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This short fiction (short story or maybe novelette) could only have been written by a woman. I read it more than 10 years ago in a collection, but it is probably much older than that.

A middle age woman (the POV character) calls her mother (or perhaps her mother-in-law) to tell her that her daughter (just turned 18 IIRC) has decided to become a "Cyclist". The older woman does not see any problem about her grand-daughter doing some outdoor exercise. But "Cyclists" is not at all about riding bicycles but about menses!

It takes place in a possible near future, when a perfect treatment has been found to suppress menses, without any negative side effect whatsoever. (I think they can just stop the treatment when they want to get pregnant, and resume it just after the birth). So almost all women have adopted it, and give it to their daughters as soon as puberty starts. A very small percentage of women, who call themselves "Cyclists", choose not to take the treatment and persists in having menses. Some of them are very militant and try to proselytise others. Young girls turning 18 are obvious targets since they can now choose for themselves. In particular the daughter of the POV woman of the story.

There are a few rather hilarious pages where the whole family, mother, both grand-mothers, sister(s?), aunts, cousins, friends and acquaintances all discuss of the way to convince the girl to change her mind. Which she does, eventually, IIRC.

The story does deal of a serious medical-sociological problem, but in a very humorous way.

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    Could it have been from the 1940/50s before the contraceptive pill? Dec 16, 2023 at 23:54
  • I don't think it was all that old. The topic was not contraception per se, but all the difficult and sometimes painful side effect of menses.
    – Alfred
    Dec 16, 2023 at 23:59
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    @JiminyCricket. Contraceptive pills are made, packaged, and marketed to specifically allow for a monthly bleeding (not an actual menstruation, but it looks like one). This bleeding is actually not necessary for the function of the pill, or for the health of the person taking them. If you're of a cynical mind, you might think that it was made this way specifically to convince old government men who approve of drugs that they aren't "tampering too much with the natural order of things". Which is to say, for most people, using contraceptive pills does not mean stopping monthly bleeding.
    – Arthur
    Dec 17, 2023 at 21:28
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    @Arthur they're also widely used to prevent (by not having the week off in the case of the combined pill) or adjust the timing of a monthly bleed, especially in those seriously involved in sports, but also for those who suffer each month otherwise
    – Chris H
    Dec 18, 2023 at 11:24

1 Answer 1

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This is "Even the Queen" (1992), by Connie Willis.

To quote from Wikipedia:

"Even the Queen" is a science fiction short story by Connie Willis, exploring the long-term cultural effects of scientific control of menstruation.
[...]
Three generations of women discuss the decision of one of their daughters to join the "Cyclists", a group of traditionalist women who have chosen to menstruate even though scientific breakthroughs (in particular, a substance called "ammenerol") have made this unnecessary. The title refers to the fact that "even the Queen" (of the United Kingdom) menstruated.

It includes the miscommunication about what exactly "cyclists" means:

"Not mine," Viola said. "Perdita's. She's joined the Cyclists."
"The Cyclists? I left the West Bank negotiations because you don't approve of Perdita joining a biking club? How am I supposed to explain this to the president of Iraq? She will not understand, and neither do I. A biking club!"


Identified by searching for "cyclist" "story" scifi menstruation, which turned up the right story. I then verified by finding the above quote in an online version of the story.

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    Asimov's, April 1992. Available at the Internet Archive.
    – DavidW
    Dec 17, 2023 at 1:20
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    Asimov was spot-on accurate about the "West Bank negotiations" -- looks like this will follows us far into the future... Dec 19, 2023 at 8:17
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    @HeinrichsupportsMonica I believe that was Connie Willis's speculation, Asimov is the publisher here.
    – MackM
    Dec 19, 2023 at 15:01

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