Professor Judith Taylor comments on the growing 'femtech' market

February 15, 2019 by Kate Paik

In an article by CBC News, Professor Judith Taylor commented on  "femtech," a growing form of technology focused on women's health. The article discussed both the liberating possibilities of women having use of data about their reproductive health and the risks of growing private sector surveillance over various aspects of their reproductive lives.

Professor Taylor is an Associate Professor at the Department of Sociology, and is jointly appointed in the Women and Gender Studies Institute, at the University of Toronto. Her research focuses on feminist activism, neighbourhood community organizing, and social change making with public institutions. She also teaches and writes about qualitative research methods, feminist approaches to studying people, and community-based learning, with a particular focus on the dilemmas posed by institutional ethical review. In her work, she uses feminist creative work as a lens to better understand the central focus of feminist imagination and life.

The full article can be found here. We have included an excerpt below.

...The premise behind many companies in this growing sector is that technology can give us more insights into our bodies, biology and well-being, based on our own data, and that can give women the agency to make better informed choices about their health and their lives. These digital tools are "fantastic for women's own understandings about their bodies," says Judith Taylor, a professor of sociology in the University of Toronto's Women and Gender Studies Institute.

Taylor points to benefits such as being able to track how many days of the week the birth control pill makes women nauseous, and where in the cycle, as well as tracking ovulation for pregnancy and changes in their symptoms from menopause and perimenopause. These are details "that really affect women's lives, but MDs don't much care about.

"Further to the notion of technology giving users agency, Taylor says, "Doctors do not seem ambitious to see the root of problems, and apps might be more intrepid than our health-care providers."

According to Taylor, with these tools, women are tracking their symptoms, making their own diagnoses and organizing around these problems to change medicine. She says, "They did that with fibromyalgia, with postpartum depression and a host of other afflictions medicine didn't want to deal with but now has to."

Indeed, for all the ways that our data is now bought, sold, and manipulated, to sell us things and target messages toward us, this is an example of being able to leverage our own data for our own good, to learn more about our health and make better choices for ourselves....