Have you ever been in an argument with someone and realized they were just baiting you? You know, saying stuff to get under your skin? I’ve had this experience on many occasions, particularly when I was younger. I can be quick-tempered, and I’ve known some people who will argue just to watch the fireworks. I’ve even known some who purposely push buttons to rile us passionate types up. Maybe they like the feeling of being in control of an argument, or maybe they just think we’re beautiful when we’re angry.
There’s an awful lot of this kind of baiting going on right now in the national conversation about birth control. Old white men are venting about the ways in which birth control has hurt them. One of them, Foster Freiss (a financial backer of Rick Santorum’s), has recently waxed nostalgic about the days when, in his memory, women put aspirin between their knees to prevent conception.
There are some people taking the bait. Angry tweets are flying, and I have to admit, I’ve had a couple of quick-witted, quick-tempered retorts on the tip of my tongue. Ah, but all my days of arguing—both passionately and logically—have taught me a thing or two about people who bait other people:
- They often bait others only for the sake of baiting them. Half the time, they don’t even take their own arguments that seriously.
- As soon as you call them on their game, they drop the game. This means that you can’t engage with any of the particulars of their argument. You just let them know the gig is up.
- They are often scared, and they push other peoples’ buttons as a way to ward off their own fears and hide their vulnerabilities.
So I look at these gatherings of old white men who have apparently never worn a circle in the back of their wallets with a condom they were just sweating bullets in the hopes of using some glorious day, and I think this: they don’t deserve the dignity of a response.
Apparently, there are some women who agree with me. Two women who were in the room when Rep. Darrell Issa, the man who convened a Congressional panel to discuss the ways in which birth control has upset him, walked out of the room when he wouldn’t let a female law student speak. The media has been sure to let us know that these women were Democrats, as if that was extremely important. I don’t think this particular argument is partisan, my friends—I think it is specious. Meaning the people trying to get us to take the bait are just plain silly.
And the best thing to do, in that case, is to leave the bait right where they flung it, and walk away.