I appreciate any feedback folks are kind enough to leave on a new draft: Saying it so doesn’t make it so: Insights on privilege from geekdom’s meritocracy melee
ABSTRACT: Peggy McIntosh famously characterized privilege as an unearned “invisible knapsack” of special provisions. Although this is a powerful metaphor, it is a challenging critique to make, especially for geek feminists. After providing brief cultural histories of geek feminism, meritocracy and privilege, I claim that geek discourse shows that these comparative notions are inherently difficult and this is exacerbated for geeks because of an element of their identity and culture. Just as the debate about “fake geek girls” revealed that geekdom’s boundaries are defined and policed relative to the mainstream, especially the movement of attention, I argue that geek identity is similarly informed by a relative sense of inferiority and superiority, which leads to a naive notion of meritocracy. First, geeks question how they could be privileged given what “they have themselves had to endure in life.” Second, as seen in idiosyncratic presentations (e.g., dress), they presume they are beyond mainstream conventions and biases when in fact such biases are still present. Hence, meritocracy is much like the otherwise commendable values of openness and freedom because a naive understanding impairs those values’ actual enactment. I conclude by noting that meritocracy is often conceived of in a comparative historical sense as well and that this, too, is problematic.