I have found – through a lot of (unwilling) experimentation – that ignoring is not fruitful, humour or retaliation escalates, and angry responses express how I feel, but have no positive impact on the other person. Worse, since their goal is to enrage me and enjoy it, I have helped them with their goal and reinforced their awful behavior.
This time though, this time I was calm and safe (enough) that I could make eye contact and say hey, that feels like fun for you, but when you taunt someone to make them angry it’s called bullying. I am lucky that this was enough to dissolve the situation and for the first time when it was over I wasn’t still left vibrating with helpless rage.
This has been a work in progress for what feels like my whole life. I grew up in a household where it was normal and ‘hilarious’ to poke people with sharp verbal sticks. I then moved on to a ‘witty’ social group at university where scoring points for being verbally sharp was a marker of social status. I’ve since selected for people whose sense of humour is not cruelty based and who value kindness over verbal social competition. It’s taken me years to build that community and I still have certain… instincts shall we say both in attack and defense. I am trying to learn how to let them go.
I owe a lot to the people who have loved me and made it possible to be safe without constant verbal self-defense. transcendancing for example is profoundly skilled in this area and her delicacy and care have patched parts of my soul. maharetr is a constant, gentle presence whose openness to dialogue I am grateful for every day. *beams* chaosmanor and cupidsbow who form the rest of my household are also profoundly safe people, meaning my home is not just hilarious and full of robots, but is also a haven. I'm also incredibly lucky in that my father has grown into a person who is profoundly kind and gentle, I did not expect it.
An excellent resource for describing the feminist-baiting dynamic is The Terrible Bargain We Have Regretfully Struck which identifies it clearly as bullying – a word that now carries considerable weight in work environments I have been in, and am now part of.