But we live in a neoliberal dumpsterfire of an epoch where everyone insists everything must be objectively measured. And once things are measured, they can be objectively ranked. And when things are ranked, then rewards can be objectively distributed. And then when people suffer, assholes can claim everything is justified because we distributed resources based on rankings which in turn were based on measurements. (Which, if you know me, you know what I’m about to say here: this is tautological as fuck.)
Numbers are power. The ability to confer measurement onto someone is a socially legitimized way of dehumanizing them. Boys learn very early the power of rank and waste no time using it to hurt. I remember when I was in middle school, boys delighted in rating all the girls on a scale of 1 to 10 on slips of paper they’d cheerily pass around to each other. Inevitably, the girls would find out their “objective” ranking and emotionally implode. It’s a rite of passage for girls to realize that their entire worth as a human being can be so blithely reduced to a number. And much of their teenage socialization — from GPA to SAT — will be more of the same psychic torture.
By the time you’re 25, you’re probably so used to being ranked, judged, prodded, weighed, and assessed that you have long stopped questioning the legitimacy of measurement. After all, you just spent the past ten years jumping through x number of hoops in your efforts to solve for y. And you probably judge your own y value against that of everyone else’s y value and so on and so forth until we have so thoroughly quantified the fuck out of our lives that I’m genuinely amazed that anyone still has the audacity to live.
Holly Wood on quantification.
This is just one tiny quote from the whole article, which I very much urge you to read. Content warning that it is, in part, about eating disorders (another form of “objective measure”) and some people may find the article’s header image offensive.