No More White Knights, 2016

Son, I am not a maiden in need of defending.

~George Washington

 

 

Lets talk about White Knights, shall we?

If you aren’t familiar with the term, a White Knight is a man (usually white and well intentioned) who jumps into any discussion (usually one about sexism) to save the women already involved the discussion.  The idea is that when a woman is arguing or debating, usually with a man, the only person who can save the conversation in the name of equality is, wait for it, a man!

The problem with this behavior is that it directly reinforces existing inequalities.  By a woman relying on a man to save her in the conversation she is demonstrated to be lesser or in need of masculine influence, so that the existing framework of misogyny is reinforced rather than deconstructed.

White Knighting is not about helping women to be equal to men. Women are already equal to men, whether large sections of society acknowledge that fact or not.  White Knighting is very much about men reinforcing their self worth.  “I’m a good guy because I jumped into the fray on the side of this woman!”  It’s not about the woman and her struggle.  It’s about the man and his self-worth.

Keep in mind that many of publishing’s White Knights have had their own paternalistic reactions to events in the past, events where they very much acted as though their possession of male presenting traits placed them in a position to give advice.  So no White Knight is without their own history of sexism, like most people.  But in this light their action can rankle even more.  After all, aren’t you the guy that just did that dickish thing a few months ago? How dare you defend me now?

White Knights are also way more likely to rush into the fray to protect white women, harkening back to not so distant history where white womanhood had to be protected at all costs.  So, not only are White Knights inherently not helpful, their self-proclaimed feminism is rarely intersectional.

Allies are important in any fight, but what potential White Knights need to know is that their role should be one of support, NOT rushing in to save the day.  The same way white people’s perspective on racism is kind of inconsequential, a man’s perspective on sexism adds nothing to the discussion.  Instead, White Knights should elevate the voices of the women speaking around them without expressing any opinion but one of support.

If you really care about battling sexism more than personal accolades, it shouldn’t be that hard.