How "As a Man" Became Twitter's Funniest Running Joke of 2023
Photo: Courtesy of Saevone Harris

How "As a Man" Became Twitter's Funniest Running Joke of 2023

An interview with Saevone Harris—curator of Twitter’s hilarious list of acceptable behaviors for men—about manhood, homophobia, and toxic masculinity

As a man, how can you just sit there crying? On the flip side, what type of man doesn’t cry? Seek therapy, bro. But wait, should men actually go to therapy? Deal with all that internal s**t with liquor and church. But, don’t fan yourself at church, that’s sassy as hell. Doesn't matter how hot it is.

Buying books to read, eating jelly donuts, listening to Lady Gaga, having thunder thighs, following the Shade Room on social media*, wearing Axe body spray**, being shy, driving a hatchback—the aforementioned behaviors or tendencies have been deemed unacceptable for men at least once on Twitter. And Saevone Harris—better known on Elon’s dying app as @Southside_Gunn—has spent much of this year compiling these absurd ideas into a list that is equal parts appalling and hilarious.

Harris is an ordinary 28-year-old dude from College Park, Georgia, who loves sports, music, and anime. But when he’s not plugged in at his daytime gig, you can catch him scrolling a screen-recorded video of more than 800 commandments he’s compiled in his Notes app. Entries on the list—which is titled “Things Masculine Men aren’t allowed to do (According to social media)”—are almost always really stupid, and sometimes come from people who are in on the joke: Beliefs regarding masculinity can be laughably rigid, contradictory, and unrealistic. But some of the list’s entries are submitted by folks who are dead serious, and lean into long-held beliefs about patriarchy, toxic masculinity, and homophobia.

Related: A Meditation on Manhood and Male Rappers Wearing Dresses

If you’re still on Twitter—and that’s a big if—you’ve likely come across Harris’ list many times. He’s often alerted of new material by his followers, and his updates often go viral. “In terms of my notifications, I have to mute everything,” Harris says. This makes sense because these rules are salacious and online gender wars, like the rent, are at an all-time high. Men ain’t s**t. Women ain’t s**t. Everyday. All day.

Earlier this summer, LEVEL chopped it up with Harris about his list curation, some of its silliest and most series entries, and what it all means regarding how Black folks view masculinity.

*I agree with this. Nobody should be following The Shade Room on social media.

**I agree with this, too. If you don’t have a homeroom, you are too old to be out here wearing Axe body spray.

LEVEL: Tell me about this list. What made you want to compile hundreds and hundreds of opinions about what men definitely should not do?
Saevone Harris:
Just seeing other lists going around. There's always been lists going around. There was a list of what Black folks call white people, what women can't do or what they find to be “icks,” red flags in men. But just browsing TikTok, I noticed women have a tendency to throw the word sassy around—a lot. Sometimes they're joking; sometimes they're not. You never know. But I always take the opportunity to joke about it. It started in January—I would go on Twitter, somebody would say something, and I would just jot it down. After a while, it kind of turned into its own cultural phenomenon. That was never the intention for me. It was just a running joke.

Related: Masculinity in Jamaican Cinema Needs a Rewrite

What do you think women mean when they describe a man as sassy?
I think they don't necessarily view it as what their definition of a real man would do. I feel like it comes from their cultural experiences, from what they're accustomed to, what they've seen in their life with men. But then it all goes into who is being serious and who's actually joking. With some people, you can tell they're joking and it's funny. Other ones are very specific, and it sounds like… “Who hurt you? Who made you feel this way for you to want to get this off your chest?” I'm not gonna stop you from feeling that way. We gonna joke and laugh about it. I'm gonna put it on the list and we’re gonna move on, but you might need to talk to somebody.

“There was a young lady who said, ‘I don't like when my man is running when they start shooting at the party.’ That was absolutely my favorite.”

In the past, I’ve seen memes like “Fellas,” where people would suggest a man is gay for doing the most random or inane things. A lot of entries on your list are rooted in homophobia and toxic masculinity. There’s this message that you're not a man if you don't abide by those toxic standards.
A lot of them are homophobic and things of that nature, but one of my favorite rules is, ironically, No. 187, which is “dying.” When I see stuff like that, I know [someone is] joking. It also depends on their follow-up to the tweet. Some people will say something and then people know to tag me. And then it's like, “I was waiting to be on the list!” Then there are people who tweet something and then it turns into a 25-minute rant about how that's not cool, I don't want to see that, my men don't need to do this.

A sampling of Harris' curated list. Photo: Twitter

What I find interesting is No. 7 is “Do intricate dances with women” and No. 8 is “Do intricate dances with other men.” No. 13 is “Have too many female friends” and No. 14 is “Have too many male friends.” What do you think it says about our culture and our ideas about manhood that people will have these disparate ideas about masculinity?
It comes down to how we programmed the generations to think. The generation before mine, there were a lot of things you couldn't say or do and it wasn't explained why. With my generation, it was a mix. For example, we had “no homo,” which turned into a lot of people being very comfortable with homophobic jokes. Back then it wasn’t [considered by many to be] a big deal.

One of the biggest things is we're evolving in terms of what it means to be a man. There are so many definitions that we in the Black community have for what a man is. Once you go against the grain, you can be seen in a negative light.

“We laugh and joke and everything is seen as satire, but deep down inside, there are some people who truly believe men [shouldn’t] do a lot of these things.”

Are there any entries on the list that you find really funny?
There was a young lady who said, “I don't like when my man is running when they start shooting at the party,” so the rule equated to “Running when the function gets shot up.” That was absolutely my favorite. I genuinely feel like she was serious. Deep down inside, it felt like she meant that. I think she truly means like, if you run—

Why aren’t you doing the shooting?
Yeah, like how dare you run when the function gets shot up? That’s one of my favorites, No. 279. Another one—I know she was joking—is rule No. 341. Some young lady said we're not allowed to have leftovers. We are supposed to finish our food.

If you get the big piece of chicken, you should be able to finish your food.
We are supposed to finish our food. She said it is very much sassy for a dude not to finish his plate. How dare you have food left? Certain things are so outlandish you can tell they’re joking, like, “Let flies land on you,” “Get stung by bees,” “Drink water,” or “Eat popcorn.”

Related: I’m a Polyamorous Black Man Dating Eight Women. I See How That’s a Massive Mistake.

Those are ridiculous, but something like “Get stung by bees” or “Running when the function gets shot up” could be seen as serious. It’s sneakily about traditional or toxic masculinity. Like, it’s a turn-off if you’re like running from danger or having it happen to you, instead of acting as a protector or perpetrator of violence. It’s a sign of weakness to run from violence instead of being the one who is doling it out or putting an end to it.
The thing that I've noticed the most is the more outlandish it sounds, the funnier it is, the more I know they're kind of being serious. The ones that sound the craziest are the ones [delivered] in a more serious fashion. Whereas someone could just be joking and saying, “How dare you pray?” I equate this to their image of what a real man is. Their image of a real man, according to all these entries on this list, doesn't exist. It's one of those things where we want to laugh and joke and play and everything is seen as satire, but deep down inside, it's like, there are some people who truly believe men [shouldn’t] do a lot of these things.

Do you think any of these rules have been harmful?
It's harmful when you take it seriously outside of the app. I've had to learn that anything that happens on Twitter is not real life. Yes, you can make connections—I found my wife on Twitter, found a lot of friends on Twitter—but when you take the views of certain people that you don't know and probably will never meet and you start applying them to your everyday life, that's where it becomes a serious issue. You're just rolling in a cesspool of mess.

In your view, what is a man?
My definition of a man is a guy who takes care of his responsibilities. He makes time take care of himself physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and religiously, for those who are religious. Everybody wants to go into the whole “be a provider [and] protector.” That's understandable, but realistically, I feel like as long as you're taking care of your responsibilities and taking care of yourself, and you're following the rules of the law to the best of your abilities, that's what makes you a man, to me. Just taking care of business.