"I Track my Cycle Religiously": Representations of Fertility Tracking and Childlessness in Contemporary Graphic Memoirs
Other than tracking calorie intake, steps or heart rate, the female body can also be quantified in terms of the menstrual cycle and fertility. App creators have realized this potential (and market value) and offer a variety of apps, such as Glow, Flo Period Calendar or Eve, to track menstruation, often including the possibility to log the severity of bleeding and additional symptoms such as cramps, nausea or mood swings, and when one has had sex. Many of these apps offer the tracking of body temperature, birth control (with a pill reminder) and can predict the user's ovulation window. Therefore, these apps can be and are used to prevent pregnancy or to help with conception. Other apps are even more directly marketed to help with conception, with some offering the ability to connect to other smart devices, such as apple watch (Clue) or a thermometer (Kindara, 129$ for the thermometer). What, then, are the implications of this tracking of the female body? On which assumptions about the able-bodied, cis-gender female body are these apps based? How does this influence women who are trying to get pregnant? What expectations of the female body do these apps create? Do they cause women to view their bodies differently? Does the constant tracking improve body awareness or does it create additional stress or feelings of guilt? In my paper I analyze the presentation of a selection of these tracking apps marketed at the female body and connect them to the depiction of forms of fertility tracking and childlessness in two contemporary graphic memoirs, namely Good Eggs by Phoebe Potts (2010) and Broken Eggs (2014), a webcomic by Emily Steinberg. This comparison offers the possibility to question in how far cultural representations of the female body, in this case in multi-modal narratives, are related to current practices of self-quantification and the image of the docile body that these practices create.