NOTE: Here’s another old book review from In Mala Fide, originally published on November 22, 2011.
This one’s a little different: Jack has released this compact little book for free on his website, but he’s politely requested donations for the hard work he put into it. A brief (less than 40 pages) meditation on modern masculinity, No Man’s Land is a nice introduction to manosphere and anti-feminist thought, short enough to knock off while you’re waiting at the dentist’s.
And did I mention that it’s free?
No Man’s Land consists of three chapters, the first two taking a sledgehammer to the various “man up” arguments coming from femiservatives like Kay Hymowitz, Bill Bennett and Michael Kimmel, among other things. With unpretentious and powerful language, Donovan exposes the emptiness of their message; the Hymowitzes and Kimmels of the world want men to assume their traditional gender roles while letting women take on whatever role they want:
The patriarchal kinship system that demanded paternal investment was dismantled by feminists, technology and the legal system. It was replaced with a system that gave women control over virtually all aspects of reproduction, and where a woman could rest assured that the state would step in and provide for her children in the absence of a husband or father. Divorce, most often initiated by women, offered a way for women to seize control of their families at-will, even when a man had chosen to make a paternal investment. Men had become peripheral players in the lives of their offspring, and they could be cut from the team by coach mom at any time. The managing bureaucrat would then determine what role the father would have in his children’s lives—at best he might be offered a co-parenting role, at worst he could be reduced to a mere paycheck.
America may not yet be a matriarchy, but her family structure has become matrilineal, or at least matrifocal. The practice of giving a child his or her father’s surname is a vestigial gesture, an outdated social norm from an earlier time. If women were to stop doing it altogether, or if they were to insist that their names come first in a mother-hyphen-father configuration, any enduring illusion of patriarchy would be shattered. One has to wonder if, in the absence of that illusion, men would invest in fatherhood at all. The switch to a bonobo culture—where males are mere inseminators and helpers—would at that point be explicit and complete. Why wouldn’t men simply shuffle about alone or in small, impotent groups, playing games and seeking masturbatory short-term gratification? Why would they make the investment or the sacrifices necessary to be good husbands and fathers, when a woman could take it all away on a whim?
None of the scolds have managed to come up with a plan for getting young “guys” to stop drinking, hooking up or playing video games, and start families instead. All they’ve managed to do in exhorting men to “man up” is invoke the “musty script” of a patriarchal system that no longer exists.
The final chapter, “Misrepresenting Masculinity,” deconstructs the attempts of male feminists like Robert Brannon to redefine and muddy the concept of manliness. Buttressing Jack’s arguments are a mountain of citations, providing a great jumping-off point for those writing about feminism or masculinity. In a thoughtful touch, the PDF and Kindle versions of the book are organized differently, with the citations organized as footnotes in the PDF version and as endnotes in the Kindle one.
No Man’s Land could have used tighter editing: for example, Jack misspells “Michael” so many times I started to feel like the annoying pedants who come out of the woodwork every time I use the word “irregardless.” But still, you can’t argue with free, so get over to his website and get this book now.
Click here to download No Man’s Land, and don’t forget to kick Jack a few bucks via the PayPal button in the site’s sidebar.
Read Next: The Way of Men by Jack Donovan