White-knighting is not worth an ass-beating

A (male) writer for the Telly is somewhat perplexed as to why he couldn't do the "gentlemanly" thing and step in during an altercation between a large man and a small woman:

The man wouldn’t let her get away. As she grew visibly more distressed, his large frame effectively blocking her from leaving, she was backed into a corner and the argument grew increasingly heated. 

His tone was not hugely aggressive, but rather sad and needy; it was clear he wanted to "talk things through" and sort out whatever issues they were facing. [Didact: Read as "butthurt Beta who can't let go".]

The woman, who was in tears, repeatedly stated her desire to have nothing more to do with him. But due to his size and strength she was finding it impossible to push past him. 

The man, thickset and tall, stood over her and dominated the exchange. He merely had to shift his weight from side to side to ensure she had no means of escape. It was horrible to watch. [Didact: Not horrible, merely quite uncomfortable. There is a difference.]

It was around 7.30pm at a relatively quiet suburban train station and my overriding feeling was that even though I wanted to intervene, to say something, a larger portion of my brain was telling me that if were to step in, I’d be putting myself in immediate danger. Quite simply, my good samaritan instincts were being overridden by a fear that this guy, considerably bigger than me, was in just the sort of agitated state to make him inclined to knock me out with a swift blow. [Didact: Good call, Sir Wimpsalot.]

Of course, the sensible advice in such situations is for someone in my position to call the police, or to at least alert somebody in authority or seek advice from a hotline. But my phone battery was drained. The handful of others filing in and out of the station didn’t even take a second glance; everyone seemed entirely nonplussed. 

The only other member of the public showing a vague sign of concern was sitting inside her car with her children. I suggested that the argument appeared to be getting out of hand, and asked her whether she would mind calling for help. By the time we had established that she was prepared to do so – and she seemed positively disinclined at first – the arguing pair had calmed down and moved on. OK, so nobody stepped in, and no harm was done in the end. But what if things had panned out differently? 

Last year, Alice Arnold asked quite rightly asked why nobody stepped in when Nigella Lawson was famously grabbed around the throat by now ex-husband Charles Saatchi. At the time I too was flummoxed as to why the only action taken by passers-by was to reach for their camera. Would I have stepped in? Perhaps. Perhaps not. 

Certainly I'd have felt that I was less likely to be putting my own safety on the line in confronting a millionaire art dealer rather than the chap at the station who, based on first impressions alone, looked like he might enjoy a bit of a scuffle.

The white knights of the world who claim that it is always a man's duty to step in and protect a woman in distress do so because they do not understand a very basic and fundamental rule of fighting: finish what you start.

If you step in between a man who is acting aggressively toward a woman, you'd better be damn well sure that you can take him on. And even that is no guarantee that you will walk away unscathed. Most men who have never sparred or gotten into a fight do not understand just how powerful adrenaline is as a motivator and pain suppressant. In a fight, a man who rides that initial surge of adrenaline and controls it becomes very dangerous indeed- but a man who simply lets his instincts take over is even worse, because in his uncontrolled rage, he becomes impossible to reason with or intimidate.

Note also the sad-sack quality of this (English) man's appeals to authority. Welcome to what feminism hath wrought. Western civilisation has for the last 60 years or so insisted on outsourcing the responsibility that every single one of us carries to ensure our own personal safety, to the care of others. Those others are very often too far away to help you when you're actually in danger. The police are useful, up to a point- but expecting them to step in to deal with a heated altercation like this, which apparently didn't even escalate to the point of physical violence, is simply absurd.

To demand that others step in to protect a woman every time she feels the least bit uncomfortable in public is not only silly- it is physically impossible. And to demand that "someone" take action when a woman feels unsafe is to deny the fact that the woman herself has responsibilities that she must first uphold, before others can step in.

For instance- I remember well a series of arguments that my sister had with my mother on the subject of whether or not it is a man's duty to protect a woman at all times. My mum, who is rather old-school about these things, said quite categorically that a woman is responsible for dressing and acting in a non-provocative manner when out in public. If she insists on keeping bad company, or staying out late and getting hammered (in various senses of the word), or dressing like a harlot*, then she should not be surprised when she gets into trouble.

And if a woman insists on creating a scene in public with a man who is significantly larger and more powerful than her, then there is absolutely no good reason why any other man should step in to assist. Not least because that potential white knight could find himself waking up on a gurney in the ER, staring up at bright lights and wondering what the hell happened and why several of his teeth are missing.

Moreover, there is no guarantee that white-knighting will not backfire on you. One of the comments to the article itself was quite interesting:

Many years ago I got involved in the middle of fight where a man was physically abusing a woman in the middle of the street. Both were drunk [Didact: what did I just say about ladylike conduct?] and he was pretty violent. He punched her a couple of times in the face and grabbed her by the hair like a rag doll. I stepped in to calm him down but instead he attacked me. Being a Taekwondo black belt holder I was able to give him a taste of what his girlfriend or wife was enduring. [Didact: Bullshido alert.] But to my surprise, while I had him on the floor she started hitting me with her high-heel shoes on the back of my neck like a crazy person. Astonished I simply could just not comprehend what was actually happening so I just got the hell out of there. I´m not implying that all or most women would do such a thing but that´s just crazy!

That's exactly what could happen to you. The woman that you are so gallantly trying to rescue could just as easily turn on you- and now your problems have multiplied, because you not only have to deal with an angry and aggressive and possibly drunk guy, but a crazy woman with sharp objects in her hand too. It's a no-win situation.

And then there is the very real possibility that you will be taken to court for stepping in to help. Again, this is what feminism hath wrought. We now live in a society where men can no longer settle their differences by beating the ragged snot out of each other and putting an end to it; instead, we live in a "sanitised" society in which wall-to-wall counselling is illegal, and women can win cash and prizes simply by claiming that they feel uneasy around certain men. Unsurprisingly, such a society is one in which women, and snarky timid men, can take well-meaning and otherwise harmless men to court and win substantial damages; it is also a society that cannot guarantee physical safety of any kind to most of its citizens, because those who would otherwise do the protecting can see that the penalties for doing it are far higher than the rewards.

Bottom line: don't white-knight. Stick to your side of the road. Don't intervene. Just walk away, even if you know that you could take the guy down and kick his ass. Your own health, safety, and welfare are far more important than those of strangers that you neither know nor trust. Exceptions exist- if it's your sister or wife involved, obviously, or your neighbour's daughter, etc. But the basic rule of thumb is that white-knighting is for manginas- don't be one of them.

* I prefer the Biblical term; it sounds both more genteel and more contemptuous than "slut".


  1. On a related note - Sarah Hoyt just wrote about - and Vox picked up - how the culture of non-violence actually leads to more bullying and other violence

    1. Indeed. That's where my whole shtick about women winning cash and prizes yet not actually being any safer comes from. Same basic idea- if men lose the most primal outlet for aggression and anger in relatively isolated settings, society as a whole suffers in the end.


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