I haven’t reviewed a comic in a while, and given that I’m entertaining myself with this one whilst I wait for the painkillers to kick in, a review only seemed fair.
Manfeels Park is the creation of Mo and Erin. It can be viewed either on the website, www.manfeels-park.com, or on the Tumblr, manfeels-park.tumblr.com . It consists in taking found comments – ridiculous male responses to feminism – and presenting them as though spoken by Jane Austen characters, using tracings from stills of adaptations from film and TV (chiefly, but not solely, the iconic 1995 BBC Pride and Prejudice).
The name, Manfeels Park, is a pun on the Jane Austen novel, Mansfield Park, and the term ‘manfeels’, used to lampoon male complaints against feminism that are distinguished by expressing exaggerated pain for minor ills and the demand that the focus of feminist campaigns be diverted to deal with male issues – sometimes also referred to as ‘male tears‘.
I’ve sometimes been on the edge about terms like ‘male tears’ or ‘manfeels’. As someone whose anti-prejudice politics stems from merciless bullying at school, I instinctively withdraw from anything that involves poking fun at the pain of others. However, I have come to understand more and more quite how much male privilege is founded upon belittling the pain and discrimination women experience, persuading us to be silent about the abuses conducted upon us, and insisting that we put the pain of others before our own. This is a theme of interaction that interferes in every aspect of life: that daughters are interrupted by their parents more than sons; that women speaking only 30% of the time are perceived as dominating the conversation; that the YA genre is dominated by cis gender male characters, but perceived as dominated by women and girls because 33% of main characters are cis girls; that Anita Sarkeesian can be driven from her house by threats against herself and her family for offering an academic critique of gaming culture; that when women are raped, the media focuses on the loss of opportunities for the rapist and blames the woman as the cause of this.
Whilst I cannot condone actively hounding an individual for behaving in a childishly selfish and sexist manner, I have come to appreciate that mocking of the ridiculousness of men who insist they are worse off than women has become a vital outlet. Just as Valerie Solanas’s SCUM Manifesto, from the 60s, should not be taken as a literal call to ‘cut up men’, feminist mocking of ‘male tears’ is not directed at minimising male pain; rather, it is a call to recognise the ridiculousness of the discrepancy between slights actually experienced by men and the assertions made by so-called ‘Men’s Rights Activists’ that they receive discrimination far in excess of women.
If we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. And we are done crying.
As far as pokes at ‘male tears’ go, Manfeels Park is light-hearted, gentle mockery, and mockery that has no need to exaggerate. The text of the comics is drawn from the words of men themselves, and occasionally from the wittily underwhelmed responses of their women conversational partners. The Jane-Austen-style regency framing for these remarks provides the perfect context to both highlight how outdated the thoughts behind them are, and for setting the viewer in the mindset of social commentary and satire.
It’s also empowering for the woman reader to see their own feeling of askance echoed by a raised eyebrow from no less a figure than Lizzie Bennet; to hear a witty comeback to modern misogyny in her voice, backed by the authority of the world-renowned Jane Austen; to have a comic panel dealing with street harassment express the incredulity of female observers to the ridiculous defences men give of such behaviour by presenting five women’s sceptical looks to those of three men, and to do so via the mechanism of an iconic scene.
I also enjoy that the comments section is titled ‘Next Week on Manfeels Park…’, correctly predicting that the comic will be regularly commented upon by men who exemplify exactly what is being critiqued.
If you enjoy light-hearted mocking of the patriarchy, I really can’t recommend Manfeels Park enough.
(Countdown to fulfillment of Lewis’s Law in 3, 2, 1…)