Apps Bring on Periodic Discomfort

By Krahn, Sarah-Jean | Herizons, Winter 2013 | Go to article overview

Apps Bring on Periodic Discomfort


Krahn, Sarah-Jean, Herizons


With the advent of the smartphone, apps to help women track their menstrual and fertility cycles have become widely available. They range from the simplest in function and design - widgets like Bunny's Period Tracker that count down the days to your next period - to more complicated programs, like FertilityFriend, that track cyclical sign's such as body temperature in order to determine when ovulation will occur.

However, one spinoff of the periodtracking app trend is definitely not woman-friendly. It's period-tracking apps - formen. While one now-defunct application had the purpose of helping the user participate more fully in his partner's fertility cycle, the majority of the apps exist for the purpose of letting a user know when his girlfriend might have PMS or is menstruating so he can steer clear. Some apps even offer tracking for multiple women so that dates can be arranged (or, more to the point, avoided) accordingly.

The apps' creators defend them as fun, light-hearted humour. Code Red's Lisi Harrison playfully calls Code Red "a giant step towards world peace." Yet, with names like FloJuggler and lAmAMan, it's fairly safe to say that, whatever the stated purpose, the period-tracker for men perpetuates a view of the female cycle as a curse.

While users of the period-tracker apps for men enjoy the conspicuousness of lightning bolts and horned Venus symbols, Period Tracker Deluxe's website describes its icons of pink flowers and butterflies as "simple and cute." Whatever the design of their interfaces, however, the apps aimed at women do have useful applications. They're descendants of websites that allow users to input and make predictions based on cycle-related information and, even further back, of stand-alone thermo-sensitive devices like Pearly or LadyComp that measure and record a woman's basal body temperature on a daily basis to determine her fertile and infertile days. …

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