In the middle of this book, I received an exasperated text from a friend. A male acquaintance, she said, had posted a comment under a picture on her social media in which he remarked that she looked “so much slimmer!” The post was about her Ph.D. work. “Isn’t it wonderful that we’re all just here to be commented on by men?” she said. “He has probably never been confronted with the idea that his opinion might not be inherently valuable.”
Indeed, this seems like a stunt that would earn the offender his own shining ribbon from Shelby Lorman in her new book. Funny, intelligent, weary and based on her popular Instagram account, Awards for Good Boys takes a critical look at the men whose actual treatment of women doesn’t quite jibe with the feminist politics they parrot. That male acquaintance that knows all the #MeToo jargon but feels entitled to a little something “more” after buying you a drink? He’s a Good Boy. The ex who texts you “just to check in” after you told him you needed space? Another Good Boy. The guy you’ve been seeing who insists that labeling human relationships is somehow ethically and morally wrong? A Good Boy several times over.
Though full of the cartoons that populate Lorman’s Instagram, the book resists simply being a pithy ode to the many potholes that exist in the female experience. Lorman writes sensitively about the behaviors that these acts of marginalization often prompt in women, conditioned as we are to make ourselves small. It can get a little uncomfortable when she describes back to you the many ways you’ve taken up the emotional labor for men, but she does so while speaking in the tones of your most sympathetic, self-aware friend. Drawing it all together at the end is an emotionally intelligent and compassionate conclusion to an argument you didn’t even realize that you were reading. The gift of Awards for Good Boys lies in the way it lightly bops you on the head with the clarity you need to see through the madness disguising itself as acceptable.