Hacking the Cycle: Femtech, Internalized Surveillance, and Productivity

November 30, 2023, 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Savant Building, Room 115 and Online

This Ethics & Coffee event features Alzbeta Hajkova, postdoctoral teaching fellow in the School of Public Policy, and Tom Doyle, postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Bioethics, Indiana University to discuss "Hacking the Cycle: Femtech, Internalized Surveillance, and Productivity."

Femtech refers to a range of technologies that address health needs typically associated with women’s bodies, such as maternal health, fertility, menstruation, sexual wellness, or contraception. Our talk will examine a specific popular femtech product, cycle-tracking applications, as instruments of self-surveillance. We first discuss the relationship between technology and the experience of individual temporarility. Specifically, we focus on the relationship between surveillance workplace technologies and a sense of time discipline as an internalized drive toward increased worker productivity. We then apply this framework to the analysis of cycle-tracking apps, arguing that cycle-tracking apps perpetuate the attitude that the menstruator needs to manage their cycle for the sake of reliable participation in productivity, creating a disconnect between their internal experience of the temporality of menstruation and external pressures. Our critique contributes to the existing worries surrounding femtech—namely, the understanding of cycle-tracking apps as selling a false sense of women empowerment and separating users, under the guise of science, from self-knowledge of their bodies.

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Michael Hoffmann