The Way of Men explains, in a beautifully written prose, what it means to “being good at being a man”.
I found Jack Donovan’s dissertation on masculinity good from a sociological point of view but also, in many ways, stifling for men.
3 Sentences Summary
- A man must show Strength, Courage, Mastery and Honor
- A man needs a gang of other men to fully develop his manhood
- Masculinity is at odds with our PC, overly polite society
The Way Of Men: Summary
Donovan says we often see men trying to get back to what it means being men in the primordial way. Back then we used to sit and camp around a fire and guard our caves, women and possessions. Always looking outside at what could threaten us and always ready to attack it.
Men, says Jack Donovan, are judged by other men and attract women when they obey to the four core values:
Jack Donovan says that a woman can be strong as well. And if she is, great. But if she’s not, nothing will change much. She will still have a good life and she’ll have several men lining up happy to help her out.
But if a man is weak, that’s a big stain for him that will make him less respected among other men.
Mastery is your level of skills on a certain skill. This will depend heavily on the type of gang you’re in. If you’re a soldier, it might be your endurance or your marksmanship.
If you’re a football, it could be how well you defend you or how much you score. If you’re a firefighter, it might be your guts or your ability to go climb a tree without any gear.
Courage means taking action even when there are risks or dangers. A man who takes no risks or sacrifices nothing for the gang is a man that cannot be relied upon, says Donovan.
Such a man, makes the gang more vulnerable.
Honor means caring for your reputation. Your reputation is tight to the other elements of strength, mastery and courage. It is also mostly referring to other men.
He says that when men scoff at other effeminate men, they are often rejecting their weakness and their lack of men’s virtues. The effeminate men represent the complete opposite of what men should be standing for.
I agree indeed that women are little concerned with honor.
Our Current Society
Jack Donovan says there’s a part of us which still longs to be a man.
Today we do it with sports, video games or trying to make a career. And even then, most men don’t take part in those. So masculinity has become whatever people want it to be. Even the effeminate man claims to be the “latest evolution of being a man”.
But ultimately, you have to stay true to the core value of a man. And, the book seems to suggest, it’s not with words or career that we evolved to compete. It’s with violence that we evolved to compete for status and power.
He compares the chimpanzees’ society to the bonobo society. The chimps is a patriarchal society where men compete with each other.
The bonobos are a matriarchal society where women mate with everyone in the group. And peace reigns supreme.
Jack Donovan seems to prefer the warring chimpanzees and says our current western society is more like a bonobo one.
How to Form a Gang
The author also suggests that our society seems to be breaking up. And that we might find it useful to being able to find our way of men.
Frankly I found it to be wishful thinking of someone who almost hoped that was the case, and somewhat of a tin foil hat theory.
But hey, you never know, and if you’re interested I invite you to get the book for the actual steps on how to build your own gang :).
There is much that I don’t buy from The Way of Men, but please refer to the review for that.
Not An How To Book
It’s not really a book which explains you or help you to get to where the author says you should be.
Terribly Romanticized View Of Gangs
I feel Jack Donovan romanticizes the old days or the life in a gang, which is something very common in men.
It’s what I call the “back then was better bias”.
It reminded me of Tribe by Sebastian Junger.
Ans also of Rumble Fish, where Rusty James (Matt Dillon) fantasizes about gangs until the brother he so much admires tells him “it wasn’t anything”:
I feel the same way. Gangs weren’t anything: just a bunch of tribes killing each other, often, for nothing.
A piece of land, a silly value, an idealism or.. Nothing. Just in the name of the gang itself and to strengthen the sense of belonging.
The Way of Men Review
The way of men describes what many in today’s society would label as an “outdated”, stereotypical and maybe even violent view of men.
Some might find this book sexist, and yet it won’t change the fact that men indeed ARE often judged for their strength, courage and honor.
Daring Greatly and The Mask of Masculinity tell us to stop letting those “masculinity values” oppress us into a corralled life that makes us unhappier, more neurotic, and socially more isolated.
Well, I love those two books. Daring Greatly is a foundational book for me. but if you take them at face value you risk fueling your excuses for behaving like a pu**y -also read Vulnerability is Not Power-.
And that’s what I loved about Donovan’s book. There’s no wishy washy BS.
At the same time though, Jack Donovan’s view is also stifling for men.
Why should men live by those ideals? Why should anyone allow society, Jack Donovan or anyone else define them?
When you let people define you is also when you allow others to control you. Read how women control men and relationships, which explains exactly how women leverage “what it means to be a man” to control men.
Don’t let anyone tell you “what it means to be a man”.
You decide it. Or refuse to “be a real man”. Just be whatever the hell you want to be.
Also, Donovan seems lost in a romanticized view of the past, of the gangs and of warfare as well. And he seems to suggest that the only way forward is.. Going backward.
Just look at the book cover and you’ll understand.
And if I think about it… Ganging up with other men, spend lots of time with them.. “defend” your turf.. That’s not my idea of having a good time.
I prefer a third way of men. Which also entails spending a bit more time with women :).