The phrase “white knighting” is cropping up on various social media, and you may have seen it, coming here for a definition. In fact, there is even an entire subreddit dedicated to poking fun at white knight behavior. So what does it mean?
White knighting refers to behavior of a certain type of guy. The term “white knight” comes from where a knight in shining armor comes and rescues a damsel in distress in fairy tales.
However, we’re referring to the dating and relationship slang term. A “white knight” is a guy who:
– Treats a woman like a goddess because he is attracted to her.
– Tolerates bad behavior, bad attitudes, and jerk behavior from a woman, because she is a woman and/or he is attracted to her.
– Believes women aren’t sexual, and considers women’s sexual choices as the result of being manipulated by “douchebags.”
– Rushes to defend a woman no matter what, simply because she is a woman, even if she is in the wrong.
– Spends a lot of time outraged about the “bad” guys that women date, and, if given the chance, tries to counsel the women about these bad guys.
– Believes women really are “better” than guys and publicly apologizes on behalf of all men.
A friend of mine thinks he is the guardian of every woman on the planet. He is a level-10 white knight.
On Facebook he calls out the supposedly bad behavior of men (never to their face): men are “pigs,” “douchebags” and “only interested in sex.” He frequently issues apologies to women on behalf of “all men.” If a woman even slightly complains about her boyfriend, he assumes she is telling the full side of the story, and will harass and “call out” any guy involved. He has traveled hundreds of miles to help girls move out of their boyfriends’ houses (for little more than a “thank you”) and then gets pissed when the girls move back in later.
The funny thing is that not only is he perpetually single, but typically the women in his life find his white knighting pathetic, unattractive, and whiny.
The reason is that women probably know the truth about this guy and every other white knight: when a guy is a “white knight,” it has nothing to do with actually liking or caring about women. It is all about attraction to women.
In fact, scientifically, “white-knighting” behavior is likely a result of two attraction-related factors in males. First, it plays on the innate male desire to use altruism to impress women. Second, it’s an “alternative mating strategy.” Since most “white knights” aren’t attractive enough to get women via the primary way (masculinity, charm, etc), they resort to pointing out the so-called faults of attractive guys. This ineffective “strategy” is often called kleptogamy, or, more entertainingly, the “sneaky fucker” strategy, since the white knight can’t directly compete with attractive men, he does so in a sneaky way.
There are many obvious problems with “white knighting.” First, it is bad for both men and women. Treating a woman as if she can do no wrong simply because she is pretty (or just because she is a woman) is incredibly illogical and sexist. No woman would ever view another woman as incapable of doing wrong.
Second, this behavior assumes women are totally incapable of standing up for themselves or functioning in the real world without the help of a man. Feminists should be disgusted by white knights more than anybody.
Third, “white knighting” as a sexual strategy doesn’t work. It won’t get you a date. Women prefer guys that have a confident edge, and who actually stand up to women when necessary. Being a white knight is pretty much an instant ticket to being in “the friend zone.” Again, women know how petty and crazy other women can be: they don’t want a guy who gives every woman a free pass. It isn’t attractive.
I believe men and women should be equally treated with respect and dignity. The opposite of white knight is not “misogynistic woman-hater.” The opposite of a white knight is a strong, confident, and assertive guy who isn’t going to let attraction get in the way of being his normal excellent, assertive, and confident self.
There is nothing wrong with standing up for women, or doing nice things for women. Just make sure you are equally willing to stand up for and help out guys.
How can you know if you are entering into white knight territory? Ask yourself, “would I be acting this way if I were dealing with a guy?” If the answer is “yes,” then you are probably okay. If the answer is “no,” then you may be putting on the armor and entering the role of “white knight.”
For example, let’s say your attractive female friend is complaining she lost her job for showing up late to work, and you know she is a horrible employee who broke all the rules from day one. She is telling you how “unfair” it is. If your guy friend was doing all this, you’d likely remind him he was a bad employee. If your instinct is to agree with your female friend, then, sorry to break the news, but you’re a white knight.
And, what if you read about a pretty and cute woman who robbed a bank with her thug boyfriend. Is your first thought that he must have manipulated her into doing it, and that if she could just date you instead, she’d be fixed, with enough love and caring from you? If so, you’re a white knight. If that thug robbed a bank with his fellow male gang member, you’d likely blame them both equally.
So guys, stop playing the white knight. Your “gallant,” “noble,” and sexist behavior isn’t going to cause your female friends to stop dating charming and confident guys who yes, like all guys, are interested in sex, and suddenly run into your arms. Your behavior is probably more repulsive than attractive.
And that distressed damsel you keep trying to rescue? She’s at the movies right now…with your confident and funny roommate you tried to save her from.