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Author Topic: EP608: Even the Queen  (Read 1603 times)
eytanz
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« on: December 29, 2017, 09:54:22 AM »

Escape Pod 608: Even the Queen

AUTHOR : Connie Willis
NARRATOR : Veronica Giguere
HOST: Divya Breed

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The phone sang as I was looking over the defense’s motion to dismiss. “It’s the universal ring,” my law clerk Bysshe said, reaching for it. “It’s probably the defendant. They don’t let you use signatures from jail.”
“No, it’s not,” I said. “It’s my mother.”


Listen to this week’s Escape Pod!
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shrike
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« Reply #1 on: January 03, 2018, 01:43:06 PM »

I enjoyed this story, old or not the themes involved are still extremely relevant today.
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SemaphoreRaven
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« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2018, 04:03:36 PM »

Any time someone refers to menstruation as a gift, I start laughing uncontrollably. I'm incredibly grateful that the birth control I'm on eliminates that horror.

I'm really glad you guys ran this story. It was a fun listen and like shrike said, it's still very relevant.
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #3 on: January 04, 2018, 09:42:07 PM »

The story was interesting, but I do think it was fairly dated (I am sure that the cyclists were hippie parodies).

I also think the story was fairly biased against the cyclists, instead of presenting the balanced viewpoints I think it was supposed to do. Medically speaking, women's experiences of menstruation are widely varied (just as with pregnancy and menopause), so it's not unreasonable that some women would jump at the chance to get rid of periods, while others would say "why bother". I think the story missed a great opportunity to explore this and instead went the hippy/new agey route for the "pro" group, which I am sure is more difficult for the average person to relate to.

I was particularly interested in the drug the outro introduced, Lybrel, which has allowed women to eliminate their period's since 2007. I had no idea such a thing existed, let alone for so long!! So, I looked it up. Very interesting. And even more interesting is that it does not seem to have caught on. I found this news article (http://www.chron.com/news/health/article/New-pill-makes-menstruation-optional-1546102.php), published just after the drug was released, to give a much more balanced and nuanced discussion of the issue than the story did.
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Zelda
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« Reply #4 on: January 09, 2018, 04:43:28 AM »

I thought this story was silly. I understand that the author wrote it in reaction to an insulting and wrongheaded question but it still just seems silly to me. The premise is that there is a drug women can take between puberty and menopause which will prevent them from getting their periods. That's perfectly plausible. But it's just a drug that prevents cycling while it is being taken. It doesn't cause permanent sterility. Every woman who has a child (and that will be a large percentage of women) must spend part of her life off the drug in order to become pregnant.

In the circumstances presented I find it absolutely impossible to believe that any woman's decision to take or not take the drug would be viewed as a family emergency. There's no reason why the mother, sister and grandmothers would care whether Portia (I think that's her name) stopped taking the drug. If she didn't like getting her period, she'd start taking it again. If getting her period didn't bother her, there's no earthly reason why it should bother anyone else.

I felt both the pro and con characters came out looking badly. The pro side came across as romanticizing something that isn't romantic and blamed the Patriarchy for a decision that women were obviously making of their own free will. But the con side was worse. They believed they had the right to dictate to Portia how she should make a very personal decision about her body. They wanted to deny her physical autonomy. That's what the Patriarchy has been doing since forever. They were bringing back oppression.
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CryptoMe
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« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2018, 12:22:20 PM »

I thought this story was silly. I understand that the author wrote it in reaction to an insulting and wrongheaded question but it still just seems silly to me. The premise is that there is a drug women can take between puberty and menopause which will prevent them from getting their periods. That's perfectly plausible. But it's just a drug that prevents cycling while it is being taken. It doesn't cause permanent sterility. Every woman who has a child (and that will be a large percentage of women) must spend part of her life off the drug in order to become pregnant.

In the circumstances presented I find it absolutely impossible to believe that any woman's decision to take or not take the drug would be viewed as a family emergency. There's no reason why the mother, sister and grandmothers would care whether Portia (I think that's her name) stopped taking the drug. If she didn't like getting her period, she'd start taking it again. If getting her period didn't bother her, there's no earthly reason why it should bother anyone else.

I felt both the pro and con characters came out looking badly. The pro side came across as romanticizing something that isn't romantic and blamed the Patriarchy for a decision that women were obviously making of their own free will. But the con side was worse. They believed they had the right to dictate to Portia how she should make a very personal decision about her body. They wanted to deny her physical autonomy. That's what the Patriarchy has been doing since forever. They were bringing back oppression.

The forums really need to get something like a "like" button. I would so "like" this!!
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divs
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« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2018, 06:02:31 PM »

Quote
The pro side came across as romanticizing something that isn't romantic and blamed the Patriarchy for a decision that women were obviously making of their own free will. But the con side was worse. They believed they had the right to dictate to Portia how she should make a very personal decision about her body. They wanted to deny her physical autonomy.

I try to leave you all in peace here, but I had to smile upon seeing this very astute observation! If you think of the amenorrheal device in this story as an allegory for so many internal feminist arguments, this quote sums up exactly what each side often does. Within the ranks of feminists, there are people who romanticize crappy situations and others who want to dictate every woman's choice. See: motherhood, office work, military service, fashion...and so on.

-- co-editor/host Divya
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Ichneumon
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« Reply #7 on: January 10, 2018, 04:07:42 PM »

I agree, the family shouldn't have been worried. Perdita would have either hated getting her period and quit the cyclists, or not. What's the big deal? The conspiracy theory radicalism would merit more worry by the family than the actual menstruating. I think the most important part of the story were the personal freedom laws they were referring to.
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Father Beast
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2018, 06:48:24 AM »



In the circumstances presented I find it absolutely impossible to believe that any woman's decision to take or not take the drug would be viewed as a family emergency. There's no reason why the mother, sister and grandmothers would care whether Portia (I think that's her name) stopped taking the drug. If she didn't like getting her period, she'd start taking it again. If getting her period didn't bother her, there's no earthly reason why it should bother anyone else.



Obviously it's not about whether she takes the drug or not. It's about whether she joins an organization that could embarrass other members of the family. The grandmother was of the opinion that she had the right to control the lives of her children and was getting upset that her daughter, the mother, did not also have this attitude. This stand has been taken by mothers and fathers here and there pretty much all through history.
Contrariwise, children of said controlling parents have always made a point of joining organizations that offend their parents simply because they do offend their parents.

All in all, I found this whole account quite believable and amusing. I'm sure this very situation has happened (with another thing as focus, instead of menstruation) any number of times in the past, and likely continues to happen.
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luc-krah
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« Reply #9 on: January 14, 2018, 12:15:11 PM »

As someone who really enjoys bleeding, I found this story alienating and quite silly, but I was really thrown by Divyas commentary. Thank you very much, my menstrual cycle is perfectly welldesigned (and what does efficient even mean in this context?). It makes me feel powerful and in touch with my body, which I generally find hard to achieve - what is baffling about people not wanting to eliminate that?
I get that many people suffer from pain and severe discomfort when menstruating, and I respect that and acknowledge that I got lucky with almost always enjoying bleeding, but seriously: A story in which basic knowledge about menstruation is kept from children (Perdita doesn't even know that it involves bleeding) and women (and I guess other menstruating people as well) are pressured into conforming to a nonmenstruating standard, and the commentary is about menstruation not being "welldesigned and efficient" and wondering at why "women are reluctant to eliminate it"...I find that very disappointing, not to say offensive.

PS: I also don't understand the idea of "feminists that want women to be monolithic" vs "antifeminists that want women to stay in touch with nature"
- I read the "Cyclists" to be just as feminist/antifeminist as the Anti-Cyclicsts. And both kinds of feminism portrayed in this story have been around for quite some time.
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Ichneumon
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« Reply #10 on: January 14, 2018, 01:09:12 PM »

Thank you very much, my menstrual cycle is perfectly welldesigned (and what does efficient even mean in this context?)..

That's great for you, but I'd argue that objectively and statistically, the human female reproductive system is not well designed. It technically isn't designed at all.  Natural selection wont act on traits that do not impact the number of children you have, like having pain and discomfort during your period. This is just a guess, but discomfort may have actually been selected FOR, as women may have chosen to have more children if they have super uncomfortable periods, as their cycle would stop during pregnancy.
Most animals don't bleed during their cycle, the lining is re-absorbed and recycled. That sounds more efficient to me. Some animals don't really cycle at all; ovulation is triggered by sex, so the timing is always right.
I think an intelligent designer could make some very beneficial tweaks to our current system...
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Scuba Man
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« Reply #11 on: January 16, 2018, 08:07:39 PM »

I thought the story was about bicycling for the first 12 minutes. Cyclists!? Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Ahhhhh haaaaaaaaa. Gotcha  Roll Eyes
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savanni
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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2018, 10:37:41 AM »

Okay, I always lag behind on podcasts, so I'm late to the party, but...

This story needed a great big huge transphobia warning right at the beginning. I know it was written in the late 80's when we were the kind of people considered unacceptable for polite company or serious science fiction, but we're now in 2018 where we know better.

This story was quite amusing and curious when I thought it was about bicycling (just as Karen did). There we were talking about a different topic near and dear to my heart, the interplay of bicycling, personal sovereignty, and social conformity. But as soon as it switched to menstruation the problems just kind of piled up. Even as the dosent boiled women down to nothing more than their reproductive organs (which, *wow* talk about anti-feminism and buying into the oppresive idea that women good for nothing but their uteruses), the people opposing her couldn't help insisting that *all* women menstruate until they start on this drug.

This just blatantly erases all of the women in this world born without uteruses or with hormone balances that mean that they don't cycle. This is the kind of trans exclusionary rhetoric that turns into erasure and violence, not just against trans women, but against all women whose bodies don't conform to this norm.

Honestly, I really could have used a warning there.  If I wanted to spend my morning getting smashed in the face with TERF ideology, I would have gone to read Twitter.  Sad
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Ichneumon
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« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2018, 12:26:24 PM »

Is ignorance of the struggle of transgender people the same as transphobia?
I think every absolute statement (including this one), especially those involving biology, could be followed by " *exceptions include..." They rarely are, however.
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Father Beast
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« Reply #14 on: January 22, 2018, 07:05:45 AM »

So, I know a woman who has a different experience with her period. She said that when she would get her period, this incredible clarity would come over her, and she would be able to organize and accomplish an amazing amount of things, for as long as it lasted.

Then, when her menopause came, this clarity arrived, and it NEVER WENT AWAY.

I'm guessing that she would likely not choose to take this drug.

I'm also guessing that savanni would say that she and people like her are marginalized and discriminated against by this story.

What the heck, I still liked the story.
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ArbysMom
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« Reply #15 on: February 21, 2018, 08:43:27 PM »

I love Connie Willis, and I'd read this long ago, so it was interesting as an audio experience, especially since the narrator did a good job, I thought, of modulating her voice to tell the difference between characters, and giving them emotional expression. The only two nitpicks I have are (1) Viola is more commonly pronounced "vy-ola" not "vee-ola" as a name, as opposed to the stringed instrument, and (2) the (to me) excessive silences in at least the first few minutes of the narration warranted the first time I've used my podcast app's "smart speed" function, which shortens silences, and which made a world of difference.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #16 on: May 18, 2018, 01:43:58 PM »


In the circumstances presented I find it absolutely impossible to believe that any woman's decision to take or not take the drug would be viewed as a family emergency. There's no reason why the mother, sister and grandmothers would care whether Portia (I think that's her name) stopped taking the drug. If she didn't like getting her period, she'd start taking it again. If getting her period didn't bother her, there's no earthly reason why it should bother anyone else.


Obviously it's not about whether she takes the drug or not. It's about whether she joins an organization that could embarrass other members of the family. The grandmother was of the opinion that she had the right to control the lives of her children and was getting upset that her daughter, the mother, did not also have this attitude. This stand has been taken by mothers and fathers here and there pretty much all through history.
Contrariwise, children of said controlling parents have always made a point of joining organizations that offend their parents simply because they do offend their parents.

All in all, I found this whole account quite believable and amusing. I'm sure this very situation has happened (with another thing as focus, instead of menstruation) any number of times in the past, and likely continues to happen.


Let me add to this discussion of the framing narrative that this seemed clear to me that the whole thing was playfully tweaking Victoriana and things like Wodehouse. All the characters were women, minus the one gentleman who mostly got shunted to a vapid secretary role. This was all a very deliberate stylistic choice for wry satire. I thought that in particular was exceptionally well crafted.

Further, this made me laugh out loud more than once, which rarely happens while I'm driving around listening to a story. If you loved this story and appreciated the style, go read her novel To Say Nothing of the Dog.
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All cat stories start with this statement: “My mother, who was the first cat, told me this...”
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