• Kristin Perissinotto

I'm sick of engaging with people just looking for a fight

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Any person who has a 'pet cause' or strong political views knows what I'm talking about. The person who approaches you gleefully at an event to "get your thoughts" on a Sky News segment they watched last week. But they aren't looking for your thoughts at all - they're looking for a reaction. They're usually looking to push you as far as they can before you snap, at which time they will declare that they "never meant to upset you," and possibly 'apologise' via a mutual friend a few days later.

I'm beyond sick of these conversations. They consume me. They require time and energy. They take up brain space for days after - or days before, knowing I am going to see someone who will likely engage me in one. As a young woman who most often is engaged in these conversations by older men, it's not as simple as disregarding and disengaging. The power imbalance is blindingly obvious in these conversations, and, whether or not it's conscious, he is benefitting.

I have to wear the fallout of these conversations - as the woman, as the young person, often as the progressive 'bleeding heart'. I have to wear belittlement, and often feel I have to take the high road, or censor myself. Because these debates are not winnable for me. Even if I have stats and facts, even if it's just about a difference in opinion. I always lose. Whether that's because the other person refuses to be disagreed with, or because I lose time, energy, and brain space to the conversation, it's a loss.

Often I take what he will perceive to be the loss to preserve the interaction, to make everyone around me is comfortable, perhaps save myself a day of dwelling on the conversation later. This will usually look like a shrug, exiting the conversation, or saying "well if that's your opinion." But more often than not, that won't please the antagoniser. If he hasn't got the rise that he wanted, he's not done with the conversation. After all, he's not trying to convince me: he's trying to get a reaction.

I'm active in the political movement. I'm active on social issues. I talk about politics and societal issues here on Cheek, and on our podcast (listen on Spotify, Apple, and Google pods!), my work involves a lot of political engagement, and in my free time, I am involved in a handful of other groups and causes. They are all important to me, and I have strong opinions in all spaces. And whether or not a person really knows what I do and how I think, they make an assumption: radical feminist lefty. And if we're talking broad strokes, of course they're right.

But what they're wrong about is my willingness to engage with people far on the other side. I don't want to argue or debate. I don't find it enjoyable nor productive. I don't like to be approached by a conservative who wants to pile their views on to me, and demand answers to their questions. I already know what they think, and I understand nothing I say will change their mind, and that is my goal. It's my belief that that should be our collective goal as progressives - to change minds; recruit for the cause, so to speak.

I love talking to someone who is genuinely interested. Interested in what I do or what I think or where my opinions come from. I love speaking to people who are open and willing to discuss their views in a productive way. I'm not willing to be bombarded for the joy of another. I'm not willing to be a verbal punching bag for someone who has a problem with the latest progressive movement. People have a right to believe what they believe, whether or not I think it's right. But people do not have the right to demand my attention only for their own enjoyment.