Naive Meritocracy and the Meanings of Myth
Hackers and other geeks have long described their spaces as meritocratic. Geek feminists challenge this belief as a myth. In short, so-called meritocracies reproduce extant members and favor incidental attributes; they are biased, susceptible to privilege, and unconcerned with inequitable outcomes. I agree that meritocratic claims are often unfounded and elide equitable opportunities and outcomes; such claims deserve scrutiny. Yet, meritocracy is experienced as real by some, and it is a worthwhile ideal. Given that the word myth has multiple meanings (unfounded versus ideal), I offer the term naive meritocracy in its place. I also suggest there are two types of naiveté about meritocracy: ignorant naiveté, which is unaware of these critiques, and subjective naiveté, by which personal experiences trumps all else. The notion of naive meritocracy permits us to be critical of meritocratic claims without sacrificing the ideal of meritocracy as equal opportunity.
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