Camden’s White Knight

So I got home last night, and played a bit of Batman: Arkham City, as I tend to do. And while I soared over Gotham, randomly diving to the streets below and battering some petty criminals to a pulp, I got to thinking about the speech at the end of The Dark Knight:

Because he’s the hero Gotham deserves, but not the one it needs right now. So we’ll hunt him. Because he can take it. Because he’s not our hero. He’s a silent guardian, a watchful protector. A dark knight. 

NB: This is a framing device – I didn’t really begin quoting Batman in a nightclub.

I don’t know if it’s a widely used term outside the internet, but the accusation is often levelled that people are being “white knights” – leaping to the defence of female posters as if they are damsels in distress. It comes with undertones of benevolent sexism and also Entitled Nice Guyism. I do my best to avoid it online. But when I’m out on the town, I realise I have a creeping tendency to White Knight. When I see a creepy bloke rubbing up against a woman like some oversized feline, my instinct is to somehow provide her with a way out. Sometimes it’s female friends – I’ve developed codes with some as to when I intervene. Last night, however, it was with a girl that I still don’t know by name, just from having been in a group with a friend of mine. Some middle aged bloke on his own approached her not once, not twice, but three times, despite the clear no signals she was blasting his way. After that, I tapped her on the shoulder and asked if she’d like to swap places, which would leave her across the group from creepy. She smiled, said thank you, and moved, simples. And I grappled up into the rafters before gliding off over Camden Lock to find more damsels to rescue and creeps to thwart.

This made me think on a few levels.

  1. Just because it is in the real world, it doesn’t take away any of the problematic features of the White Knight. On some level, it is still as if I’m the big strong hero intervening to protect the helpless wimmenz. Which just isn’t the case. In fact, I’m sure most of my female friends can handle themselves way better than I can.
  2. While not necessarily with the older man, because fuck, if that’s me in twenty years, something went seriously wrong, but generally, I do feel some affinity with the guys throwing themselves at my friends. I’m single, I do go out vaguely hoping to attract female attention, and on some level, seeing that rejection does elicit sympathy. But, the advantage of going out with women is that you instantly see it from the point of view of the victim of that stupid non-consensual grinding that seems to happen and just… understand, I guess. Nonetheless, I feel like I’m somehow letting the team down, slightly.
  3. I had been interested in that girl myself. Linked to point 2), however, is its converse – while I refuse to do the non-consensual dancing, equally, I know that, personally, at least, if I start using White Knightery as a way ‘in’, I’ll be the worse for it. Because then that really does dive into Entitled Nice Guy territory – “I just saved you from that bloke, because really, I want you for myself, and as I did you a favour, you owe me your attention.” So that was frustrating.

So yeah, being a real life white knight. At least it enables me to find pictures like this one and share it.

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