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There’s no winning with ‘You’ll Distract the Boys’

“You’ll Distract the Boys”: A Choose-Your-Own Compendium of Female Existence

Tara Krebs, 63 pgs, tarakrebs.com

This is just about the worst Choose Your Own Adventure-style book ever, because no matter what you do: YOU. CAN’T. WIN. Which is appropriate considering how, within our misogynistic society, so often there is no winning for women.

Written and illustrated by Tara Krebs for her MFA thesis, You’ll Distract the Boys is a compilation of common experiences lived by women and girls. This isn’t a book where you get to stick it to The Man. There’s no punching out that dude who groped you on the subway; there’s no getting your boss fired after he sexually harassed you for years; there’s no educating ignorant people who constantly undermine you and your life choices. As a reader, you do get to make decisions, but there’s no satisfaction to be had, which means this isn’t a particularly enjoyable read.

That being said, this book is a well-executed exercise in validation and empathy that should be required reading for all.

As You’ll Distract the Boys reminds us, we live in a world that’s particularly invalidating for women, so even when clearly shitty things happen to us, we blame ourselves, or feel ashamed about our feelings and choices. I’ve experienced many of the scenarios in this book first-hand, and to have those experiences reflected back to me made this a validating read and a reminder that my discomfort is legitimate. So, even if I can’t control other people’s misogyny, that knowledge is a victory in itself.

There were also many scenarios in You’ll Distract the Boys’ pages that I didn’t identity with personally — such as being a victim of revenge porn or sexual violence; having my gender identity undermined; or having to defend choices such as not having children or letting my hair go grey. This wide range of situations serves as a reminder that our own lived experience, with all of its shitty episodes, is not universal. In many of the situations Krebs lays out, it’s actually women who are undermining other women. So heed this warning: even if we can’t understand someone’s feelings based on our own lived experience, it doesn’t mean their thoughts and choices are invalid. Put aside your assumptions, or else you may find yourself perpetuating the patriarchy’s agenda.

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