I’m not talking about Sir Elton John, or Sir Ian McKellen. “White knight” is a term thrown around a lot. This doesn’t stop people from using it wrong, so here’s a bit of background before I get into the rest of the post. The term, like most idiotic things on “teh” greater “internets,” is thought to originate on 4chan, originally meaning any man who stands up for a woman for the sole sake of increasing the possibility of her liking him, and therefore increasing the likelihood of sleeping with her. It described a man going out of his way to “rescue” a woman who never gave any indication that she needed or wanted rescuing.
Now it is often used to describe a man who is displaying any gesture that is kind or humane, in the general direction of a woman, ever.
1. A person (usually a male) who sees the typical maiden in distress, and believes that he can help her. A male version of the “mother figure” that some girls become.
2. According to the MISC on the BodyBuilding website: A white knight is defined as a male that treats woman as goddesses and does nothing but shower then in compliments on how wonderful and beautiful and special they are.
There are further variations of the term, which don’t seem to match up with one another. I’ve had the term used on me, by a significant other, when I was trying to defend myself. This doesn’t even make sense because who wanted to sleep with whom, here? (I know the answer.) Of course, most things depend on context, but it’s pretty reasonable to assume that if you’re about to say it, you’re probably going to be a jackass about it. Suffice it to say, the term “white knight” is one of those phrases with really fluid meanings, which mostly change at the convenience of men who want to be anti-women. Because “white knight” isn’t a static concept. It’s a way to justify your own shitty behavior. If another man actually objects to your sexist remarks, the idea that he could be doing it because he’s not a jackass is inconceivable to you. He must be doing it for sex. He must be a white knight.
Oddly enough, the original meaning is closer to a feminist concept. It had a somewhat similar definition to today’s ironic “nice guy,” but since it was borne out of 4chan, there was some bitterness in it. Perspective matters, and the coinage of the respective terms matter. Both terms suggest that a man’s primary motivation for being nice is self-interest. But from a woman’s perspective, a “nice guy” is someone who is insincere, and who manipulates and victimizes women. Coined by women, it also demonizes a type of male who whines and gripes when he doesn’t get the sex he feels he “deserves,” and who may or may not wear a fedora. Fedora aside, the general caricature is that an Internet “nice guy” is a highly unfuckable and generally undesirable dude (I am talking about “last man on earth” status).
From a male perspective, a white knight’s decision to victimize a woman is irrelevant. Rather, a white knight is a traitor to men who simply want quality Internet conversation and have to deal with guys who can’t keep their dicks in their pants. The term operates differently from the term “nice guy,” as well. While “nice guy” demonizes a type of man that other men don’t want to become, “white knight” might actually discourage sincere social justice actions in men because they fear being labeled a demonized group of shallow men who pander to women. Therefore, in order to not be a white knight, one must keep being a dick to women to prove they aren’t pandering to them.
In the end, it’s often used as a silencing tactic. Given its roots, it indicates a widespread attitude of misogyny, and reaffirming of the status quo. And while its first and original meaning might have been a good way to expose those who speak up for the wrong reasons, it’s now a way to punish people who speak up for the right ones.