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Poem: "Flowing into the Future" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
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ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Flowing into the Future"
This poem is spillover from the May 15, 2018 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] readera , [personal profile] chanter_greenie , [personal profile] librarygeek , [personal profile] bairnsidhe , and [personal profile] sporky_rat. It also fills the "doctor" square in my 5-1-18 Roles card for the Pro Wrestling Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by [personal profile] stardreamer. It belongs to the Aquariana thread of the Polychrome Heroics series.

Warning: This poem is all about menstruation, feminine products, and other touchy topics. Highlight to read the warnings, some of which are spoilers. It features Aunt Flo who specializes in women's health, Aunt Flo's Flushies which handle feminine hygiene in a whole new way, reference to sexism in science, messy medical discussions, reference to endometriosis with near-fatal complications, planned off-label use of a product in wide use but that hasn't been tested by any government agency yet, safety issues in mad science, delicate religious discussions, and other challenges. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.


"Flowing into the Future"


President Latheef looked up
from the immigration file at
the middle-aged blonde woman
wearing a white lab coat over
a pale blue blouse and slacks.

"Tell me what brings you to
the Maldives," he said.

"I want a better place
to practice," she said. "I don't
like having to hide my work, and
if you're as interested as they say
in developing new technologies,
I'd really like a platform for that."

"What kind of technologies?"
asked President Latheef.

"I'm Aunt Flo," she said. "I
invented Aunt Flo's Flushies."

"I'm sorry, that doesn't sound
familiar," said President Latheef.
"Could you explain more?"

"Men don't want to fund anything
to do with women's health. I became
a mad scientist so that I could just do
whatever research I wish," said Aunt Flo.
"Flushies are hormonal stickers that women
use to dissolve menstrual tissue inside the body.
They've become the highest-value item of trade
among female supervillains, because they
aren't legally recognized anywhere."

President Latheef held up a hand.
"Thank you," he said. "Please let me
call my wife Khadijah. I don't know
enough about women's issues to give
your case the consideration it deserves,
and it's more appropriate for women
to discuss with each other as well."

Khadijah was more than willing
to join the meeting, and soon arrived.

President Latheef made the introductions,
then sat back to observe the conversation.

"My husband tells me that you make
products for women," said Khadijah.
"Can you tell me what they're like?"

Formerly calm, Aunt Flo launched into
an animated explanation of her flushies.

Khadijah leaned forward. "They break down
endometrial tissue safely, much like a bruise,
so that it doesn't need to go anywhere?"

"Yes, exactly," said Aunt Flo.

"So it should work as a treatment
for endometriosis," Khadijah said.
"The whole problem is that tissue
gets where it shouldn't and then
has no way out of the body."

"Well, it hasn't been tested for
that purpose, but the theory is sound,"
Aunt Flo said slowly. "For all I know,
people could be using it for that already.
I haven't heard any feedback about it,
though. Endometriosis can be discreet,
in which case people may not know they
even have it; and if severe, it may be
incompatible with supervillainy."

"My sister Aisha has endometriosis,"
said Khadijah. "It's bad and getting worse.
Last year some of it lodged near her heart
and she almost died from it. Would you
be willing to consider her case?"

"Of course," said Aunt Flo. "You
have to realize, though, this product
hasn't been tested by a government agency.
There could be unforeseen complications."

"What kind have been reported?" Khadijah said.
"She's already tried unconventional things."

"Side effects are minor -- the occasional skin rash,
abdominal discomfort -- but you just never know
with soups, things can get odd," Aunt Flo said.

"Would fertility be affected?" asked the President.
"I know Aisha is a good Muslim; she only has
a daughter and a son, and she wants more."

Aunt Flo waved a hand. "Not at all," she said.
"Flushies only work during the menstrual period.
I have other products for contraception." Then she
paused. "I suppose the flushies might help fertility
for someone with endometriosis, by clearing out
the excess tissue. Come to think of it, this could
treat polycystic ovary syndrome or other complaints.
I'll have to do some research -- if I can get a lab."

Khadijah pointed to her husband. "Do whatever
it takes to secure this woman's immigration,"
she said, then headed for the door.

"Where are you going?" he said.

"To call my sister," Khadijah said,
and swept out of his office.

"Well," said the President,
"it worked for a little while."

Aunt Flo just smiled. "Your wife
is a formidable woman," she said.
"I do believe that I like her."

"She is that," the President agreed.
"All right, what do you need?"

"A laboratory or space to build one,
educated employees -- preferably women --
intellectual freedom to research as I wish, and
the recognition to legalize my work," said Aunt Flo.
"A budget would be nice, but I can get by without it
if necessary, as I have donors around the world."

"First of all, I can offer you a private island,
but those are all undeveloped," he said.
"You might want something closer
to one of our few cities."

Aunt Flo shook her head.
"Mr. President, the last thing
you want is a zetetic lab
anywhere near a city!"

"Oh, do you know anything
about zetetic lab safety?"
he said hopefully. "That's
come up before, but people
seem skittish about it. I would
love to get an expert consultant
for some of our organizations."

"With good reason," she said.
"Zetetics can get you arrested
in a lot of countries -- no wonder
people are scared to mention it."

"Just don't break Maldivian laws
in Maldivian territory," he said.
"How about I connect you with
our Ministry of Public Safety
and the Ministry of Health?"

"I'm not a healer," said Aunt Flo.

"I know," said President Latheef.
"We have some Super-Intellects
and a few other gizmologists
working there as well."

"Super-Gizmologist,
actually," she murmured.

The President's interest sharpened
even further. "What kind of facility would
you want, if you could have anything?"
he said. "We have some people building
artificial islands and floating cities."

"Oh, that sounds perfect!"
said Aunt Flo. "I could build
to suit -- maybe even move
closer or farther from civilization
depending on my current projects."

"What kind of projects?" said the President.
He could just feel everything flowing into
the future, and that gave him hope. Perhaps
some would even boost the economy.

"Well, after I finished the PseudoBabe --
that's a bioimplant that prevents pregnancy --
I started batting around ideas for treating
menopause to avoid problems such as
osteoporosis," said Aunt Flo. "I'm also
doing research on premature puberty
and miscarriage, but those are nowhere
near product development yet."

"That sounds very promising,"
said President Latheef. "How do
you feel about other superheras?"

She laughed. "I'm not a superhera, I'm
a mad scientist," said Aunt Flo. "I'm always
keeping an eye on superpowers particular to
women, such as hyenas, but it's a touchy topic."

"I know," said the President. "I've heard
some hideous stories from other refugees.
If you can help them, it would be a blessing."

"You don't mind that I'm an atheist?" she said.
"I lean toward secular humanism as well."

"You heard my wife," the President said dryly.
"But no, if you have not heard the call to faith,
it would be rude to bother you about it. We've
largely handled the interfaith issue by letting people
set their own standards for each island, resort, or
other separate location. It minimizes friction."

"So a floating island or similar facility would
qualify for that?" said Aunt Flo. "Excellent."

"We can refer the details to the legal people
as well as the ministries," said the President,
"and the Navy of course -- they have a say
in everything that involves the ocean."

"I didn't know you had a Navy,"
said Aunt Flo. "Then again, I
don't follow politics that closely."

"Our Navy consists of two whales,"
said President Latheef. "We did
start out with only a Coast Guard,
but after I met Steel and Moderato,
I liked the idea of establishing
the world's only navy staffed
entirely by aquatic natives."

"Good idea," said Aunt Flo.
"I look forward to meeting them."

"In that case," said the President,
"Welcome to the Maldives."

* * *

Notes:

Aunt Flo (Florence "Flo" Blackwell) -- She has fair skin, blue eyes, and short blonde hair that curls a little at the ends. She speaks English, French, Greek, Láadan, Latin, Spanish, and Russian. After moving to the Maldives, she is studying Arabic and Dhivehi. Flo is a widow. Her husband died in a lab accident caused by a careless intern, while he focused on rescuing several others. She still wears her white-gold wedding ring to let people know that she is unavailable for romance. Flo became a mad scientist after her husband's death, because she couldn't find a position that let her research what she wanted. She specializes in gender studies and women's medicine, easily connecting with other women. She has a knack for noticing odd things that lead to important discoveries. Her inventions include the sanitary supply Aunt Flo's Flushies and the birth control PseudoBabe. Flo has traveled around the world for work and pleasure. She loves reading both fiction and nonfiction. Among her favorites is BiblioThecla: Romance for Worldly Women. She actually found out about the Maldives by reading Heart-Leafed Moon Seed. Flo is an atheist who favors secular humanism.
Origin: Her powers grew in gradually.
Uniform: On duty, she wears a white lab coat over a blouse and slacks. Off duty, she wears respectable women's clothes, often smart casual or business casual.
Qualities: Master (+6) Gender Studies, Expert (+4) Stamina, Expert (+4) Women's Medicine, Good (+2) Bookworm, Good (+2) Sorority Rapport, Good (+2) That's Funny, Good (+2) Traveler
Poor (-2) Dealing with Sexism
Powers: Expert (+4) Super-Intellect, Good (+2) Super-Gizmologist
Motivation: To benefit women's lives through science.

Women's dress codes can be complex. Here are references for smart casual and business casual. See some examples.

BiblioThecla: Romance for Worldly Women
This line of romance novels is edited by Thecla Kijek, who was born in Poland and immigrated to America as a tween. She felt that the genre needed more substance in order to appeal to women who usually avoid romances as silly and implausible. So these stories feature women and men who face genuine challenges and must use their coping skills to overcome those -- or learn new ones along the way -- in order to succeed in life and relationships. Each book comes in English and one foreign language suited to its setting.

bibliotheca in American
(ˌbɪbliəˈθikə ; bibˌlēət hēˈkə)
noun
1. a book collection; library
2. a bookseller's catalog
-- Collins Dictionary

Thecla is a Polish name for girls.

Beyken'bi Veyo
Heart-Leafed Moon Seed
Leah has lost boyfriends to a car accident, the Army, and other women. She decides to treat herself to a solo vacation to Finolhu in the Republic of the Maldives, but the cheap package delivers her during the rainy season. Discouraged by the storms, she gives up on tourist pursuits and lurks in the garden of the resort. There she meets the gardener Amil, who insists that -- like the lush tropical vines he tends -- Leah can recover from her cutting losses.
Finolhu, Maldives. Model: Nastya. (Dhivehi)

heart-leafed moon seed
n, beyken'bi veyo, fenfehada
-- English-Dhivehi Dictionary

Heart-Leafed Moon Seed
Chandrahasa (चंद्रहासा)– It refers to the moon like appearance of transversely cut stem. Chinnaruha(छिन्नरुहा), Chinnodbhava (छिन्नोद्भवा) – Regular growth of plant even if it is cut-off several times. Regular emergence of plant even if it is cut-off several times.
-- Wikipedia


Khadijah Latheef -- She has sorrel skin, black eyes, and long straight black hair. She speaks Arabic, Dhivehi, English, Hindi, Sinhalese, and Tamil. She is the older sister of Aisha Bee and the first wife of President Mamadou Latheef. Khadijah has extensive political connections through a large influential family and her own activities. Wise and tolerant, she leads her family well enough that her husband readily defers to her in areas of her expertise. She is rich, and generous to others. However, Khadijah has little patience for fools.
Qualities: Master (+6) Family Woman, Master (+6) Political Connections, Expert (+4) Trustworthy, Expert (+4) Wealth, Expert (+4) Wisdom, Good (+2) Accepting, Good (+2) Generous, Good (+2) Hospitality, Good (+2) Languages
Poor (-2) Tolerating Idiots

Khadijah is named after Khadija bint Khuwaylid, the first wife of the Prophet Muhammad.


Aisha Bee -- She has light brown skin, black eyes. Her dark auburn hair curls just at the ends where it brushes her shoulders. She is close with her older sister Khadijah, the senior wife of President Latheef. Aisha is married with a daughter and a son, born some time apart due to difficulty conceiving caused by endometriosis. As a scholar, she concentrates on issues of feminism and Islam. She is a compelling public speaker and also a talented poet.
Qualities: Master (+6) Scholarly, Expert (+4) First Aid, Expert (+4) Inquisitive, Expert (+4) Muslim, Good (+2) Poet, Good (+2) Public Speaking, Good (+2) Self-Defense
Poor (-2) Endometriosis

Aisha is named after one of Muhammad's later wives.

Endometriosis is a highly variable condition. Some treatments involve hormone therapy.

* * *

Aunt Flo's Flushies are a sanitary product taking the form of smiley-face stickers. They start out white. You stick one below your navel when your period starts. The sticker turns red while it's working, breaks down menstrual flow and returns it to your body instead of discharging as a big mess, and then turns white when the period ends. You peel it off and just flush it. They are gizmology at this stage, so not at all cheap, but a high-demand barter item among female soups (or anyone else who can get them). As an off-label use, they completely fix the problem of endometriosis because of the way they're designed to dissolve endometrial tissue. This doesn't stop the underlying cause for tissue migration, but does prevent bits of endometrium from going where they shouldn't.

As shown in the development of the menstrual tracking app Clue, most men don't want to invest in menstrual products or research or, indeed, anything else of use only to women. Since men own the vast majority of wealth, and just 5 of them own as much as half the world's population, this is a pretty big problem.

It's awesome for Terramagne-Maldives, though.  The global market for feminine hygiene products was $28.7 billion in 2016, and is expected to reach $47.3 billion by 2024.  (Looking at those guys who don't want to invest in menstrual stuff: can you say, "Losing ... money ... as we speak!" ...?)  The economy of the Maldives relies primarily on tourism, fishing, and industry.  Their gross domestic product is $5.5 billion.  Since almost every women who knows that Aunt Flo's Flushies exist prefers them to every other option, the nation stands to gain a massive amount of market share as soon as this product passes government approval for official release to the public.  That's going to create a huge influx of wealth.

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a hormonal disorder for women of reproductive age. It can cause infrequent menstruation, prolonged menstrual periods, high androgen levels, and/or other problems. Ovaries may develop multiple follicles but fail to release eggs properly. Hormone therapy can help.

Authorities in the Republic of the Maldives include the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Public Safety under the Police Service. Note that safety is a great deal easier to achieve when people can discuss concerns openly, rather than having to hide.

Atheism contains various branches. The beliefs of secular humanism may be considered part of atheism or a related tradition, depending on perspective.

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