Yeah, I know I’ve written about empathy here before. Because empathy is in desperately short supply in geek culture, particular for geeks who are not cis, het, white guys. I think I first talked about this problem in GGR #186 – Geek Baiting and Why We Don’t Just ‘Get Over It.’ Here’s kind of the money quote:
I agree, the “Nice Guys” do need to grow the fuck up. But they don’t necessarily need to “Get over it.” They need to take their experiences and develop some fucking empathy for other human beings, including and especially human beings of the female persuasion. They need to realize that no matter how many times they hit on, get shot down by, and then verbally abuse and publicly humiliate women who look like the cheerleader who laughed at them in 9th grade, it isn’t going to erase what happened in 9th grade, and it isn’t going to make them feel any better, ever. Nor is it going to erase it if, by some miracle, she ever does say yes.
I further go on to explain how truly “getting over” trauma doesn’t mean, as most people seem to think, that you go back to the way things were before it, but rather that you process what happened and learn from it.
The reason I’m bringing this up again is because yet once again, I’m seeing a lot of calls for empathy for nerd guys (cis, het, white), while ignoring the fact that the empathy being requested is rarely reciprocated.
This is very similar to the source of the “Nice Guy ™” problem, which is men feigning empathy to get in someone’s pants. What they do may seem empathetic, but when it is offered with the sole goal of “putting in enough kindness coins” to get to the pussy, it isn’t actually empathy. Merely knowing the right noises to make is not actually empathy. It is a disingenuous performance of empathy for bullshit reasons.
And this is where I want to talk about a thing that is also closely related to “Nice Guy ™-ism,” White Knighting.
Now, you can be a White Knight without being a “Nice Guy ™.” It is possible, but it is a common trait of the NG, because broken people are often easier to manipulate and have shit boundaries.
Someone on G+ just posited that talking about “pure” motivations is pointless because no one’s motivations are one hundred percent pure ever. Which, is an argument you can make. I mean, the fact that doing nice things for people makes me also feel good is definitely an argument against the existence of pure altruism.
However, I also feel like there are degrees of “purity” if you will. Actually, I hate that term, let’s talk about intent. I know, I know, intent is not a magic bullet and all that, and sometimes good intent backfires and sometimes bad intent creates something wonderful, yes, I know. But this is the thing: your intent does not need to be 100% pure or good to still be better than the intent of someone who has actively ill or bad intent. Moral absolutes are an argument for pedants and children.
Some White Knights just legit want to help people.
Some White Knights are doing it to manipulate people for sex or money.
Some White Knights are doing it to screen their otherwise shitty behavior.
The problem lies in sorting out which one you’re dealing with, because all of them will claim to be that first one.
So how do you tell?
Well, there’s no acid test, but there are hints. Does the White Knight in question respect your boundaries, and I mean actually respect your boundaries without pushing? Does he do nice things without it being a performance for the benefit of others? Does he avoid doing things “for your own good?” (Unless it’s stopping you from running into a burning building to retrieve a thing, because that’s just… yeah.)
If the dude in question is quietly supportive, does things for you without an audience, or constantly bringing them up, and he respects your “no” and does not assume an unspoken no is a yes, you may have found a legitimately good guy who actually cares.
But if he only does nice things in front of others, with an obvious goal in sight, or keeps pushing at boundaries… And especially if he ever does cross a boundary and declares he’s just looking out for you, then he’s probably a douchebag feigning empathy to get laid.
So, here’s the thing, (cis, het, white) Geek Dudes, and I realize that middle bit was kind of a digression, if you want the empathy of Geek Ladies (POC, LGBTQI) people, you need to start reciprocating. Because I guarantee, at least with women, that you have already been on the receiving end of a shit-ton of empathy, because women are acculturated to give empathy and caring, blah blah bah… If it gets to the point where we are actively NOT showing you empathy a couple of things may have happened.
1. You may have encountered someone on a bad fucking day after her millionth clueless fuckboy, and she’s already exhausted her empathy stores.
2. You PERSONALLY have exhausted her empathy stores.
3. You may have encountered a genuinely unempathetic person. They do exist.
Although, given my decades of experience, I’m going to wager it’s Number 1 or Number 2.
Usually I catch myself if I’ve unloaded unfairly on someone because they happened across me at just the wrong time, and I will apologize for the fact that they caught more than their fair share of derision and scorn, but honestly, they did, in fact, earn some of it.
And I have lost my shit at dudes after I have spent hours, days, weeks, months babying them through some crisis that I and people like me have weathered on our own, but all they can do is keep being a dickhead while using whatever it is as an excuse.
See men get to use emotional pain as an excuse to be shitty human beings, as evidenced by the reams of posts asking Geek Girls to suck it up and be nicer to Geek Boys because they have been so harmed by their growing up geek experiences.
Newsflash, most Geek Women grew up geek and have not only experiences very, very similar to yours, but on top of those HUGE helpings of sexism and misogyny. The thing is, for the most part, we take our experiences and instead of thinking that justifies us being shitty to other people in some sort of game of karmic one-upsmanship, it galvanizes many of us to try to make sure no one else ever goes through that same shit. It means we willingly take on more abuse by talking about bullying, sexual assault and harassment publicly while our supposed male “allies” in Geek Culture heap more abuse on top of us.
So, yeah… I think we’ve, or at least I’ve, expended enough empathy on some of you assholes. How about you grow a soul and expend some back?
If you like what you see here, please consider joining my Patreon. Thank you!