Femtech·Mapping technologies·Visual Cultures

The Internet is The Recipe: Sexual and Psychological Education in Digital Spheres

April 12th, 2022

“The major complication we confront as feminists concerned about women, health and healing seeking to intervene around the legitimacy of differences, is that this domain remains under-theorized and under-criticized while it becomes increasingly overbiomedicalized.”

Revisioning Women, Health and Healing: Feminist, Cultural and Technoscience Perspectives, Adele E. Clarke, Virginia Olesen

Figure: Reviewed99 by Morgane Billuart

(This is part two, Morgane Billuart's first INC Longform, Cycles: the Sacred and the Doomed, On Optimization, PMDD and its Metaphors, was published in December 2021 here)

It feels as if I have been bleeding for 10 days. Sometimes, I remember the ways in which I used to try to keep on behaving as if my menstrual cycles were not affecting me. Specifically, the act of performing intimate relationships while I was bleeding.  I feel terrible for the young woman who thought that her sexual non-accessibility would cost her to lose what she loved. Today, I would tell her that losing happens anyway, whether or not you impose matters on your body.

Two weeks. That’s the amount of time when my body feels untouchable, inaccessible. By now, I feel strong enough to accept this fact and let others know, but it does not suppress the discomfort of feeling inadequate and not performing correctly. It’s not only that I feel sleepy, disgusting, or cleansing, but also that I can’t seem to be consumed or used. Is it a problem because of the world’s physical needs and the monogamous nature of relationships? Or is it, fundamentally, a body-related problem that I should try to fix? Is it the format that we decided to create to protect ourselves that oppresses me, or is it my own physical flesh? 

I observe forehead wrinkles slowly appearing. The same ones my dad has. Those of ongoing surprises, or never-ending fears. By the look on my parent’s faces, I can already tell that I will not be able to run the race of wrinkle-free baby smooth skin for long. Too expressive, sensitive, and worried to escape the natural movements that leave traces. I still ignore how one embraces change and the acceptance of discontinuity. I am twenty-four years old, supposedly at what people call ‘the peak’, but no strangers are writing or chasing me anymore. Maybe they knew, perhaps they sensed me, they smelled the lack of sensual hormones, they knew, even before I knew it myself, that I wasn’t a fertile ground and that I would not consent often, even less during my period. Ten days a month is too much to wait for. For some, consuming flesh for the sake of personal story-telling, status-quo and self-improvement was a great recipe. I envied those but quickly came to terms with the thought that I could not be one of them.

There was something tragic, even romantic, about this incapacity to perform, this impossibility to be brave and to act. I could not blame it on my partners anymore and neither on myself: it was the script that was rotten. A desire grew in me to turn this feeling into a practice of impossible quests. About being the wrong type of lover, the lacking body, the non-accessible hole, the walking-brain, the fearful, the unbrave. A desire to explore what could be found in this zone of despair, thoughts that often had found a space within the internet.

Physically Limited or Digitally Empowered

Way before Health Apps and Femtech even existed, the exchange of resources and knowledge around menstrual and feminine care happened through the web and traveled online. YouTube, Reddit, and Facebook had served as what I would call a ‘platform testimony’ for all of those who could not seek help through their generic doctor or institutions. Individuals who did not feel understood or somehow seen as normal in their day-to-day environment probably recall sharing a post or a message somewhere, seeking help, advice—or simply attention. Internet platforms existed as a receptacle, an open door where worries and conditions seem to be solvable or at least softened. Throughout all these years of posting and researching online, I do not recall the fear of being judged or the doubt about having my information collected. It was all about support and community.

It is through this same exact digital platform, the internet itself, that I encountered the terminology of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder for the first time, while aimlessly typing symptoms and lists of burdens. I met Chelsea through her account @PMDDmemes on Instagram. Chelsea’s experiences and insights, as for many others, demonstrated the lack of information and recognition of the condition. While we chatted over Zoom, she shared the circumstances in which she started the account with me. When she realized that not only there was no content about this subject but also no content that made the topic less dramatic and grave, Chelsea took the opportunity to create her own platform to communicate and ease the relationship with her condition. Throughout our discussions, she told me the following: 

‘I had breast cancer last year. The first time I met my oncologist, I told her: “My cancer is a response to hormones and, you should also know that I have PMDD.” She stopped, looked at me, and asked: “PMDD? Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder?” I was so surprised that, for once, a doctor knew what it was. She put her notebook down and answered: “I have been a cancer doctor for twenty-five years. I only know about this because my daughter has it, and she’s been suicidal for the last couple of years. We had no idea what was going on. We finally found out that it's PMDD.” She got really emotional and as I shared my experiences and the creation of my meme page with her she said: “I don't know anybody else who has that. I'm having such a hard time finding care for my daughter.”’

This woman, an elite cancer doctor, had now decided instead of talking about cancer, to try to get Chelsea’s help: ‘She was simply desperate to know how to help her daughter, who was really struggling with PMDD. When you deal with cancer, such as breast cancer, which is affected by hormones, it's probably really important to understand these kinds of conditions, but she had never even heard of it before her daughter’s diagnosis.’

When I asked Chelsea which memes were generally performing the best, she answered: ‘Oh well, for sure the ones relating to the unawareness of the doctors on the subject matter.’ Whether it was PMDD, PCOS, or any other reproductive condition, many testimonials and exchanges demonstrated that when one’s disease or comfort isn’t properly communicated, not explained, or not given enough attention, people who don’t find the care they deserve in the general medical system will seek it online. Exchanging thoughts on flesh-related issues, sexual lacking, and hormonal changes was always a smoother experience when done online. Unfortunately, from quite a young age, conversations with friends where I had the chance to be honest about my body and needs were rare. The internet and its digital spheres always felt like a safer space to share: there was a feeling of care and capacity that I never felt anywhere else. 

For a long time I believed that the only type of acceptance I was capable of was a digital one. One that did not evoke the failure of my body. One that did not echo my incapacity to perform. In Glitch Feminism, Legacy Russel states how the internet embraces the failures of the body and symbolizes the glitch as a representation of a fundamental error that does not try to conform: ‘This nonperformance is a glitch. This glitch is a form of refusal. Within glitch feminism, glitch is celebrated as a vehicle of refusal, a strategy of nonperformance. This glitch aims to make abstract again that which has been forced into an uncomfortable and ill-defined material: the body.’

If this feeling of digital or web empowerment happens more regularly through the transformation of avatars and constructed-self, as Russel’s argues, I would add that this feeling of acceptance and tolerance is generally expanding throughout digital spheres and plays a very particular role in coming to terms with self-acceptance and healing. While navigating those spheres, the improper and the non-optimal find themselves appreciated and valued for a dimension that goes beyond their physical abilities. Additionally, the ability to connect and create a community that is constructed around this failure, incapacity, or lack, reinforces a feeling of belonging which gives strength to its agents. While Legacy Russel emphasizes the power of the digital sphere as a lens to observe the limitations imposed on physical bodies, it is urgent to rethink how the freedom experienced in those internet spheres could become an institutionalized and inclusive truth within society. To be digitally free or cured is one step forward to ways of acceptance and healing, but it should not remain the only type of activism that our bodies can afford.

Searching For Ways Not To Feel Displaced

Figure: Drown2000 by Morgane Billuart

I acknowledge that the body which I inhabit has a lot of power.

I acknowledge that the body which I inhabit has a lot of power.

I acknowledge that the body which I inhabit has a lot of power.

It is its own form of technology. It warns me against danger. It keeps me optimal through stress and sends me signals of pattern disruptions and potential ways to deal with those. 

Still, it is hard to see sometimes, to accept, and worship it. I despise it for not being how I want it to be, or how I believe it should be. I conceive how my demands are shaped and distorted by the many different expectations pushed against my body. 

Facebook Group Rituals
or The Power of Collective Wisdom

“Community is the killer app in health care.”

 STEVE CASE 

Sharing experiences and testimonies into online-enabled communities to realize one very important matter: our knowledge and embodied experience is of relevance and altogether, we can find ways to support, help, and also gain agency for our own conditions. If these online spheres and movements support those bodies into feeling concerned and proactive, they parallelly created a feeling of mistrust towards institutionalized health systems. In the article The Healing Web in Health Care For Women International magazine, researchers underlined how ‘numerous studies have provided empirical evidence that the perception of being supported has a measurable effect on physical well-being [...] The three most prevalent messages included participants’ problems in communicating with their physicians, discussion about problems with hormones replacement therapy, and participants’ identification and discussion of the advisability of alternative treatments.’ For the numerous conditions related to hormonal complications or more broadly to the reproductive systems (PCOS, PMDD, Endometriosis…), it is highly recommended, if not mandatory to be supervised and followed through with the support of generic doctors. There is no way to escape those meetings, those encounters, and there should be no reasons not to do it, as these conditions, although not fully understood yet, are real diseases that deserve all types of needed care. Still, more than often, these face-to-face meetings and confrontations let women and menstruating bodies feel frustrated and misunderstood.

In the article Women Are Calling Out ‘Medical Gaslighting’, journalist Melinda Wenner states that ‘research suggests that diagnostic errors occur in up to one out of every seven encounters between a doctor and patient and that most of these mistakes are driven by the physician’s lack of knowledge. Women are more likely to be misdiagnosed than men in a variety of situations. Patients who have felt that their symptoms were inappropriately dismissed as minor or primarily psychological by doctors are using the term “medical gaslighting” to describe their experiences and sharing their stories on sites like Instagram.’ This reality happens to be even worse for minorities and black bodies. Through hosting the testimonials and experiences of the ones feeling concerned, the internet rendered visible the quality of their life and treatment but also demonstrated on a bigger scale the medical misogyny and the scarcity of care in these matters. 

In a broader perspective than Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder or just reproductive health alone, the year 2021 shed light on how much the intuition and feeling of healing online or healing digitally resided at the core of our current belief systems. One could observe that the ideology of Heal-Thyself, or the belief in self-sufficiency and auto-medication has risen from digital spaces and helped many individuals regain agency towards their own life, choice, and conditions. From an embodied experience to more scientific studies, researchers have been capable to demonstrate quite specifically how online presence and support undoubtedly play a huge role in serving each individual feeling more at ease and adequate with the troubles and issues they’re experiencing.

To illustrate this phenomenon, which is not limited to mental or physical limitations, the article From Lay Depression Narratives to Secular Ritual Healing demonstrates how exchanges related to mental health struggles were actively participating in the positive evolution of one’s mental state: ‘The functional equivalent of the second step of ritual healing, the summoning of the transcendental, is secured by the pragmatic forum dynamics, which evokes an authority in the form of the scientifically justified biomedical discourse. This is not transcendental at all, but fulfills the function of an unquestionable knowledge.’ These modern attempts to exchange and gather around similar concerns and health conditions, otherwise called peer-to-peer communication, have proven to be of deferential support for those bodies. The information shared on these platforms became essential for people so they could share their concerns and their survival, strategies whether it was shared on Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, or Youtube. Indirectly, while the people providing information led the way for what started to become a self-healing revolution, they also created social capital as they provided connections and networks

Throughout conversations and encounters within groups of women and menstruating bodies who struggled with similar issues, they realized that there existed patterns and similarities in the ways in which internet platforms such as Facebook groups or Reddit forums have helped them with either a diagnosis, medication or with a sense of belonging. But these experiences and common practices have existed long before the appearance of the internet. When looking into the history of peer-to-peer knowledge in ancestral times, situations and moments where meetings between women happened in which they exchanged knowledge and proceeded to specific types of rituals are present. These encounters, feared by the Church or any similar form of institutions of the time, were quickly suppressed and hidden.

Ironically, one could stipulate that the hegemonic platforms structures that are Facebook, Reddit, or Instagram, supported the emergence of these forms of alternatives knowledge as they related to the common shared experiences that these bodies endured. They offered a space for these gatherings and rituals to exist. Simultaneously, while this phenomenon gave us the opportunity to feel more digitally empowered and mistrust the medical institutionalized field, it also enabled a new alternative market of never-ending possibilities to cure infinite health-related conditions. In her book, The Undying, Anne Boyer retraced her battle with breast cancer, underling how every form of institutionalized and personalized health should be questioned. A reminder that through sickness and pain, all arguments and statements made by anyone involved are valid and aimless at the same time: ‘The pharmaceutical companies lie. The doctors lie. The sick lie. The healthy lie. The researchers lie. The Internet lies.’ 

The growth of alternative medicine proposals: Health Thyself & Capitalism

Figure: MagicRecipe67 by Morgane Billuart

Thanks to the internet and its networks, theories of healing and self-medication started to arise. Simultaneously, the market for supplements, illegally dropped medication, and production recommendations noticeably boomed. These businesses, which are mainly perceptible online, gave a chance to whoever thought they knew better the trials and errors of their own body. Even though this might sound like freedom, one should nevertheless recognize the rather dangerous nature and elitism of such activity—depending on the given condition, vitamins, gels, tools, and devices are offered to alleviate one’s symptoms. Often, the expenses of these products and their shipping costs remain at an average rate that many individuals can’t afford. Although questioning the status of contemporary medicine led to more beneficial changes and critical debate, the alternative self-healing movement remained a rather niche and privileged option, given that not every individual has either the time to do the proper research or the capacity to take those 50$ a month pills. No matter the quality of those products mentioned, their inaccessibility should be questioned.

‘​​I take the Perfect Women’s Multi. It has vitamins A, C, D, E, B's, Biotin, and Folic Acid. Could I get these from a well-balanced diet? Probably! Is that a lot of work and planning? Sure is! Do these vitamins in fact contain any of these vitamins? No idea!’  

Extract from article No Ethical Vitamin Consumption Under Capitalism - Columbia Daily Spectator 

The arousal of these supplement economies and the rise of alternative medicine did come from a space of wanting to defy institutionalized forms of healing and finding cures. In the similar manner in which these internet spaces echoed older forms of meetings, exchanges, and rituals, the sources and recipes exchanged echo more experimental and holistic forms of care. Baths of aromatic concoctions, nightly rituals, experimental diets; numerous are the options, diverse are the practices. Although these activities are often without risks and consequences, and while they invite each individual to take responsibility for the functioning of their own body, it is nevertheless necessary to question such practices insofar as they refocus the individual at the very center of their health condition. In Holistic health and the critique of western medicine by Janet McKee, researchers emphasized how ‘​​these therapies also assign the major responsibility of health to the individual, lowering dependence on medical personnel, drugs, and other medical treatments. In identifying the source of disease in unnatural toxic conditions rather than in germs or other physical causes, the naturopathic view has the potential to identify the extent to which disease results from the production and consumption of unhealthful and toxic products.’ 

More than a simple niche, this demand for alternative health treatments seemed to be leading a revolution in the way we understand healthcare. The Collaborative Care Model, an article published on functional medicine coaching, justifies this tendency as a result of our current deficiency in caring and healing bodies: ‘​With the rise of chronic diseases, long-term pain, and more, the need for alternative healthcare practitioners and health coaches is growing now more than ever. Patients are dissatisfied with the small amount of time they get with their doctors, and with doctors who prescribe a pill for every illness. Patients are saying that the conventional model is not working, and they are now seeking and demanding an alternative option.’ 

At the core of this alternative and holistic system resides an entire economy of self-taught practitioners and users, giving rise to an entire business model of shipped supplements, plastic bottles, and daily vitamins to ingest. This ever-expanding economy, defined as The Complementary and Alternative Medicine Market, is estimated to be worth $404.7 billion by 2028. Some of the key companies in the Complementary and Alternative Medicine Market include Columbia Nutritional, Herb Pharm, Herbal Hills, Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute, John Schumacher Unity Woods Yoga Centre, Yoga Tree Studios, Inc., Helio USA Inc., NatureKue, and Pure encapsulations, LLC. 

These additional precautions and holistic treatments are, to this day, unfortunately not fully acknowledged or reimbursed in the same way in each country, and their accessibility differs according to legislation. Fortunately, a rather large part of those online treatments and advice remains DIY, almost ready-to-be-made types of cures. Although the access to this knowledge is public and therefore somehow accessible for free, one of the remaining differences is the time available for each body to try and experiment with it, as well as the degree of possible danger if misused. This phenomenon also happens to be true for many transgender individuals having to wait too long to get medication or therapy approved, therefore illegally consuming hormones or trying to build up alternative holistic combinations as a replacement for the treatment they asked for. And still, all these stratagems do not replace the safe, fair, and equitable treatment that our institutions should be able to give. And even when alternatives or holistic care will be accessible to more people, one should not forget that menstruating bodies, in certain areas of this world, are barely capable of buying pads and tampons to have their most basic hygiene needs covered because of period poverty. 

As great as internet recipes and DIY treatments might be, peer-to-peer communication and its rituals hold many critical insights which should be taken into consideration. In the article Peer-to-peer communication, cancer prevention, and the internet, researchers underline how ‘​​some unique and potentially problematic issues in online peer communication stem from data collection and aggregation. Even assuming that people post correct data about themselves (or correct explanatory information about health conditions), the self-selection of the participants reduces the generalizability of the information.’ Aside from the fact that this information and resources exist, that they are shared, collected, and gathered every day, we have to recognize that we simply haven’t found a proper model yet to make these alternatives models of knowledge and care recognizable, and legitimized to the eye of science.

In the meantime, internet websites such as IamPMDD or the PMDD memes pages rely on information and play an active role as a supporting structure. Through Instagram, Facebook, and Youtube, they carry their message and bring awareness thanks to problematic support structures that have actually been able to host and collect our experiences and knowledge. In that regard, one could claim the internet as a fundamental feminist space as it enabled the emancipation and existence of alternative health and medicine discourse around menstruating bodies and female bodies. It is the platform itself that has enabled communities to connect, exchange, and share resources when the generic discourse could not tolerate any deviances. But was it ever a safe space to rely on its information? What has been done with our knowledge and resources, if not used for our preferences to target us with very specific product recommendations?  

Capitalism, production recommendation, and Facebook ads: The platform Economy

(You’re going to make me leave the one I’m with)

Before leaving for the party, I manifested for myself: something shall happen tonight. Sometimes, when I ask for things and get them, I imagine myself closer to God, feeling heard and loved. I start to believe that what happens is meant to be, and therefore do not question the consequences of my actions. God is the excuse, the determinant, the determinism within me, although I have never called myself a believer.

When I feel inadequate and non-functioning, I blame my body and often ask for a sign of its mechanisms. As if my flesh has to prove me right, instead of trying to listen to it. 

This month, something happened that I hadn't noticed in a while now: I ovulated. It happened around the full moon. The skeptics will say it does not relate, I say it does. How happy was I to notice the change of comportment, of smell, a sort of confirmation of my peaking youth, validity, conformity, fertility? From now on, everything will only go downhill, so I chose to be extra. I bleached and colored my hair, matching my tiny pants and tee-shirt. It’s hot.

Surveys suggest that it takes approximately a year and a half for a female to get bored of her sexual life/interactions with partners. I wonder how many partners I will need before I can assure if this is a fundamental truth. For the time being, I exist in a world where I’ve been trained to think that monosexuality is the only way to keep my partners loyal. When I feel sensual and optimal, this idea sits well me with. But this feeling never lasts long. 

How many times did I wish for a pill to make this belief last forever?

The scene: It’s a full moon, I am ovulating. A stranger wants to go on a walk. It’s four o'clock and we’re sitting down in the Redlight District. Every bad decision starts like this. We kiss. I don’t like him but I like the idea that I’m taking risks, that I am desirable, that I can do what I want and that it does not matter. The presence of an unknown hand on my waist and the tongue in my mouth left me moved. 

But it’s not his persona that turns me on, it’s the feeling of sensuality and freshness. I am consumable. This sudden belief is not sustainable: only the full moon lets all of this happen. A one-day-a-month type of experience. I take this memory with me when I go to bed the next day. The knowledge of my sexualized body cuddles with my brain. I shall save this memory because I know that a few days later, my desire to touch and feel will be reduced again. 

Sometimes, I imagine that is exactly how it feels to exist in a constant flow of sensuality, with the right dosages of hormones, perhaps if only I had found the proper amount of supplements. I’ve dreamed about creating this one component, this secret mixture, this one thing that would help me feel at ease and keep the feeling alive and within. But this space and the ideal moment never seem to remain constant, and I often desperately search for it on the horizon.

If we can indeed agree on the potential that internet spaces offer, one should not get too comfortable with the idea that online activism and supplements will truly help certain communities. Often, this ideal of self-healing and empowerment through personal choices leads the individual not to question the support structure that failed them in the first place. In the work Health, HealthCare and Capitalism, Colin Leys put in perspective the focus of contemporary medicine, underlying how ‘​​medicine began to fix its gaze on a morass of deep-seated and widespread dysfunctions: sickly infants, backward children, anemic mothers, office workers with ulcers, sufferers from arthritis, back pain, strokes, inherited conditions, depression and other neuroses and all the maladies of old age… The health threats facing modern society had more to do with physiological and psychological abnormalities, broad and perhaps congenital tendencies to sickness surfacing among populations rendered dysfunctional and unproductive by poverty, ignorance, inequality, poor diet and housing, unemployment, or overwork.’ In a contemporary society where healthcare systems operate, the ideology of healing within capitalism seems to mainly focus on fixing the problem once it appears, rather than questioning beforehand the toxicity or oppressive environment one lives in. This argument also sheds light back to the urgency of caring for female reproductive conditions, which are quite often aggravated due to the criteria and forms of oppression one lives in. 

While some of us shared our distress, our pain, or our inability to function on the vitrine of these platforms, they were profiting from our presence and despair. In these groups where one searched for comfort and help, the flow of messages mixed with hopes and despair sunk with Facebook Ads, product recommendations, or affiliated marketing. Suddenly, this space for community and resources became an opportunity to sell and reference products under the name of capitalism and sponsors, making the theorization of peer-to-peer recommendation even harder to test, qualify and recognize. 

In the article Digital Labour in the Platform Economy: The Case of Facebook, researchers studied how the business model of search platforms participates in the extraction of data and therefore, produces implicit work and labor done from the user’s perspective: ‘​​Compared to Uber, Deliveroo, and Foodora, Facebook represents a different ideal type, in which the labor performance is not immediately perceivable as a field of physical and intellectual efforts. Indeed, the digital labor on Facebook is the above relational activity or “labor” of social reproduction.’ Although it is not obvious to see these unable or sick bodies as ‘​​exploited workers, they are nevertheless producing knowledge and effort through a platform that makes a profit from their presence and hardly gives anything back to these communities. Ideally, in this world of shareable resources and internet exchanges, an ideal peer-to-peer economy would be a decentralized model whereby two individuals interact to buy or sell goods and services directly with each other or produce goods and services together, without an intermediary third-party or the use of an incorporated entity or business firm.

Figure: Networked00 by Morgane Billuart

From Internet Resources to Digital Health Revolution: A Rising Women Health Humanities Agenda

While we could agree on the perception of the web as a fundamental healing structure, the walls of the virtual should not become an ideal environment that does not question the institution and medical structures. The ideology of self-healing and self-medication, which often arise from mistrust and misinformation has dangerous outputs that neither the institutions nor the individual fully understands themselves. Thankfully, more than raising a community of self-indulged junkies which denied the capacities and possibilities for change, these networks and connections reinforced what was about to become a real ideological and technical revolution for menstruating bodies and women.

While transhumanism kept on promising its arrival, emancipating us from our biological conditions, one had to face the fact that this time of history had not come yet. Additionally, this project was a hard promise to believe in, given that science did not still fully understand what hormones were or did to bodies. Facing those realities, the ever-expanding gathering of individuals complaining about their support structure or the way they were being cared for led to constructive discussions and observations: we could send humans to the moon, but we still could not help certain bodies with their pain

The time has come for a change. 

Apps, podcasts, websites—many platforms on which this new ideology surfaced. But this collective interest in women’s health and knowledge wasn’t specifically avant-garde. Indeed, the women’s health movement of the 1960s and 1970s transformed the doctor-patient relationship and yielded the novel concept that women can take control of their own health. Through protests, DIY self-kit (as the famous Del’Em), and different waves of propaganda, women tried to ensure a new era of care and health that would go beyond institutional recognition and acceptance. Almost fifty years later, it is sad to report that the goals attempted back then haven’t been reached; still, it is hopeful to denote that a more global movement of conscious and physical awareness has arisen, leading women and menstruating bodies to develop a critical and caring attitude towards the meanings of health and care.

With the internet as a space to gather and find resources, as well as the growing advance in adversity in the technological and scientific field, it became clear that the first half of the 20th century had a real potential for growth and change if the notions of health, care, and advancements were first properly looked into. These communities had understood and realized that such issues were deeply rooted in other’s society’s mechanisms, whether it be capitalism, patriarchism, lobbies, or systemic forms of oppression. It became rapidly clear that this digital health revolution had many urgencies to deal with, but also that its promises could only be kept if the strategies were inclusive and diverse enough. In the article The need for feminist intersectionality in digital health, researchers stress not only the importance of including more diverse groups of individuals in the processes, but also, the importance of including ‘​​marginalized groups—e.g., ethnic or racial minority women and low-income women into app design and testing and ensure groups will benefit in tangible ways from the research’, as well as ‘​​increase (minority) women in digital health leadership positions and give them more recognition for their work, including (last) author publications, citations, commentary papers in academia, and public speaking opportunities in both academia and industry.’ Without such components in this revolution, it would be nearly impossible to attempt or even claim it to make any difference. 

In the midst of all of these challenges and obstacles, the project of diversifying and revolutionizing female health seemed to be difficult somehow, perhaps even impossible to resolve. But the constant updates, experiments and changes happening within the industry proved us wrong. There seemed to be more will to change and evolve than to sit and observe the blocked wheels of a rotten system.

But this Digital Health Agenda has more than one possible mission: not only should it create diverse and reliable public sources, but it should also focus on the study of one’s environment, and educate users about their responsibility and privacy. It should acknowledge what has existed before, and how to bring it back. Dig into what is a safe and reliable structure for our bodies. It should not only propose pills and treatments but also suggest alternative ways of being and existing that do not promote optimization, competition, or comparison.

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Biography

Morgane Billuart is a writer and a visual artist. She graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and studied at the Cooper Union in New York. Currently,  she is a researcher at the Institute of Network Cultures in Amsterdam. In the era of digital practices, DIY-internet beliefs, self-help seminars, untouchable or unlived experiences, her practice aims to display diverse forms of faith or beliefs, and how they are generated nowadays. Often, she confronts these themes and interests with her gender and existence as a woman in the spaces she investigates and questions how the forces and fluctuations of female bodies can help us rethink and criticize the technocratic and digital spheres surrounding us.

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