This week I introduced Artificial Intelligence (AI) to Menopause; I wasn’t happy with the result. AI art yielded the same negative stereotype I discovered with my feet on the ground in our remote rural patch of paradise when I researched perceptions of menopause shortly before the pandemic.
The time for positive change is now! AI perceiving ageing women as less than is a saddening truth that our message is not getting through, despite the narrative definitely changing.
DALL-E is an AI Generator app. It seems to think menopause makes women miserable. If you don’t know who DALL-E is, that’s okay. Neither did I.
I’ve always been a bit of a closet tech geek, but relocating to the remote tropics of Far North Queensland after our kids were grown means I’m not always on the cutting edge of what’s new these days, partially because a long walk on the beach can be much more appealing than being bound to the screen. Bonnie D Graham is a New Yorker who talks tech 24/7 with so much panache that even those who think they aren’t really into tech are hooked after one session.
Bonnie’s Technology Revolution radio show on Voice of America Radio is perhaps my favourite radio show of all. Plus, there’s something wildly appealing about a woman in her sixties leading the conversation around tech and innovation. My kind of gal! If you fancy a chat with Bonnie to chat tech in your industry, be sure to reach out. Time on the waves with this STEM celebrator is a blast.
In December when I was a guest on Bonnie D Graham’s annual Crystal Ball Predictions segment to chat about my predictions for tech in femtech and women’s health this year, DALL-E and chatGPT weren’t even on my radar. Did you just hear that screech of the needle ripping across the record, too? Yeah, I had no idea! Too much time on that aforementioned beach, I suppose.
Even last week when I attended Your Digital Bestie Nicky Jurd’s 2023 Digital Predictions I was not in the slightest way prepared to be completely blown away by what is happening in the AI sector. Nicky briefly mentioned DALL-E and then took us on a deep dive into chatGPT. Mind blown!
According to chatGPT itself, ‘ChatGPT is a large language model developed by OpenAI that uses deep learning techniques to generate human-like text.’ It is scary as hell and mindblowing at the same time. Apparently beta testers have recently proved that ChapGPT can even pass the legal field’s bar exam and medical licensing exams. And DALL-E is chatGPT’s artist sibling. Input a few words into DALL-E and a completely original new digital image is created.
Embracing the Tech!
After Nicky’s eye opening seminar, I raced home to bring two of my favourite things together for a play: menopause + tech. That play date didn’t yield the results I expected. Damn these rose coloured glasses of mine!
When I went through perimenopause, I felt isolated and alone. After being fobbed off multiple times with ‘it’s just perimenopause’ my GP offered counselling for a physiological issue. Counselling, while beneficial for many things, does not fix a dry vagina. The pharmacist then gave me a chemically laden pessary which caused an allergic reaction so severe I wanted to flay my skin with clam shells. No one else in our isolated little haven was talking about menopause.
My menopause struggle was real and isolating. Today, though, more women and health advocates are talking about menopause. There is a new tide of women collaboratively pouring our hearts into ensuring the next generation are seen, heard and validated as they enter perimenopause. We are working tirelessly to improve education around menopause both amongst the general public and in the workplace.
We want to change the statistics and take the shame and stigma out of menopause, yet DALL-E is trying to keep the negative stigma firmly attached. Yup, that’s right. I’m calling it out: DALL-E is a misogynistic ageist. Hmpf! I am so disappointed. When I asked DALL-E to create a portrait of a menopausal woman in the style of Van Gough, this happened!
Then I tried a group of women supporting one another in menopause in the style of Van Gough!
Look at them! Frowning. Visibly miserable. Worried. Unhappy. Heavy. Not even angry old crone, morose, a portrayal of defeat. I had to use multiple leading positive words and repeated attempts to get joy-filled, light, contented images of older women. The kind of images that should be associated with the freedom of postmenopausal life, the images of us owning our power and our joy.
The struggle is real
Ever since formulating award winning vulvo/vaginal moisturiser HappyPause™ Balm and putting myself out there as the Vag Queen, I’ve been on a mission to convey the message that peri and post menopause IS our time to thrive, that our second spring can be the best time of our lives. This is the era where for many of us we truly step into our most defined and aligned power. Yet, when I conducted my informal research in our little shire I discovered the weight of society’s perceptions of ageing and in particular ageing women left many postmenopausal women feeling completely invisible and disempowered. Every single word used to describe menopause by my target group was negative, as were their facial expressions. Just like the negative stereotype DALL-E wants to keep us believing.
Despite DALL-E’s creation and my experience a few years ago, a positive shift is occurring. There are movements like Silver Sirens founded by therapist and positive ageing advocate Faith Agugu. At Faith’s annual Redefining Ageing gathering, attendees dance out of the event feeling renewed, knowing our worth, our value. You can join in the Silver Sirens Redefining Ageing celebration this year at the Sydney Museum of Contemporary Art. Save the date Saturday 16 September 2023.
Of course not every moment of life is a portrait of joy. There are heartbreaking moments and things that stifle our breath, but menopause shouldn’t be one of them. When the topic of menopause is not stigmatised and we are having open candid conversations, everything about menopause is more manageable.
With multiple descriptors, DALL-E generated this portrait: ‘A Joyous Happy Smiling Woman Age 50 in the Style of VanGogh.’ Yes! This is more like it! Let’s hope a decade from now the steps forward we are making today leave a delable imprint on AI and women our age are portrayed better than the present so our images look more like this one, without the creator having to add more and more leading positive words to yield this result.