In the wake of last Friday’s mass shooting in Santa Barbara and the subsequent #yesallwomen twitter campaign, I’ve been seeing a lot of guys being accused of ‘white knighting’ for standing up for women and calling out sexism. The term is nothing new, I see it in just about every single comment thread in every single article about women in Magic: the Gathering, the video game industry, etc. Here is an example of the term being used just yesterday.
Someone posted a picture on the M:tg subreddit showing off his friend’s planeswalker cosplay at a convention. A few commenters left rude remarks about the woman dressed up as Liliana (these comments have been deleted). One guy responded with:
“Very nicely done!
To the people putting down the Liliana cosplayer, please be aware that not only are your comments disrepectful, and unnecessarily hurtful to that person and other people with a similar body shape who might be reading, but also to people like me (and I’m sure I’m not alone) who think she’s attractive.”
To which another guy responded with: “Oh my God, white knight somewhere else.”
I should also point out that at the time of writing this post, the comment accusing someone of white knighting is more upvoted than the positive comment defending the Liliana cosplayer. That is ridiculous to me.
When someone is called a ‘white knight’ they are insinuating that the guy who is defending sexism is a hypocrite because if he really cared about gender equality he wouldn’t hearken back to an old time when men were chivalrous and had to protect women. Women are empowered enough now to take care of themselves and they don’t need a man to help them protect their self-interests. Calling someone a ‘white knight’ is a silencing mechanism, and a damn effective one at that. Even I experience some self-doubt about my beliefs when I see someone using the term. I can’t help but think about whether or not I am being a good or supportive ally to the feminist cause. I think about how some LGBT allies say things like, ‘I fully support gay marriage and equal rights but I just don’t want to see two guys kissing on TV,” or who proclaim to support gay rights but then continue to make jokes about how Justin Beiber and Twilight are gay.
At the end of the day though, you can’t let the term get to you. The people who accuse others of being ‘white knights’ are probably the same group of people who tout Men’s Rights and see Feminism as some evil construct designed to turn Western society in a Matriarchy. They view feminism as if its still about bra burning and women trying to be like men. They fail to realize that feminism has evolved since the 70s. Modern feminism is about deconstructing gender roles and gender expectations for all. It’s as much about stopping people from presuming a woman incompetent when she gets a job in the tech industry as it is about stopping people from presuming that a man is gay or a sissy when he gets a job in the fashion industry. It’s as much about a woman not being ridiculed for playing in a magic tournament as it is about a guy not being ridiculed for playing magic instead of watching sports. It’s about putting an end to what it means to be a REAL man or a REAL woman. That is a cause worth fighting for regardless of your gender.
Next time someone accuses you of ‘white knighting’, just think about this: