It’s hard out here for a man. At least it seems that way, based on the societal tendency to celebrate them for doing minimally heroic acts like actually texting you back, not body-shaming, and not sexually harassing anyone.
Since starting her Instagram account @awardsforgoodboys in 2017, artist Shelby Lorman has been giving dudes their due by drawing medals, trophies, and laurel leaves recognizing men for doing the bare minimum.
“It’s basically just a reflection on how everyone besides cis men is held to such an impossibly high standard,” Lorman told Jezebel.
Lorman says the work is largely based on her own experiences with men. She’s even re-branded some of the trolling comments she’s received as awards or stickers for sale in her online store.
“I think so much of the antagonism around my work is not about the work itself. It’s about what they think it stands for,” Lorman noted. “These people are getting upset over what they view as man-hating feminism and it’s like, no. If that’s what you think about feminism, I don’t have time to explain to you. It’s the oldest argument in the book. Move on.”
Predictably, most of Lorman’s trolls are men, but she says she received significant pushback from her woman followers after a recent post criticizing Taylor Swift when the historically apolitical singer encouraged her followers to vote in an extremely last-minute Instagram last month.
“I’ve always implicated women in my work because we’re part of the problem. But it became really clear when I made the Taylor Swift post and people were really angry about it—I think for a lot of people who usually could scroll by and be like ‘I relate. I don’t relate. That’s cool. That’s not cool,’ it became much harder to to view the work and still see themselves as separate from it,” Lorman said.
“Those are honestly the hardest messages to receive because the dudes trolling me—it’s much easier to brush off because it’s so absurd and so out there, like emails to my personal inbox about how I’ve ruined their dog’s name because their dog’s name was Good Boy.”
But while Lorman’s art deals with political concepts like gender and race, she works hard to remind her audience that she sees herself as a writer and comedian, first and foremost. For followers looking to have expansive critical discussions about concepts broached in the work, she often links to the accounts or writings of more prominent thought-leaders.
“If people think that I am like the voice of feminism, it’s like, ‘No, I am a thin white lady. Don’t listen to me on this. I’m going to point you towards places that you should have full eyes and ears on.’ It’s just not my place,” Lorman said.
Jezebel visited Lorman and her dog, Clementine (a good girl) at her apartment in October to learn more about how she decides what behaviors are award-worthy and what makes a Certified Good Boy. Watch the video above for more of her thoughts on double standards, how to deal with trolls, and if productive discussion is even possible on social media.
Penguin Random House will release a book based on Lorman’s Instagram account in June 2019.