“Hacking Your Body”: Femtech’s Self-Tracking as a (Re)productive and Biopolitical Practice in the Neoliberal Era

by Fé Versteeg
2535 words





         In conclusion, femtech technologies are more of an emblem of neoliberal capitalism and an instrument of power than its fluffy, friendly jargon may suggest (“You’re beautiful! How are you feeling today?”) (Kressbach, 2019, p. 243). Whilst it purports to “empower” its user, femtech has a dual objective, as the user’s activity is used to drive capital accumulation by making their reproductive activity more efficient and by capturing value from tracking activities. As such, it can be argued that users are performing “digital labour” in personal spheres of life, which can be best understood in the context of the post-Fordist “social factory”. Their logged emotional and physical activity is commodified when it is transformed into data, which can be bought and sold to advertisers and employers alike. The latter can use femtech data to cultivate an efficient labour force and exclude individuals in order to cut down on medical costs. The enhanced vulnerability femtech creates is also reflected in how it questions the legitimacy of some users, for example by excluding trans people or constructing irregular menstrual patterns as abnormal. Femtech’s construction of norms also allows one to argue that it is a biopolitical tool. Femtech can be seen as a tool for “biopolitics of the self”, in how it allows the individual to “manage” their bodies by quantifying its functions and advising the individual on intervention. The body as “manageable” also reflects the neoliberal corporate structure and positions the individual as an entrepreneur that should “invest” in their body. Femtech apps further reconstruct the entrepreneurial neoliberal subject by shifting the responsibility for health and wellness further away from the state and more towards the individual. Mapping out these aspects of femtech apps allow one to conceive their paradoxical effects, and to articulate how these apps pose a threat to female autonomy in the modern era as they reinforce hierarchies of labour and identity. It should be noted that self-tracking technologies are however not confined to female health: running apps, calorie trackers and sleep monitors are all popular forms of technologies for biometric data that may be used to the same malicious ends as femtech apps are (Vuorinen & Bergroth, 2020, p. 6). Though technologies to use these platforms remain accessible to only a privileged group of people, there is a self-tracking app tailored towards every personal goal within this group. As such, it is crucial to be conscious of how these apps reproduce and exploit the neoliberal subject.