I am swooping in and taking over the Thursday AI! Now with 100% more media, a real-life talking Amy AND potential prizes! Today, we are going to discuss the concept of “White Knighting.”

Text from email I read in the video:

Message: Can we talk about the White Knight thing? I recently got a job where I write about video games on the internet, and naturally, my first post had some gender issues crop up. I am a woman and I wrote about women in video games, so, of course. But, I noticed that men commenting in my defense stated they were afraid of being called out as a White Knight. Then, today while reading the Penny Arcade report, I noticed the same phrase in the comments. I’ve never heard this before! What’s the deal?

SO what is the deal with this white knight thing? When is it beneficial for men to join the discussion on sexism and feminism. We say we want you to speak out, but then we are all, “STFU I was talking. GAH!” How can you tell when speaking out is actually speaking over? Is being an ally in the feminist movement about protecting women, supporting them or is listening the most important thing? Does the threat of being called a white knight scare men away from feminism? Can I have a pony?

White knight
And don’t forget to add COTW to comments that you like because if enough people participate this week then next week there will be prizes!

The Afternoon (I’m pretty sure that should say Amy) Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 3pm ET.

Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and writes about vegan food. She is the founder and president of the Los Angeles Women's Atheist and Agnostic Group: LAWAAG. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

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73 Comments

  1. Avatar of scribe999
    April 11, 2013 at 3:52 pm —

    When jerks call me a “white knight” for just being supportive, I respond with “that’s racist!”

    But yeah, I’m definitely more cognizant nowadays of not speaking on behalf of, but rather in support of, folks I agree with.

  2. Avatar of Olivia
    April 11, 2013 at 3:56 pm —

    I think there are a couple helpful rules of thumb: if a woman is already speaking, you’re probably not needed. If no women are around, you sure as hell better be speaking up (or if none of the ladies say anything). If someone asks for help, then GIVE THEM HELP. In addition, just saying “yeah” can be a good way of not speaking over someone, but still expressing that you’re not condoning things.
    I think in my mind, the biggest thing about white-knighting is that if you expect a cookie for being a basically decent human being, you are white-knighting. STOP IT. I know that as a white person, I often want a cookie for being the white savior. I need to stop that shit. We all should.
    Listen to women. Support them. Give help when asked. Call out douches. Steps for not being a white knight.

  3. Avatar of mslongjr
    April 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm —

    I think “white knight” is a wonderfully devious ad hominem attack because it hooks into the ways sexism affects men as well as women. On the one hand we ought to be able to dismiss it out of hand because it attacks (or rather, attributes) assumed motives, not the substance of the argument.

    On the other hand, boys are raised to believe in fairy-tale gender roles, and it’s pretty common to dream of being the hero who someday gets to rescue a princess of his own. So the “white knight” charge can foreground that little nugget of childhood fantasy that never quite goes away, even though you know better, and make you feel ashamed even if you’ve done nothing wrong. (“Maybe I am just trying to impress a girl. Who hasn’t wanted to impress somebody?”) And because it plays on such a heartfelt and subjectively innocent dream, the “white knight” charge can make a person feel infantilized: not only are you just trying to impress a girl, the meme says, but you’re doing it in a naive and childish way–you should grow up and act like a Real Man (TM) instead, you wimp.

    It’s a devious attack because it makes you feel bad for dreaming of being good; it exploits the same skepticism towards altruism that we feel when we wonder if giving to charity is really just an act of selfishness, as though the world was built out of strict binaries. It’s also devious because it poisons the well, suggesting that men can never be trusted even if they appear to be saying and doing the right thing for the right reason. And it’s plausible because, after all, sometimes we are selfish, and sometimes we do things for the wrong reasons, and who hasn’t been disappointed by someone we thought was our friend?

    In the end, though, it’s just another logical fallacy. And if it makes you question your motives, as a guy, then there’s really nothing wrong with that. Self-examination is a part of growth. But if you’re worried about your reputation, or about how it looks to be accused of white-knighting…for my part, I’d rather be a knight than a troll. If you’re going to try to be good, then being accused of trying to be good is just a risk you have to take.

  4. Avatar of Nicole Introvert
    April 11, 2013 at 4:08 pm —

    One of my white knight pet peeves is a woman states something, and then a man comes along and says, “So what you are saying is THIS. Restates and blah blah wrong wrong gets it totally wrong.” And his incorrect re-statement is what he walks away with from the conversation. If you (as a woman) attempt to correct him then you are being argumentative.

    • Avatar of delphi_ote
      April 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm —

      Nobody should stuff words in your mouth and ignore your attempts to correct them! Yuck! What is the social context of this kind of experience? Who are you concerned will judge you for being argumentative?

      • Avatar of marilove
        April 12, 2013 at 2:39 pm —

        I don’t think Nicole is “concerned” she will be judged for being argumentative. I think rather, she was trying to explain that when a woman states something, someone, often a man, will misinterpret what is being said — basically, he will come to his OWN conclusions based on faulty reading comprehension, generally because of his biased views. And then he’ll (attempt to) take control of the conversation by stating his misinterpretation, and if you try and correct him, he’ll get huffy and claim you’re just trying to be argumentative for the sake of being argumentative. Or, he’ll claim that you’re wrong and that he’s right. It’s another form of “mansplaining”.

        It’s a way to take control of a conversation that is not his. It’s a way to silence. And it’s a way to wag their finger and “correct” us while pretending to be on our side (so they can then become martyrs and whine about how meaaaan we are and how never ever agree with them even when clearly they are on our side).

        • Avatar of delphi_ote
          April 12, 2013 at 8:57 pm —

          I think I understand the situation you’re describing clearly enough. What I was trying to understand was her last sentence. “If you (as a woman) attempt to correct him then you are being argumentative.” What is the social situation she finds herself in where she feels she can’t be persistent about what she truly meant without being seen as argumentative? Basically, what social queues shut her down?

          • Avatar of marilove
            April 14, 2013 at 3:13 pm

            I don’t know, how about the social situation in which men are right and women are wrong, which is generally the default social situation, particularly when we’re discussing things like this in a public forum? Aka, mansplaining. I mean, you’ve witnessed some of the discussions, right?

            Maybe I am not understanding you.

            Because hell, I am called argumentative all the time, all because I am persistent.

  5. Avatar of mslongjr
    April 11, 2013 at 4:32 pm —

    I just realized I need to ask a possibly dumb question. Does “white knight” have two distinct (but related) meanings? One for when a guy is trying to shut down another guy for being (or seeming to be) feminist; and one for a set of problems observed by women when they see a guy trying to be (or seem) feminist but failing?

    • Avatar of Konradius
      April 12, 2013 at 7:35 am —

      Yes, and that is actually an excellent summary of the two meanings.

    • Avatar of CityOfDoors
      April 12, 2013 at 11:16 am —

      Thanks for asking this question because I’ve only ever heard of ‘White Knighting’ in the first way it never occurred to that it could that it could be used to describe the second. I would have come up with a completely different answer to the AI!

    • Avatar of Will
      April 13, 2013 at 11:12 am —

      This is not a dumb question at all, and your clarification totally helps me make sense of a conversation I had on another blog recently where someone scolded me for using white knight incorrectly (I was using it similarly to your second meaning, which is how I think about it, and they were saying it’s only used in the first meaning). I was a little confused by that, but now it makes sense!

  6. Avatar of delphi_ote
    April 11, 2013 at 4:35 pm —

    Men should definitely speak up when women aren’t present. In my experience, this is where the worst sexism is bandied about, and it’s the best chance for men to set a good example. Correcting a guy when he thinks he’s in the “boy’s club” can be a powerful teaching moment. Rather than him seeing the lesson as, “Don’t say sexist things because you need to behave around women,” the lesson is very clearly, “Don’t say sexist things, because it’s wrong.”

  7. Avatar of Bjornar
    April 11, 2013 at 4:36 pm —

    Yes.

  8. Avatar of 5up Mushroom
    April 11, 2013 at 4:43 pm —

    I’ve never seen someone get called a white knight before. Whose the one doing the calling, usually? Is it the misogynist trying to get the other side to shut up, or is it the feminist trying to get the knight to get a clue? I can imagine it would be angering to be in the middle of an argument with an obvious sexist only to have another clueless sexist step in and muddy the waters.

    I’m always worried about overstepping my bounds when arguing, but avoiding it is pretty simple… don’t be a sexist dick and you’ll be fine. That being said, when you, a dude, are first starting out and grappling with your newly discovered privilege, shut up and listen. Once you start getting your bearings perhaps you should only be present in a support capacity where the most you add is “Yeah!” and “What she said”. Once you find your own voice, which generally comes with anger and frustration at anything that is sexist, transphobic, homophobic, racist, etc… which is damned near every-friggin-thing, then try going it alone in an argument, but back off when the women show up. Despite your anger and frustration, it’s their fight. You are the backup, not the hero. Also, don’t be a sexist asshole.

    • Avatar of 5up Mushroom
      April 11, 2013 at 4:51 pm —

      Somewhat related… has anyone ever written up “Staged of privilege realization”? Something like the 5 stages of grief? I would think it would be something like Denial->Anger->Realization->Guilt->Acceptance or something like that. It would be cool to have a “How you, the privileged member, can help at each stage” type of guide.

      • Avatar of Amy Roth
        April 11, 2013 at 4:55 pm —

        That is a good idea.

        • Avatar of bcmystery
          April 11, 2013 at 7:06 pm —

          I’ve started attempting this myself many times, but it keeps fizzling out because I end up sounding like a self-satisfied douche even to myself. But structurally, it’s almost exactly like the Stages of Grief, except the stages are things like Obliviousness, Shame and Misdirected Anger, Hurt Fee-fees, Overconfident Yet A Long Way From Actual Enlightenment, and Oh Shit, I’m Clueless, but I Kinda KNOW I’m Clueless Now.

          • Avatar of Madfishmonger
            April 12, 2013 at 9:26 am

            Those are excellent stages, well said.

          • Avatar of James Fox
            April 12, 2013 at 12:17 pm

            When it comes to made up fairy tales the “stages of grief” is a classic.

          • Avatar of bcmystery
            April 12, 2013 at 1:42 pm

            So true, Jacob. Still, it does have a certain rhetorical power.

          • Avatar of Max Hospadaruk
            April 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

            This is actually already “a thing” in counseling theory… I wish I could remember the name of it (google has failed me for the moment). The basic idea was developed with regard to racial prejudice, but I think it applies in almost any privileged group. The 4 stages (as I recall them) were basically 1] obliviousness (there is no racism) 2]awareness (racism exists, but doesn’t bother me/I don’t think about it much) 3]Anger (racism is fucking terrible and I want to punish each and every racist. a lot of people get stuck on this one) 4] Acceptance (beginning to understand that everyone contributes to the system, but don’t really know what to do about it) 5] Ally (Invests time and resources helping in meaningful ways. this last stage is usually described as an unreachable goal to strive after, rather than a place you can reach and be like, “yup, now i’m not a racist anymore.”)

            Replace Racism with sexism and it seems like one of these would apply to most everybody I know…

  9. Avatar of dr. dr. professor
    April 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm —

    Well, you’re labeled as a white knight in some circles (not all really) when you’re a straight man that comes to the defense of a woman or womens’ issues somehow (regardless of whether you’re being a good or bad ally). The connotation of that is you’re defending a woman, therefore you’re seen as a lowly beta by women and will never be the object of their sexual desire and that real men are assertive towards women, and therefore get sex.

    The White Knight Sentiment is:
    – Generally ad hominem against an argument
    – In line with old status-quo thinking about gender & gender roles
    – Untrue (heterosexual attraction doesn’t wane when somebody is nice)
    – Shit & Bullshit

    I’ve never been called it, but I would s

  10. Avatar of Jack99
    April 11, 2013 at 5:37 pm —

    Maybe we should get away from the white knight analogy altogether and think of it more as a team effort? To me (on the internet at leas)t, it seems more akin to football, where we stand shoulder to shoulder, toss the ball back and forth, go in where we see an opportunity, run with the ball for a while, pass the ball to somebody else, and so on. And try not to get in the way!

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      April 11, 2013 at 5:46 pm —

      Ultimately, I think that is the goal- to all be on the same team. Unfortunately, people keep throwing the balls over our heads and not listening when we call for a time-out.

      • Avatar of Jack99
        April 11, 2013 at 6:19 pm —

        Amy, thanks for the reply, and thanks also for going to the trouble to make the video.
        I’m not sure I understand what you mean by “throwing the balls over our heads”. Do you mean we engage too much with other commenters rather than with the Skepchicks (i.e. the OP)?
        Could you maybe give an example?

        • Avatar of Amy Roth
          April 11, 2013 at 6:46 pm —

          Sorry. I didn’t mean you in particular, I just mean in general, when there is a group setting women’s voices are often not heard or simply disregarded because our society places more emphasis (read respect for) on the men’s voice. For example, women are more likely to be interrupted when speaking then men.

        • Avatar of Amy Roth
          April 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm —

          Quick google search on the topic of interruptions also shows that often times women will speak less when outnumbered by men in a group setting http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2012-09/byu-wsl091812.php It’s another example of why it is important to give minority/oppressed groups a chance to voice their opinions and concerns even when we think what we are saying is going to help.

          • Avatar of Jack99
            April 11, 2013 at 9:01 pm

            No offence taken whatsoever, this is your show after all. Yes I see. That’s an interesting finding, that requiring unanimous agreement allows women to be heard more.

      • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
        April 11, 2013 at 6:56 pm —

        // people keep throwing the balls over our heads //

        I think balls over head is the key problem here.

  11. Avatar of Daniel Schealler
    April 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm —

    White Knight is something I get called all the time, but only when I’m sticking up for Rebecca Watson, and only when the person making the point themselves falls into the MRA camp.

    The way they use the term seems to suggest that the ONLY reason a man would agree with a feminist woman and disagree with an MRA is if he was trying to cosy up to a woman for approval/intimacy/romance/sex. Rather than (perish the thought!) having listened to what feminist women have to say and finding ourselves agreeing on the merits of their data and arguments.

    So going by my experience alone, the common usage of ‘White Knight’ is that of a slur used to dismiss feminist men without engagement of our arguments.

    Typically, I take it as a sign that the slur-er feels simultaneously motivated enough to take the time and effort to dismiss me AND unable to address any of my actual arguments and/or counter-arguments honestly. In which case I may actually be doing something a little bit right.

    If there is another, more valid usage, then I’m yet to see or experience it in the wild. It’s like bigfoot I’m skeptical. ^_^

    Note: I am accessing this from work, and am unable to listen to the video right now. May have missed something relevant.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      April 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm —

      Yep, I totally agree that it is a silencing technique used against men who are feminists.

      • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
        April 12, 2013 at 6:43 am —

        Yeah a laughable one though. Whenever I see this term popup on the internet against someone who’s doing the right thing, I can’t help but make fun of the person who used it.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      April 11, 2013 at 7:08 pm —

      I think that the “White-Knight” idea started out as a relevant concept much in the same way that “Straw-Man” is used in arguments with skeptics. By itself the term has meaning but it has been abused so much that now when you hear, “Oh nice straw man argument” or ,”Oh he’s just being a White-Knight” it is just being used as a conversation stopper or a way to poison the well and/or derail a conversation.

      • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
        April 12, 2013 at 6:40 am —

        I disagree about that. I think it was birthed as a sexist trope where chivalrous white knights were male heros saving dainty maidens. It was positive sentiment, but one that assumed a sexist position on gender roles. My grandmother & great grandmother used that term a lot when they were praising a male member of our family.

        I think it was only later (mainly AFTER the internet) it caught on both as a descriptive word within feminism to describe standing in front, and as a derogatory term to describe males taking the side of women. It seems now that it’s used pretty much exclusively in one of these two contexts.

      • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
        April 12, 2013 at 6:46 am —

        And come to think of it, I heard both on the white AND the Indian sides of my family. The European sensibilities on gender roles were really spread pretty far and wide….

  12. Avatar of Laika
    April 11, 2013 at 7:25 pm —

    My husband and I clashed frequently when we were first married (30 years ago) over the “White Knight” issue. If I expressed any negativity about ANYTHING, he would immediately begin to come up with solutions. To me, it felt like he was trying to boss me around and tell me what to do. He thought he was coming to the rescue. I don’t NEED rescuing, thank you very much. He gets it now and I think it must be a relief for him too.

    • Avatar of delphi_ote
      April 12, 2013 at 9:10 am —

      While there may have been aspects of sexism involved in your husband’s behavior that you didn’t describe, what you did describe doesn’t sound to me like “white knighting” (though obviously you experienced it first hand and would know better.) It sounds more like someone acting on the instinctual urge we all feel to help people we care about. To fix whatever problem is causing them pain. My aunt and grandmother do this to me all the time. I’ve had girlfriends do the same. They love me and they want to figure out a way to make me happy. They’re not thinking that I’m weak or stupid. They just have a need to help me. To fix the hurt so I can smile again. This is humanity’s very best instinct. We should be careful about reducing it to “white knighting”.

      But sometimes, the best way to help someone is to just listen and sympathize. Learning when to do that is tough. My grandma is 87, and it’s still an issue for her. She just can’t fight the urge to help instead of listen.

      • Avatar of Jack99
        April 12, 2013 at 4:16 pm —

        My grandfather was even worse, a real control freak, although well intentioned, and it used to drive my parents and I up the wall. For that reason I am acutely aware that people of both genders need to have agency, and if we want to help, we need to keep asking “Is this OK? Is this what you want?” and that sometimes what people want is to do it their own way.
        White Knight viewed in this context then becomes a specific gendered instance of control freak. Is that a reasonable view?

        • Avatar of delphi_ote
          April 12, 2013 at 9:13 pm —

          Reading your post, I just realized something. This “White Knight” phrase just isn’t very useful. Almost nobody agrees on the definition. It’s used as a pejorative by both feminists and MRAs for completely contradictory reasons. Attacking someone with it just causes confusion. If you have to explain what you mean by a short hand expression, it’s not really short hand anymore, is it? Instead of saying “Stop White Knighting”, it would be much more efficient to say something appropriate to the situation like, “Thanks, but I don’t need to be rescued” or “She’s perfectly capable of defending herself” or “Women can speak for themselves.” We’d be better off just retiring the phrase altogether. It’s not helping us communicate.

  13. Avatar of fly44d
    April 12, 2013 at 2:47 am —

    I learned many years ago, as part of a breakup, that I didn’t need to fix everything. I more often just needed to listen and try to understand. Help when asked but listen. It was hard to hear at the time. “You DON’T want me to fix it?” Huh? I was pretty shocked about that on top of that breakup. I guess I’ve eventually absorbed it since I get what has been said here and I am pretty sure I haven’t been White Knighting elsewhere. I’m often so impressed by the strength of other women responding that I don’t feel my input is necessary or any better. For me this has been a good reminder of why I need to listen and not get in the way. And maybe be more visible as backing. Good stuff.

  14. Avatar of Rei Malebario
    April 12, 2013 at 7:41 am —

    The only context I’ve seen it used in is when somebody supports a woman’s argument on an issue (usually an issue that has some relevance to women or feminism but it could be any issue at all) and somebody who was opposing it calls the man a “white knight” (instead of dealing with the argument) and suggests he’s only siding with her because he’s trying to get into her pants (because obviously, a Real Man would never sincerely agree with any statement made by a woman about anything ever).
    In that way it’s a way of ignoring an argument against your position by claiming that the person making it actually agrees with you but is only pretending not to in a pathetic attempt to achieve sexings.
    Usually in forums where the majority of posters are men/boys so that if you discount the guys who agree with a woman’s argument (on account of their obvious insincerity), you’re left with one or two voices (the women) against a chorus of dudebros.

    This is entirely anecdotal, of course, and it could very well have other uses and connotations.

  15. Avatar of davew
    April 12, 2013 at 9:45 am —

    I think this just shows the perils of constantly making up new jargon. Everyone has the sense that the new pejorative is slightly bad, but few people can agree on exactly why. If someone is doing something you don’t like the best way through it is to speak plainly. Most of this just boils down to various types and degrees of dickishness. Most people can be made to see that even if you can’t get them to stop.

    • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
      April 12, 2013 at 11:22 am —

      // think this just shows the perils of constantly making up new jargon.//

      Well there’s no official body that dons new jargon, it’s simply natural linguistic drift. Generally speaking plainly DOES include jargon, and using it carries the point fine. I’m sure as an engineer you’ve told someone at some point to “google it” in the last 10 years right?

    • Avatar of marilove
      April 12, 2013 at 2:42 pm —

      Who made up this new term? And when? Do you know when? You seem to say it’s “new”. Can you pinpoint around when it began to be used? Because I’ve been online for like, 20 (!!) years and, seriously, this is not a new term.

      Most of this boils down to sexist men (and women), and not mere “types and degrees of dickishness”. There, fixed that for ya.

    • Avatar of scribe999
      April 12, 2013 at 3:55 pm —

      Well, the term “white knight” has been around at least since Lewis Carroll’s ‘Through the Looking Glass’ and has repeatedly been used for decades and decades since then to depict idealistic rescuers, appropriated as business jargon for investor saviors, and then appropriated over time by both feminists and their detractors (do a search, and you’ll see the MRAs certainly do love to talk about the term). It’s a pretty vivid and descriptive metaphor and sometimes useful. Of coursed it has morphed as, well, the English language is wont to do. English isn’t math…and if it were, I probably wouldn’t have majored in it.

      In any case, this reminds me of the conversation we all had about ‘privilege’, and I think my point from back then still stands. Language changes. Sorry we have to upgrade the vocab data banks in our heads in order to keep up, but dems da breaks. Hey, everyone was cool with ‘colored’ at one point in our history, but I think we managed to shake that piece of jargon loose and replace it with ‘ethnic minorities’ and other terms just fine.

      • Avatar of davew
        April 12, 2013 at 9:45 pm —

        True enough, Scribe. But as you can tell even within this thread I count four different definitions. In my own industry there is a definition for “white knight” which has nothing to do with any of them. If someone accused me of “white knighting” I wouldn’t know what they were talking about. If someone said “you are offering help where none was asked” I would.

        I think it comes down to what your intention is. I work daily with people from all over the world so I got used to scrubbing my writing of all idiom and metaphor. I think it made me a better writer in general if a bit more prosaic and boring.If your intention is to communicate within your tribe jargon away, baby.

        • Avatar of scribe999
          April 13, 2013 at 1:19 am —

          The number of definitions is irrelevant. A basic word like ‘program’ has multiple definitions (whether as noun or a verb) depending on context. Language requires lots of context to be successfully communicated regardless of what you are communicating, and while you think your scrubbing of idioms and metaphors is by itself helpful to communicate with an international community, that ignores that the work that those you communicate with had to do the bulk of the heavy lifting to grasp even your “prosaic” intentions in English, a very difficult language to learn. But one that many do from all over the world because it’s been the de facto language of commerce for some time now.

          And of course, it does boil down to intention. If you’re trying to communicate something prosaic or straightforward to begin with, like how to plug tab A into slot B, yeah, I can see staying rather staid and formulaic in your word choices. Business and technical language is standardized to minimize change over time. But, um, we’re trying to change prevailing culture, and with language tied inimically with our larger culture and how power is maintained in said larger culture, not just this ‘tribe’, it does require both the speakers and the participants to work a little harder to create more spaces for change.

          At some point, someone probably wondered why we shouldn’t use the word “colored” to refer to people any more and use a different, less familiar term instead. After all, everyone in America knew it, and for a time even members of the African-American community used it. Well, the whole point in new vocabulary is to challenge the status quo, to introduce new language so as to normalize currently uncomfortable vocabulary for future generations and not just get across talking points. Part of social activism, particularly on behalf of minority viewpoints, is making others who don’t already share your vision realize how existing language helps to create social inertia, not just acting as some mundane conveyance of instructions or demands. This is why we maintain that some words are slurs.

          Because, let’s face it, aside from the newer, more negative, definitions of “white knight” you happen to see on this thread, when you boil it down, the word “white” in our language connotes something basic, pure, a benchmark to achieve, and I imagine that’s what you might have initially pictured a “white knight” as something largely positive by default.

          • Avatar of Jack99
            April 13, 2013 at 5:30 am

            Ironically, one of the archetypal White Knights of my generation was Shintaro. That whole samurai thing fed thru the works of Kurusawa and right into Star Wars, the Jedi and modern legend.
            I think white referred to the colour of the uniform more than anything else, where the baddies in cowboy movies always wore black hats and the goodies white.
            Interestingly in defiance of tradition Tolkein chose grey for Gandalf and White for Saruman, I think because Saruman was based upon Lucifer, who was originally the brightest Angel.
            TL;DR you are right in your last paragraph but I do not think that skin colour came into it, if that is what you were suggesting.

          • Avatar of Jack99
            April 13, 2013 at 6:05 am

            In fact, I don’t think you were suggesting that at all. But, yeah, it was the uniforms, simple binary code used in black and white movies.

          • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
            April 13, 2013 at 12:34 pm

            //English, a very difficult language to learn. //

            That depends on who is learning it. As far as indo-european languages go, it’s actually pretty simple because
            – Outside of pronouns there’s no inflectional case (in slavic languages, you need to inflect, verbs, pronouns, nouns, and adjectives based on 6 different cases, 3 genders, and 3 tenses.. very punishing)
            – There’s rarely gender inflection for non-living objects
            – The word order is well defined
            – There’s little interpersonal formalism you need to keep in mind while speaking (you can just say “you”, unlike Japanese or Arabic which have many many different salutations you really need to use depending whom you’re speaking to)
            – Verbs are separate from words (not conjugated onto them like Icelandic or Turkish)
            – Etc.

            There are some tricky things like inexact spelling, complex ways of talking about event timing, use of articles, but overall comparing to many other world languages, it’s one of the simpler ones.

          • Avatar of scribe999
            April 13, 2013 at 1:46 pm

            jack99 … remember, Gandalf becomes ‘Gandalf the White to replace Saruman after Saruman declared himself ‘the many-coloured’. Let’s not forget this exchange:
            “For I am Saruman the Wise, Saruman the Ring-maker, Saruman of Many Colours!”
            I looked then and saw that his robes, which had seemed white, were not so, but were woven of all colours, and if he moved they shimmered and changed hue so that the eye was bewildered.
            “I liked white better,” I said.
            “White!” he sneered. “It serves as a beginning. White cloth may be dyed. The white page can be overwritten; and the white light can be broken.”
            “In which case it is no longer white,” said I. “And he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom.”

            The largely positive notions surrounding the word “white” is ascribed to European skin color … I’m not suggesting it’s the other way around. Also, I’m not just talking about ‘white knight’, it’s a larger issue about communication not just being about imparting information, but actively working toward new ways of communicating.

            dr. dr. — basically, the point is that there’s a lot more work involved learning a new language than, for lack of a better term, “dumbing” oneself down.

          • Avatar of scribe999
            April 13, 2013 at 1:47 pm

            Also, dr. dr. … I suppose my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles never really thought it was that easy. But that’s just personal experience I suppose.

          • Avatar of Jack99
            April 14, 2013 at 6:20 pm

            Scribe, I agree with what you say about Gandalf and Saruman. I also agree with your penultimate paragraph above.
            Sorry about the delayed reply.
            I have been privately bemoaning the fact that it takes a lifetime to read a reasonably comprehensive set of myths and legends, of fantasy and SF and that at some point the rate of leakage from memory exceeds the rate of input. I haven’t even read Gilgamesh yet!
            Also I was kind of meditating whether Elric of Melnibone or Thomas Covenant would fit the description of White Knight. Way OT!

          • Avatar of scribe999
            April 14, 2013 at 10:27 pm

            Jack99 — Thomas Covenant probably needs a whole new discussion thread of its own!

        • Avatar of marilove
          April 14, 2013 at 3:14 pm —

          Words often have multiple meanings in the English language. Feminist spaces isn’t the only place this happens. This happens like, all the time.

          It’s not us. It’s the ambiguous English language you have a problem with.

          • Avatar of dr. dr. professor
            April 14, 2013 at 6:40 pm

            It’s the ambiguous English language you have a problem with.

            Bwaha

  16. Avatar of Wilson
    April 12, 2013 at 12:44 pm —

    I think terms like White Knighting are useful for explaining situations and impulses men need to watch themselves for. Mansplaining similarly. They can be levied as ad hominems against male allies by MRA’s and the like, but really who cares about how they use them? I think they carry a far greater sting when they are used by feminists against male allies.

    These phrases are tools specifically designed to call men out for bad behavior. That being the case, when engaged in conversation with the offending party they can really only have full impact when three criteria are met: the person knows what they mean, the person accepts them as constituting bad behavior, and the person is interested in avoiding bad behavior. In other words, male allies.

    My experience? I don’t have access to any feminists in my daily life. Few people in my life call themselves feminists – let alone know anything about Feminist theory or history. My interaction with feminism is mainly online, with people who don’t know me or my intentions, but who I want to learn from and whose ideas I respect. This puts me in a very fragile position. When somebody says to me, usually full of bile, “Thanks for mansplaining.” There’s no caveat of “you’re mansplaining, but we still like you.” Instead it feels like “You’ve been identified as The Enemy and must be destroyed.” For me it hurts a lot, and it makes me extraordinarily reticent to post, or even to visit the Feminist sites that brought me fully into Feminist activism in the first place.

    • Avatar of Amy Roth
      April 12, 2013 at 1:21 pm —

      Thank you for continuing to post here. :)

    • Avatar of marilove
      April 12, 2013 at 2:44 pm —

      These phrases are tools specifically designed to call men out for bad behavior.

      I actually don’t agree with that, when it comes to “white knighting”. I think I agree with dr dr professor on this one. I think feminist women have taken the word and run with it, but I don’t think that was its original intention, and I don’t think its used that way most of the time still.

    • Avatar of marilove
      April 12, 2013 at 2:50 pm —

      When somebody says to me, usually full of bile, “Thanks for mansplaining.” There’s no caveat of “you’re mansplaining, but we still like you.” Instead it feels like “You’ve been identified as The Enemy and must be destroyed.”

      A tip: When this happens, ask questions. Sincere questions. Let those you are talking to know that you are there to learn. Don’t say, “I am on your side!” because that’s just annoying and often comes across as patronizing. Instead, apologize! Sincerely! And state, “Oh, crap! I don’t want to be a mansplainer. Can you explain to me why I’m coming across that way? I really am trying to learn!”

      I think the BEST TIP is to stop explaining how YOU feel about something and start listening instead.

      Because if you’re being told you’re a mansplainer, and it’s happening quite often? There is probably a reason for that. You probably are coming across that way, even if you don’t want to.

      Maybe you need to figure out WHY people keep pointing that out to you, instead of getting upset. Instead of getting upset, ask questions, and work on how you come across. Instead of getting upset, figure out why it’s so upsetting to US to have to constantly deal with mansplainers.

      As the saying goes, intent isn’t magic. Intent honestly means diddly squat, most of the time. It’s about listening and learning and not taking things personally all because you’re not being allowed a soap box in a feminist area.

      But, yes, I agree with Amy — thanks for sticking around. I bet it isn’t always easy. But consider how difficult it is for us! Your occasional hurt feelings pale in comparison to the crap that Rebecca gets. To the crap that *I* have gotten just for daring to be a woman on public transportation, for example. So, if you truly are here to LISTEN and to LEARN, toughen up and ask sincere questions, rather than “explaining”.

      (Of course, then you risk JAQ’ing off, but that would require yet more typing and you’re probably bored by now, lol. It’s a balance, but the most important thing is to come across as sincere and DO NOT TAKE YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY.)

      • Avatar of Wilson
        April 12, 2013 at 4:48 pm —

        I have my own struggles with the Kyriarchy, but you’re right – the abuse I receive pales in comparison to what Rebecca gets. Which is why I support her, and Amy, and Anita, and Ophelia, and on. I know what they go through. That support is a crucial difference. This is the community I identify with, and that gives it special weight when it comes to the support or abuse it generates.

        Intent isn’t magic, which is why I take what I write so seriously. ;)

        I do ask questions. Mostly I just read. And speak out.

  17. Avatar of victoriadashtwenty
    April 12, 2013 at 6:08 pm —

    I think we’re going to need to come up with another term to use. MRAs use this one, and I suspect it would quickly become difficult to say it without being immediately identified as an anti-female bigot if Feminists didn’t use it. Obviously we still need to be able to say what we need to say so unless we have another phrase to use we should keep it, but somebody should be working on a better term.

    • Avatar of Jack99
      April 12, 2013 at 6:20 pm —

      How about “sexist control freak”?

    • Avatar of delphi_ote
      April 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm —

      I almost totally agree with you. I just posted something very similar above, then saw your comment down here.

      The only place I disagree is your suggestion that we invent another term. This phrase means too many different things now, and deliberately constructed phrases never take off (“I’m a bright!”.) We’d be better off just describing the person or situation. If you’re dealing with a sexist control freak, follow Jack99’s suggestion. If you’re dealing with a mansplainer, say so. At least everyone will know what you’re talking about.

  18. Avatar of locklin
    April 14, 2013 at 8:53 am —

    “White Knite” is typically used by MRA types whenever another man disproves of his rants. It is basically a claim that the “Knite’s” disapproval is simply a weak attempt at flattering nearby women (weak, only because it violates the “bros before hoes” idiom, attacking another superior man in order to gain access to an inferior, woman) . Of course, in the MRA’s view, the only reason to say anything positive about women would be to get into their pants. We should *all* readily turn up our noses at MRA garbage, and the “White Knite” insult is probably effective at making some of us uncomfortable doing so. Women, considering the implication of “White Knite,” if a man talks over you, please don’t use that term, call him an “ass” or something like that instead.

  19. Avatar of dr. dr. professor
    April 14, 2013 at 10:20 am —

    Well what’s hard depends on what your mother tongue is. But English in terms of indo-european languages is one of the simpler ones, and someone who speaks something not in that language superfamily generally has an easier time learning that than say, Russian. And certainly speakers of indo-european languages (Russian/Spanish, etc.) have an easier time with it than a decent number of other languages in the superfamily.

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