It’s that time of the week! It’s time for Throwback Thursday, ScienceFiction.com’s ongoing column dedicated to the great science fiction of the past. And today, I have a quirky one for you, and a 1993 Hugo Award Winner, “Even the Queen”.
Good science fiction is about using the setting of the future to answer questions we have today. Usually we think about grand questions like “what if racism didn’t exist?” or “what would it look like if computers became intelligent?”. “Even the Queen” asks a very different question than we are used to seeing in science fiction, which makes it very interesting.
That question is, of course, what does menstruation mean to a women’s identity.
If you are someone who can have periods, you’ve probably wished that you could get rid of periods. In the future of “Even the Queen”, periods are basically eliminated by the surgical insertion of shunts. In this story, the main character’s daughter is seduced by the Cyclists, a group of feminist women who want to reclaim their womanhood and return to their periods.
The conversation, then, becomes one of whether or not periods are just used as an excuse for men control woman. I.e, periods make you too emotional, so men remove the periods to keep woman docile. This naturally assumes the patriarchal idea that woman are crazy on their periods (by the way, we’re not any less rational), so wanting to not have a period is falling into line with misogyny. It is an oddly convincing argument. The Cyclists also believe that getting rid of the period denies women an essential part of their identity. The main character, however, argues that cramps are awful, and no one wants to bleed for a full eight years of their life.
Both sides, I hate to say, make somewhat compelling arguments, much to my surprise (I would gladly get rid of periods), and it’s a conversation we have twenty years after this short story is written, especially with the introduction of more forms of birth control that can often stop menstruation for years.
In the end, the daughter decides not to, but not for the reasons you would expect.
So if you want sci-fi that’s a little bit different, kind of funny, and asks a strangely pointed question, “Even the Queen” by Connie Willis is for you.