Trigger warning – self-harm, silencing
Muddled post is muddled, I’m sorry. If I’ve done a massive fail, the normal thing applies.
It’s happened to most of us at some point or another – being accused of attention-seeking. It crops up in all sorts of contexts, and attention seeking is generally held to be a negative thing.
I’ve seen it used to denigrate (and, oddly, to provoke concern over) self-harm, to stop people seeking help for things, to shut people up who need to talk, to silence people who are actively combatting their oppression. Pulling out the ‘attention-seeking’ accusation is an attempt to trivialise, delegitimise and silence. It’s a ridiculously problematic accusation to make, since it reinforces kyriarchal standards and a culture where honest emoting is discouraged.
It’s also a term that gets applied along kyriarchal lines – it’s rare to see a normative, straight, cis, conventionally able, white male accused of attention-seeking, for example. People whose minds and behaviours don’t fit the kyriarchal standard are accused of attention-seeking for expressions that are natural for them (and then accused of it when they speak out against discrimination based on that). People who are seen as ‘feminine’ are accused of it because femininity is often held in contempt. All kinds of oppressed folks who speak up against their oppression are accused of it.
Point is, attention-seeking isn’t necessarily bad – even when it appears to be about trivial things. Many of us are raised to conceal our true feelings, so we may not feel able to ask for help when needed; that’s where behaviour may appear attention-seeking, when someone is trying to get help without saying it outright because of the messed-up culture that tries to discourage honest emoting. Like most other behaviours, it’s pretty neutral overall.