In a world where headlines barrage readers with news of mass attacks on humanity, the inefficacy of elected leaders, and sexual predators in power, finding levity in it all can feel counterintuitive. Counterproductive even. But 2018 is perhaps a perfect moment to celebrate the tragicomic—or finding humor in life's darkened corners.
The revival of the #MeToo movement, a rallying cry coined over a decade ago by Tarana Burke, has empowered women to call out and dismantle institutional sexism and sexual harassment. And it’s welcome progress. Yet one artist is finding catharsis in a subtler, and snarkier, way: by calling men out on their bullshit through satire and unpacking the insidious masculinity that fuels today’s headlines.
“I’ve always found that humor is an incredibly valuable tool for both coping and change,” Shelby Lorman, the 24-year-old writer and artist behind the bitingly brilliant Instagram account @awardsforgoodboys, told VICE. She started the account in 2017 as a way to make fun of “good boys”—her moniker for men who expect praise for not being absolute monsters.
“People are so quick to praise men for avoiding vehemently bad behavior, whilst holding women to a million standards they’ll never meet,” Lorman explained. “It’s like, ‘Oh, he didn’t murder anyone? He’s my hero.’”
The @awardsforgoodboys account unpacks the double standards of hardwired sexism while making women howl with laughter. And if you gauge by Lorman’s nearly 20,000 followers, clearly it’s resonating. “The vibe I get from my followers and friends is that it’s a relief to consume something that is still topical, still critical, but has some levity,” she said.
No one is safe from Lorman’s ire; when an IRL dude once gave her a backhanded compliment on her illustrations via Tinder messenger, she screenshotted it and put his DM up on her account. “Obviously him ‘complimenting’ my work is not evil,” Lorman explained. “I think he meant it in earnest. The issue is that men like this compliment downwards: it’s inherently patronizing.”
Calling men out in this way isn’t meant to be malicious. Lorman’s trying to get them to recognize when they marginalize women, intentionally or not, and then laugh at themselves. “When you’re laughing, your guard is down, and when your guard is down, sentiments can seep in,” she said. “Something you may have previously pushed away, because it was too hard to think about [or hit] too close to home,” can be reframed as a nonthreatening way to think about behavior.
Lorman is acutely aware that the issues she’s addressing on her account were around “a long, long time before Hollywood elites decided they wanted change.” She thinks the current conversation around #MeToo is incredibly important but also “inherently flawed, as most large movements are. It leaves things out. It’s stemming from a lot of powerful and rich white voices.” Trying to fundamentally change society via Instagram doodles isn’t what @awardsforgoodboys is about, but it provides a critical perspective on the issues making headlines by calling out everyday examples of bad behavior.
While the general response to @awardsforgoodboys has been, according to Lorman, overwhelmingly positive, certain folks haven’t embraced its criticism. There are men (and women) who object to her public chiding, especially if they feel they may be the butt of the joke. But whenever a GoodBoy™ thinks a post is shaming him—or even “about” or “for” him—it proves the account's point. “If people can laugh and think critically, in lieu of outright judgement,” Lorman said, “that’s an effective loophole to get people talking.” And talking is exactly what women are doing.
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