Smart tech in the reproductive realm?


A story this week reported the  development of the smart tampon , a device which will apparently enable women to collect and monitor health data based on menstruation. The apparent purpose of this devise is to help women spot early signs of diseases and to manage their reproductive health. The CEO of the company behind this product claims that ‘managing one’s reproductive health is a fundamental women’s issue these days’. Reproduction is therefore seen as something to be managed, and specifically by women. Technologies apparent drive to devolve responsibility for all aspects of health to the level of the individual is then marketed as a tool for ’empowerment’ of women of reproductive age. Men are of course neglected from this narrative, in which biological essentialism dictates who the realm of reproduction ‘belongs to’ (i.e. women).


This suggestion of ‘smart tampons’ also takes the idea of ‘quantified self’ (useful ideas about what the concept of quantified self entails is available here) into a new realm of the ‘quantified vagina’ . Seemingly nothing is sacred from tracking, measuring and monitoring in the era of ‘smart’ technology, is the ‘smart condom’ the next development for tracking sexual activity or contraceptive effectiveness? Given that the iphone ‘health app’ offers space to track sexual activity as it can ‘affect both physical and emotional health’ the spreading of quantification into realms which were once viewed as ‘private’ or ‘personal’ or ‘pleasurable’ seems unstoppable. Seemingly the idea of using smart tech in relation to tampons is not being suggested for the first time either, showing that quantification of reproductive health may becoming more pervasive. Although as the latter article wisely notes, when it comes to technology ‘just because you can doesn’t mean you should’, and perhaps this is a note of caution that should be being heeded by those who seek to colonise all aspects of social life in the seemingly never ending cause to create ‘data’ about every aspect of individuals lives. Calling something smart, doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea.


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