I’m not going to say that the creator of this meme is a misogynist, but he sure is disdainful of men who support women’s issues. Make of that what you will.
The phrase white knight has several meanings; in this case it applies to a man who takes up the feminist cause. The term is a pejorative; it implies that any man who espouses feminist ideals must be seeking a romantic reward. This is insulting both to women and to men. It’s insulting to women because it implies that their cause is not worth fighting for unless there is an eventual physical reward, and it’s insulting to men because it implies that all men are the same kind of selfish oafs as the maker of this meme.
The rest of this meme is a mess. It includes liberal and feminist lingo that is either used incorrectly, or out of context. Here’s the problem with memes like this one: if you’re a man and you even attempt to point out the glaring errors contained in this meme, the meme’s supporters will label you as exactly the kind of person this meme is talking about: i.e. a white knight with ulterior motives. In other words, there’s no honest way to win.
Not that I’ve ever been deterred by impossible odds. Let’s strip this white knight of his armor, and in doing so, expose the ignorance of the meme’s creator.
- Friendzone Shoulder Padding
Despite the insistence of forlorn would-be lovers, there is no such thing as a friend zone. That phrase was invented by people who view women as sex vending machines, primed to dispense the goods in exchange for the currency of chivalry, attentiveness, and emotional support. When a man finds himself in the so-called friend zone, that is, that dreaded territory wherein a woman refuses to have sex with him, he tosses out the phrase almost as an insult, like the woman is defective for failing to honor her end of some unspoken contract.
Those of us who know better, know that women are thinking human beings (Imagine that!) with the autonomy to choose when and with whom they do the nasty, regardless of whether that person has been an emotional rock for the woman during her times of stress. No one would suggest that a man is friend zoning his female friends if he does not repay their kindness with sexual favors (in fact, many of his friends are probably grateful that he does not offer to do so). So why is it that women are somehow expected to repay kindness and decency with sex, then scoffed at if they do not? Could it be because some people still view women as objects that exist for the satisfaction of men, and believe that they are broken if they refuse to act as such? I think yes.
Anyway, if you insist that a woman has put you in the friend zone, you’re wrong. You’re no friend to her if you think that she owes you for your friendship.
Ironically, the meme comes close to being correct in this instance; it clearly implies that women are not obligated to sleep with whatever gentle soul comes calling. I would give the meme credit for recognizing the autonomy of women, especially when selecting sexual partners…but the rest of the meme utterly negates any good done here. Let’s move on.
There are few phrases that confuse me more than SJW, or social justice warrior. Taken at face value, it seems like a noble goal; who wouldn’t want to be hailed for his tireless struggle for social justice? Who wouldn’t want to be known as a champion – nay, a warrior – for those whom society has cast underfoot?
Yet in certain troll-heavy corners of the Internet, the SJW label is often applied as an insult. For reasons I cannot fathom, some people consider it undesirable to be a person who lobbies for social improvement. If you use the phrase social justice warrior as a pejorative, then what is the more appealing alternative in your opinion? Somebody who fights for the status quo? Somebody who thinks that social attitudes toward women and minorities are A-okay? Because I can assure you, they really aren’t. They really, really aren’t.
It’s confusing that the author of this meme decided that our white knight’s SJW sword should be used to “slice through” entitlement. Most conservatives – and I think it’s pretty safe to say that the author of this meme is conservative – seem to think that social justice warriors draw their mana from entitlements. This is just further evidence for my pet theory that nobody really knows what entitlement means, and that people simply use the word whenever they want to discredit their opponents’ ideology.
I’m certain the author meant to say au secours, which is French for to the rescue or, simply, help. In either case, the author implies that one of the white knight’s ongoing missions is to rescue damsels-in-distress; specifically, feminists in danger of engaging in a logical debate.
The only way a logical debate might be dangerous – figuratively speaking – is if you have no logical backing for your arguments. All feminist arguments are based on the underlying assumption that women are people who ought to have the same rights and treatment as other people, and the logic of their arguments blossoms from there. To say that a feminist faces danger when she engages in a logical debate is either to say that this logic is wrong, or that feminists are overwhelmingly incapable of presenting their cases. If you believe that the logic is wrong, we must once again ask what logic you offer to supplant it, Mr Meme Author? Do you contend that women are not equal to other people? Is it your assertion that the equality of women is not a logically defensible position? Or do you simply believe that feminists are too inept to express their arguments in a cogent fashion? I have to tell you, Mr Meme Author: neither position makes you look particularly appealing.
- Cognitive Dissonance Helmet
Cognitive dissonance is mental stress that comes from holding conflicting opinions or beliefs at the same time. Cognitive dissonance is not in itself a bad thing; we are all forced into situations of cognitive dissonance by the circumstances of our lives. For example, we might be concerned about the environment, yet compelled to drive gas-burning cars to get back and forth. In that case, cognitive dissonance might lead us to make decisions that lessen our environmental impact, such as walking or bicycling for short trips. (On the other hand, it might lead us to decide that we don’t care as much about the environment as we pretend to – we all respond differently to cognitive dissonance.)
According to the meme’s creator, the CDH allows its wearer to accept radfem dogma. I Googled radfem (a portmanteau of radical feminist) to discover exactly what constitutes radfem dogma, and came away with varying viewpoints. For example, the usually-helpful Urban Dictionary tells us that a radfem is either:
- An ideologue who acts under the decades-outdated belief that gender, sexuality, and all parts of the human mind are learned and have no basis in biology, or
- A feminist who is more interested in revenge on the male gender than gender equality, or
- A radical feminist who often blogs and posts about sexism.
I encountered conflicting definitions from other websites as well.
So there appears to be disagreement about the meaning of radfem even among people who use the word. Now far be it from me to insist that a word cannot have more than one meaning, but it seems that radfem, like entitlement, is simply another buzzword used by conservatives and anti-feminists when discussing people and ideas they do not like. With no concrete definition for the word, it is impossible to evaluate exactly what the author means when he says that the CDH allows a person to accept radfem dogma.
If I had to take a guess, I would guess that the author of this meme does not know or care about the distinction between so-called radical feminists and the more moderate feminists that dominate the feminist movement. I would go so far as to wager that the author believes that all feminists are radfems, but I can only speculate.
Male gaze is not something that can be corrected by a helmet; it’s a phenomenon that occurs in the visual arts, where the world is depicted primarily from the viewpoint of a heterosexual male viewer, using imagery that would appeal to him. If you’ve seen some of the fast food commercials in recent years featuring scantily clad women writhing in ecstasy over a hamburger, then you have a pretty good idea of what male gaze is all about. The author of this meme apparently does not.
The Magic Breastplate allows the virtuous white knight to swallow his pride and check his privilege; both things that the author of this meme should try doing. When you swallow your pride, you accept that you have to do things you might find embarrassing or which you might not want to do, but which you do because you know you’ll be making a positive difference. For example, the author of this meme might swallow his pride and apologize for making such a wretched meme.
Checking your privilege is something you should always do if you occupy any position on the American Star of Privilege. (Yes, I’m tooting my own horn.) If you are a white, straight, Christian, cis-gendered, relatively wealthy male living in the United States, then you receive certain social benefits that simply are not offered to people who do not meet all of those criteria. Ironically, the more points of the Star that apply to you, the more likely you are to deny that privilege exists at all. Don’t. Being privileged doesn’t mean you didn’t earn any of the things you have; it simply means that society totally had your back along the way.
When somebody says “check your privilege”, they’re saying that you should recognize your privilege; to acknowledge that your race, sexuality, or socioeconomic status affect the way others respond to you. Check your privilege is not an admonishment not to be yourself, or to live to some extreme standard of political correctness; it’s only an invitation to be aware of your place on the social ladder. Everybody could benefit from that.
The gauntlet and mace help the white knight dismantle the patriarchy, which doesn’t sound like a bad idea. Despite the fact that women make up about 50% of the population, they are sadly underrepresented in positions of power (seats of Congress, for examples, or CEOs of large corporations). Given the sarcastic tone of this meme, I assume that the author believes that dismantling the patriarchy is unwise, perhaps impossible.
And here we get to the crux of what the author thinks about feminist allies: he believes that we live our lives apologizing for everything our less-refined brothers (the creator of this meme, e.g.) have ever done or said that was demeaning toward women. Perhaps some people spend their time that way, but I don’t think most feminist allies do. Apologies are not without merit, but they do not change history. That is simply impossible. What we can do is acknowledge our history – to admit that the patriarchy has caused grievous harm to women (and continues to do so). Even if we don’t beg forgiveness for the sins of our fathers, we can live a life that sets an example for our sons. We, the people of the present, can live in such a way that the people of the future will be proud to be our descendants. Part of that will involve treating women – nay, treating everyone with the same basic dignity.
And that is why I hate this meme so much. The author portrays feminist allies as leches in knight’s armor. He insults us by imagining us to be like him. I truly grieve for the author, who is able to see no further than the tip of his own penis. If I were ever going to apologize for any man’s behavior, it would be his.