Nerd vs. bro: Geek privilege, idiosyncrasy, and triumphalism

Joseph Reagle


Increasingly, geek culture is criticized as one that is biased; in particular, geek claims of meritocracy are thought to be naïve because they do not recognize the privilege (i.e., unseen advantages) of extant members. But some geeks are resistant to this critique. Why? Beyond the natural tendency to be defensive and the unproductive comparison of personal suffering, there is a geek-specific reason. Geek identity is informed by the trope of geek triumphalism: early insecurity is superseded by a sense of superiority. Geeks’ intelligence, unconventional enthusiasms (e.g., technology and fantasy), and idiosyncratic dress contributed to their marginalization, leading them to believe they would never do the same to others. And these same characteristics, later in life, become sources of success and pride, leading them to think they are more open-minded, objective, and beyond bias.


privilege, geek, feminism, idiosyncrasy, meritocracy

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