Algorithmic Bellyfat and How to Get Rid of it?


I presented “Algorithmic Bellyfat and How to Get Rid of It” for a conference at University of Ghent organised by ECREA Gender & Communication:


This presentation discusses social media algorithms and imagery for ageing women’s sexuality and hormonal or bodily changes during menopause. It examines a collection of archived visuals and animated ads from Facebook and Instagram that try to sell rules-based challenges and diet plans for women’s (menopausal) weight gain, with a focus on shedding subcutaneous belly fat. The grotesquely animated fat bellies have to get toned and eliminated through daily and hourly fitness routines, as customers sign up for  “health and wellness” packages designed by overly simplistic and misogynist AI models. The AI models that deliver these visuals on our social media feeds have been built on a decade-long robbery of women’s online data and have turned this wealth of information into an obsession with ageing and bellyfat. (Zuboff, 2019; Pasquinelli and Joler, 2020) These AI models also lead to misleading medical information such as the idea that subcutaneous belly fat is a menopausal symptom caused by a lack of estrogen levels in the body, which is still a contested fact in medical industries. Hence in this talk I hope to carry out a brief visual analysis and then discuss strategies of coping with incessantly ageist and sexist visual aesthetics, as well as algorithmic bias and misinformation. I hope that the talk could generate a further dialogue and shared reflections about women’s menopause and how to turn our social media feeds and rage into productive interventions.