial. As Ned, the dealer treated Norah as a customer. No frills, no fun.
She began to empathize with men who always had to be strong, always worry, always provide. And Norah, as Ned, was expected to as well. In her job, friendships, and especially the dating world. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was damned hard. So hard, in fact, that Norah, when finished with the undercover work checked herself into a hospital for clinical depression.
Norah’s conclusion was that gender was not a social construct as she had believed, but was something deep, existential, rooted—and not subject to easy or transient change. She eventually returned to normal life, but glad that she was a woman, and less, perhaps envious, perhaps angry, perhaps something else, of masculinity.
Being a man wasn’t easy. Women can’t just “do it.” Or as Norah put it, “I really like being a woman…. I like it more now because I think it’s more of a privilege.”
My impressions from Norah’s story are manifold. She admits more than once that she was nearly discovered a number of times. Despite taking classes to deepen her voice, lifting lots of weights, binding her breasts, putting on good make-up to simulate five o’clock shadow, and even wearing a prosthetic penis in case any one gazed southward, people were just not buying the man. Most seemed to assume she was a gay man—even the girl who agreed to sleep with her as a man (‘my gay boyfriend’ the girl called Ned/Norah). Some were just seeing something wrong. There seems to be an effeminacy associated with being a girl (shocking), even a life-long “tom boy,” that isn’t quite genuinely masculine. Additionally, the psychology of masculinity, and being a man do not lend themselves quickly to anyone except those who are in fact men. And vice versa.
Women want men. They want men to take charge, lead, defend, comfort, guide and care for them. These qualities are what make men men. Women cannot imitate it. Oh, I’m sure there’s a woman out there somewhere who might be able to imitate it. But it’s neither normal, nor in my opinion, good.