THE WAGES OF TINSELTOWN
* Film critic John Anderson's review of Radical Hollywood by Paul Buhle and Dave Wagner ["Screening Our Politics," Aug. 19/26] shows a conventional disregard of Hollywood labor history. He writes that last year's threatened strike by the Writers Guild was "largely about credits," which is only partly true. And that the "secret" 1933 meeting to organize the guild was also "largely over the issue of credits." (It was secret because the studios used industrial spies to unionbust.) Anderson seems to suggest that it's all about egos and also, yes, money.
The facts are: My union's attempts to organize screenwriters into a legitimate fighting force was not one jot different, in spirit, from the efforts by auto, steel and longshore workers in the same period. Perhaps the closest parallel was the Teamsters' near-impossible (or so it seemed) task of getting independent truck drivers into a single national bargaining unit. It's a bad idea to trivialize white-collar union work as "merely" about credits when, in Hollywood and TV-land, it was, and is, about wages, health benefits, pensions and the right of a writer to control his or her own work. CLANCY SIGAL
HOT FLASH ON HORMONES
* Re "The Women's Enron" by Sue Woodman [Sept. 2/9]: The pushing of "hormone replacement therapy" (a misnomer, as the most commonly promoted drug was mare hormone, and many hormones foreign to humans) involved much more than simple pharmaceutical industry promotion. I was there.
I celebrated my fiftieth birthday as a medical student in 1989. I was talked into HRT by my internist but stopped after one month when, after some untimely bleeding, the advice was to undergo another endometrial biopsy. Having found the first to be excruciating, I was unwilling to have this surgical procedure without anesthetic and therefore had to have a D&C with general anesthesia, complete with an angry lecture at my bedside by the (female) gynecologist about her preference for an outpatient (unanesthetized) procedure.
I chose HRT as my research topic during my Ob/Gyn medical school rotation. After hearing my report noting the developing evidence linking increased incidence of cancers with HRT, a colleague commented that he would have given a more "scientific" report--a recitation of the current common practice, medications and dosages rather than an assesment of data.
As a middle-aged woman, as a medical student and as a resident physician, I was subjected to strong, punitive pressure to promote HRT. A New York Times article on the recent decision to stop the drug trial included remarks by a woman physician who was chastised for appearing on a panel in which HRT was characterized as at all controversial. That is certainly the political climate in which I found myself. I recall walking out on a medical school lecture when menopause was characterized as "ovarian failure," a pathologic condition requiring treatment. A noted physician referred in a dismissive way to women who refused to take HRT as "cancerphobic." (Was he "cancerphilic"?)
An attending physician (read: my boss) remarked that he could not understand why women didn't want to take HRT. I replied that it seemed they were kind of saying, "It's just a matter of time before they tell us it causes cancer." He was enraged, asking how I could say such things. I said because that's how many women feel, and that's what the data were showing. He denied that such data existed and said studies showed the drugs to be safe. I replied that I had seen the data and there were no studies on taking the drugs for twenty to forty years, as the drugs had not been available to be studied for that length of time. I challenged him to show me the studies, which of course he could not do.
Certainly HRT was pushed by its makers. But the problem was made more difficult by the authoritarian and nonscientific atmosphere of much US medical practice, and complicated by its sexism and other narrowness of vision. …