The Bodylife Library project

The next phase of vagina vérité is beginning, and I wanted to invite you in.

In a way, I’m going back to the beginning…It began as a way to enable a friend to see herself for herself. It’s often hard to do, to find the right mirror. The right combination of what we want to see, and what is. Especially when it comes to our bodies, not just how they look, but how it feels to us living in them, living through them—living our bodylives. There is a lot more noise than information, conversation or care. At least as far as I can see.

Much of female bodylife experience is routinely hidden, smacked with stigma and shame, marginalized, outright disrespected, mis-informed, mis-represented, under-researched, sanity-undermining, dangerous and life-threatening. More so if you’re a woman of color, non-binary, or noticeably non-conforming. 

What came to mind for you there? There is so much we could talk about. 

For me: I have only just begun to discover how normal is indeed diverse.

And personal.

And, how important the knowledge, wisdom and experience held in each of our bodies matters to the collective wellbeing  and quality of our lives —because even with the ungraspable magnitude of who we are as unique beings, each pretty much a planet unto ourselves: we are nevertheless connected, and can learn from each other’s experiences and views.

We have to stop acting as if the ideas in our heads (or in other people’s heads when we’re being dominated or marginalized by them) are the truth and how things are, or should be. Our bodies are the truth. I want to start there.

Only, it’s really hard to get at each other’s experiences and views. It’s often hard to find a safe space for questions that come up in simple everyday scenarios. It’s hard to know where to get health services, or how to figure out what’s wrong with you when something feels wrong in you. Or to learn to live in ways that are about self-care and wellness for you and those you love. While we are living the live of more than half the world, finding information and support for the range of bodylife experiences that make up a woman’s life is not easy. 

Which brings me to the Bodylife Library project.

As a spreadsheet-loving, systems-thinking, blockchain-cool-aid-drinking geek, who’s life is primarily about making connections so things can flow their way, I think we need a tool, designed to index all of our stories, info, data, services—everything about female bodylife that is currently in private Facebook groups, blogs, websites, books, face-to-face conversations, or just inside us and we have told no one—so that they are safely, easily, and universally accessible to individual women, organizations, websites, research and healthcare in the service of our wellbeing.

Building a Bodylife Library

The range of experiences happening day by day when it comes to our periods, having sex, pregnancy, giving birth, post-natal life, post-menstrual life…is varied and personal and flat out awe-inspiring, yet most of us know very little about how our bodies work, or what to expect throughout the course of our lives.

This is a huge topic. It’s deeply personal, and political. It’s fueled by —often hindered by— local, national, historical, ideological, politically-motivated and religion-based conceptions of what comprises a normal bodylife, and/or a healthy bodylife, and this informs what is an accessible bodylife.

What you have access to is in part a matter of privilege, and in part that some of what’s needed here just hasn’t been built yet.

While there are blogs and forums (like private Facebook groups) that share personal stories, and websites belonging to organizations, doctors, scientists doing research and/or community and social service providers, etc.—they are all separately doing their thing. Google Search is not designed to connect us with what we need unless we already know what it is we’re looking for.  

We should have a universal indexing system (think of the Dewey Decimal Classification used by libraries) for women’s bodylife stories, information and services. 

We all deserve to live our lives on our own terms, to talk freely about our experiences, and to take care of ourselves, based on our individual experiences and points of view, not on someone’s idea of how we should be.

I believe accessible information and open conversation are the foundation of a world where living a female bodylife is intrinsic to the design of our everyday lives. Not an add-on. 

The Bodylife Library project is building an open-source ontology to index everything we need to know about female bodylife to live fully-empowered lives on our own terms. An ontology is  a way to standardize how information is handled, so that it is easier to get at it and to use it. Open source means that it can be used by and improved by any software developer. Building software this way increases the likelihood of innovative and responsible development on an ongoing basis, as there is no central authority or owner looking to satisfy a specific vision, use-case or bottom line. 

My vision of it is that it will be a blockchain-based index, and that along with decentralized, cryptographically secured records, where you can only add to the ever-growing database, you cannot alter or delete anything in a way that isn’t visible to everyone else, we will incorporate privacy and self-sovereign identity mechanisms, so that you control how your information can be used. Safety for individuals is integral to the design.

This is a complex and huge deal, and I will continue to breakdown the parts. Ugh, I see a white paper in my future! 

Please note that much of the technology that I envision using here doesn’t exist yet, except in theory. It is the promise of decentralized computing and storage that has a bunch of us blockchain-cool-aid-drinking geeks fantasizing about a future where the internet is indeed a democratized space where exchange can take place between any two of us anywhere in the world for any reason that is meaningful to us on our own terms.

My first step here is to talk with individual women, and start where we are.