I was just reading some stuff about white knighting and it got me thinking.
I mean, I’m into self-rescue, right? I’m big on that.
I’m also big on defending others. This is kind of my core thing. Like that time I almost got into a fistfight with most of a gay Vancouver hockey team in a bar in New York. In French. Drunk.
I had to go look up White Knight to remind myself what one was. Because on the surface it’s kind of a good thing, right? Woman gets attacked, guy steps in and helps her out. How’s that a problem?
Well, the main thrust of this Know Your Meme article says it’s because the knight in question wants to get laid. Or in more knightly terms, let’s say… curry favor for his own merit and gain. You know. Cough.
According to Reddit, a white knight is a guy who “treats women as goddesses and does nothing but shower them in compliments on how wonderful and beautiful and special they are.”
So… both definitions seem fairly tame, right? So the one guy’s selfish, he’s still doing good acts, the other is just… being nice? Surely? Ish?
Over at Geek Feminism we get this definition:
White Knighting is an attempt at being a feminist ally that assumes that men are better feminists than women are.
Ah. Right, okay.
So the problem with this whole white knight business is that we assume the dude can protect and the woman can’t and no one actually asked the woman if she needed help or how she wanted to be rescued. More or less.
There’s a great moment in Lair of the White Worm
— no, seriously, bear with me —
Where it’s pointed out that while George is really into saving the woman in Uccello’s painting from the dragon [above], the fact of the matter is that the lovely maiden has the damned dragon on a leash.
Let me tell you a story.
One night I was hanging out alone at Power Exchange, which at the time was a fairly delightfully seedy public BDSM dungeon in San Francisco. At the time, women were totally outnumbered by men in the place, and generally the only women there… were there with men.
In fact the numbers were so skewed that women got in free, men had to pay and were only allowed to wear towels around their waists, or if they wanted to pay more, could wear clothes.
It was fairly fantastic.
Anyway, in that sort of space I’m top all the way, and I have a good sense of myself and never feel threatened, in general. Men tend to give me room and heed the death glare if they don’t, and I can certainly back up whatever that look says with the physical if I have to, and that’s all fine and good.
This one particular night, though, the space had a kind of frantic, off feel to it. There was an enormous sort of… river of towel-clad men in all directions. Some of them were attractive sure, but it was just me, and them, and the men felt pushy and insistent and I still could handle it, but it was getting tiring.
I wanted to observe, and if I wanted to engage with anyone, in any way, I wanted it in my time, in my way. So, like, if I were a bear, I didn’t want salmon to leap up and slap me in the face every second, I wanted to watch, watch, watch, dip my paw into the stream and
my perfect fish.
See the metaphor?
So finally I perched up on a stool and tried to watch the stream but salmon kept… you know. Slapping me.
And finally a guy walked up a short distance away, and put his hand on a stool and from that distance asked if I’d like him to sit with me.
I said “sure,” because, you know, just the sheer pleasant relief of being asked, rather than just, you know… slapped in the face with a wet fish. So he dragged his stool over and he sat.
And the constant haranguing stopped.
And he didn’t make conversation. And for a few seconds just because I wasn’t quite grokking what he was doing, I didn’t make conversation either, and so we sat there quietly and I just sort of… caught my breath and got my guard down. And I had some time to just enjoy the salmon, the swimming, the whole sort of… pastoral river-salmon-bear scene thing there.
And the guy still didn’t make conversation and neither did I, in fact he was just sitting quietly, pleasantly by. Not really even making eye contact.
And I started to realize something.
And I got up.
And he got up, and put his stool away.
And to test a theory I walked off, and didn’t look back. And he didn’t follow me.
In general, I don’t think any intent of being an ally is bad, really. Even if motives are selfish, or patriarchal. I mean, or… look, it’s better than the alternative.
I do believe that.
It’s better than the alternative.
Later I found the guy.
“Thank you,” I said.
And sure enough he smiled and said “you’re welcome,” and I introduced myself and he did the same and we chatted pleasantly and whatnot for most of the rest of the evening.
How we use the power we have is really fucking important.
Defense is great.
But make it mindful, selfless defense.
Truly for someone else.
That’s the thing.