Microsoft, the company that is famous for making expensive and bad operating systems, has now decided to turn its collective hive mind to prevent the scourge of emotional eating in women by making a smart bra. Because of course us lady folk are not able to tell the difference between eating for hunger and eating because we have an emotion. According to Microsoft:
The research is based on the idea that people eat not just when they are hungry but also for a host of emotional and habitual reasons. The goal was to provide a system that could intervene before the person turns to food for emotional support.
The trope this device is pandering to is that women are so overtaken by our emotions that we need something to intervene and tell us we are emotional before we raid the refrigerator. As slaves to our emotions, we are also, apparently, slaves to eating. We don’t eat only when we are hungry, we eat to cope with all sorts of things. Here is a great example from the article:
Sally has been home from work for a few hours, and she ﬁnds herself rather bored. An application on Sally’s mobile phone has also detected that she is bored by reading her physiological state through wearable sensors. Since this mobile application has previously learned that Sally is most susceptible to emotional eating when she is bored, the application provides an intervention to distract Sally and hopefully prevent her from eating at that moment.
In this lovely example, ‘Sally’ needs some gadget to tell her that she is bored and she should not run to the kitchen for a snack. She is unable to regulate her own behaviour or have insight into it. I am sure ‘Sally’ has a fully functioning brain that can easily discern the difference between eating because she is hungry versus eating because she is bored.
The very idea that women need to wear a special bra that will measure our heart rate and level of perspiration to alert us that we shouldn’t eat right now as it would be for emotional reasons is ludicrous. First, the very idea that feeling complex emotions could be reduced to sensing how much we sweat or increases in our heart beat is ridiculous. A woman could be out for a walk or laughing hysterically or doing stuff around the house only to have her bra beep at her warning her against emotional eating. The idea that women’s (or men’s) emotional response could be reduced to physical symptoms is incredibly simplistic and insulting.
Conflating food intake with emotional response panders to the worst tropes about women. The idea that we are all ruled by our emotions and stuffing our faces with food as a means to cope is demeaning. This device seeks to be a solution without a bona fide problem. It casts women as beings ruled only by emotion engaging in destructive behaviour without any idea of what they are doing. I think every person (in first world countries anyway) has eaten when they are upset or bored. But this device is only being marketed to women. Interestingly to have the machine learn your emotional patterns, women would use a mobile app to “to log their mood and food intake. There were reminded via text to log emotion every hour, at least ten times per day.” So pretty much for every waking hour women would be slave to this app. This is just another, in a long line of things, that seek to make women tractable thereby reducing our effectiveness in our professions and other activities.
The other message contained her is that it is only women who engage in inappropriate emotional eating. There is no companion her and his devices; no boxers or ‘tighty whiteys’ with the same device.* Or perhaps the developers think that it is only people with boobs who have an emotional eating problem.
There are so many messages women receive on a daily basis that tell us we are not good enough, thin enough, beautiful enough nor smart enough. Now we need wear a special bra that will connect with our phones to deliver yet another message of how we don’t measure up. This device is yet another thing to police women ensuring that we are slaves to self-improvement lest we take our energy and focus it somewhere else like challenging the very structures and messages that keep us down.
The one sliver of hope here is that the device is being developed by Microsoft. The chances of it actually working as advertised are slim. And, even if it sort of works Microsoft will update the operating system and eliminate the ‘Start Button.’
*As I am writing this, I am getting a vision of Walter White in Breaking Bad in the first couple of episodes where he strips off his pants and cooks meth in his underwear. I can just imagine him wearing one of these devices as he is sweating in the New Mexico heat and his device going off, reminding him to log his food and emotional state while it is telling him that he needs to put the Cheetos down because he is emotional right now!