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When You Have No Valid Arguments About a Woman, Say She’s Looking for Attention, I Guess?

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It’s a disappointing truth that when a woman is saying things people don’t like, and they run out of other arguments or never had any to begin with, there’s always one last-ditch back-pocket accusation to try to discredit her: she loves attention.

A desire for attention is an oddly gendered insult. You rarely hear about men needing attention. And if you do, in the extreme cases—the Trumps, the Milos—wanting attention isn’t their crime. Us giving them attention is what’s always being criticized in those cases. Women, though? Our mere presence can be seen as an insult. How dare we waste the time of the people forced to hear our thoughts and opinions and even just our voices? There’s a reason why “attention whore” is such a common term. When it comes to women, attention is often viewed as the currency we’re after, and we’re getting it by embarrassing ourselves by oversharing things (read: opinions, words, the sight of our faces) no one asked for. Even, if not especially, when they very much were asked for.

The latest accusation of attention-grabbing (outside of Twitter, where I’m sure 100 women have been told they’re seeking attention since you started reading this sentence) comes from the perpetual garbage fire that is Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s divorce settlement.

The divorce has been dragged out in the public eye for nearly eight months. Heard filed for divorce in May of 2016 and revealed the abuse she’d suffered when with Depp. Depp and his lawyers tried to paint her as an attention-craving gold digger. It doesn’t matter that the image has no apparent basis in reality—settling quickly and donating your entire sum to charity doesn’t exactly support the need for attention or the money—but negative perceptions of famous women rarely do.

Last summer, when Depp was dragging his heels and refusing to pay the settlement, why didn’t people see that as an attempt to stay in the limelight? What about when, instead of paying her directly, he donated the amount directly to the charities she’d announced she’d be supporting? How was that not viewed by the entirety of all humans as a blatant grab at our praise and attention (as well as a significant tax break)?

But no. Depp and his lawyers continued to shout attention whore. And for a lot of people reading (and writing) those headlines, it worked. Because we’re constantly being conditioned to see women through that lens.

Depp hasn’t been paying the settlement installments they agreed upon, so she filed a Request for Order, asking the judge to force Depp to pay, as well as requesting he pay her growing legal fees. Which is now being painted as an “attempt to get more from him than they agreed in their divorce settlement.” You know, typical gold digger stuff! Which Depp’s lawyer, incredibly, pretty much just came right out and said.

Johnny’s lawyer, Laura Wasser, says Amber’s move is “a blatant attempt to extend her fifteen minutes of fame” and “an embarrassing grab for additional and unwarranted attorney’s fees.”

“Fifteen minutes of fame.” “Embarrassing.” This is familiar language, I’d guess, for all women. When it becomes clear you won’t back down or apologize or concede, it’s viewed as a baseless quest for attention. There’s no dirtier tactic or more surefire way to guarantee no one takes you seriously. It’s upsetting that it works so well. It’s a clear and pathetic last resort, but it does work in the eyes of public perception. No matter how loudly a man demand eyes on him, waste a woman’s time, insults her, denies her what she was promised—the “attention” card is a go-to game ender. It’s lazy and groundless, so don’t be afraid to call people out when they go to it.

(via TMZ, image via Shutterstock)

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Vivian Kane (she/her) has a lot of opinions about a lot of things. Born in San Francisco and radicalized in Los Angeles, she now lives in Kansas City, Missouri with her husband Brock Wilbur and too many cats.

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