I am working on a presentation on “Algorithmic Bellyfat and Menopausal Rage” for a conference at University of Ghent, entitled ‘From unruliness to collective action: Challenging norms on gender and sexuality’ a conference organised by ECREA Gender & Communication:
This presentation will discuss social media algorithms and imagery for ageing women’s sexuality and hormonal or bodily changes during menopause. It will analyze 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.
My presentation is very visual and the text starts as follows: “I wake up to an image of an animated walking fat belly, a gross one as a matter of fact, that keeps appearing on my social media feeds. I keep getting images of old women with humongous bellies who need to be “whipped into shape.” Perhaps these cartoons look harmless or funny, but as it goes with social media algorithms: more more companies will find you with your ageing body and pot belly—the forces will seek you out and multiply. Soon you are swamped with this sort of imagery of “repulsive fat bellies”. The corporate-owned algorithm is making a prediction: ”You are an ageing woman so you also likely to have a fat belly, and secondly, you in one of the stages of your menopause. You are hormonally stressed and excitable, you will redirect this anger at your environment but mostly yourself and your body–your belly that is expanding and which bothers you. You are targeted as a “menopausal woman with rage and with fat belly” who can be somewhat salvaged with tons of exercise. But another prediction servie is added now: you can exercise all you want but your hormones are raging and you are in need of a stronger medical aid. “
Come find out what it will be. Online talk October 7, 2022. More info will follow and here some more of the images: