- This study presents an intersectional qualitative analysis of women’s health apps, exploring how they perpetuate American cultural norms and idealised constructions of women’s health
- The results show that the healthy female body promoted by these apps embodies three archetypes: (1) Barbie; (2) Earth goddess; and (3) entrepreneur
- The authors provide feminist guidance to app designers and encourage women to critically evaluate these apps as users
App designers should increase the diversity of bodies featured in the icons of apps and use descriptors that challenge these harmful normative expectations of health.
This includes those who are unable or choose not to reproduce, those experiencing negative emotions, women exploring sexual health apart from reproduction, women who are not heterosexual, and transwomen – by framing motherhood and female fertility as necessary, joyful, and disconnected from sexual pleasure. This should be avoided.
Health app designers should focus on inclusivity and avoid the emphasis on the need for constant monitoring and improvement of one’s body and self-promotion, which transfers the burden of appropriate care from health providers to the patient, while app vendors make a profit. This is particularly harmful to low-income women, especially women of colour, who are often systematically denied health care and blamed for their poor health.
Enacting entrepreneurship in the context of health requires time (apps demand routine and disciplined engagement) and money (advanced features often require payment), both of which are outside the realm of possibility for women in poverty who might manage multiple jobs, lack surplus income, and have precarious access to basic services and needs.
- Marissa J. Doshi – Department of Communication, Hope College, Holland, MI, USA