INTRINSA–NOT SO FAST…

Washington, DC

As brilliantly as usual, Katha Pollitt’s “Subject to Debate” column for June 13 highlights the hypocrisy and healthcare gaps that undermine women’s sexual and reproductive health today, particularly the lack of options for preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections that we can use without a partner’s cooperation. But her discussion of the FDA’s decision to turn down Intrinsa, a testosterone patch for women with low sex desire, missed some important points.

Pollitt correctly wrote that Intrinsa appears to offer some benefit to the narrow group of women studied. But women also need to know about the testosterone patch’s long-term effects, especially as it concerns breast cancer and heart disease. As Pollitt noted, menopause hormone therapy was prescribed to women for decades without understanding how it put their health at risk. What we don’t know about testosterone use, even for the surgically menopausal women in whom it has been tested, is significant. I share Pollitt’s outrage at having David Hager and other self-appointed guardians of women’s morals sitting on FDA advisory committees making decisions about our health. But advocating the approval of drugs whose safety has not been established is not the way to advance women’s self-determination in sexual and reproductive health.

AMY ALLINA
National Women’s Health Network (www.nwhn.org)


WHITE HOUSE WAR ON WOMEN

We were gratified by the amount and the tenor of the mail we received in response to Ayelish McGarvey’s May 30 “Dr. Hager’s Family Values.” Despite its sensitive subject, and despite a smattering of charges that we’d sunk to the level of the supermarket tabloids, the mail–from doctors, abuse counselors, abuse victims and ordinary women and men–was decidedly more positive than negative. A sampling follows.   –The Editors


Sacramento, Calif.

Thank you for the article chronicling Linda Davis’s abuse by her then-husband. As an advocate for battered women for more than fifteen years, I am always fascinated to learn that many people still consider violence against women to be separate from the political sphere. This article illustrates perfectly that what abusers do to the women in their lives, they will do to the rest of us. Unfortunately, too often nobody considers women until their tormentors affect the rest of us. Hats off to you for bringing this to light!

SANDRA HARRELL


West Lafayette, Ind.

I found the article on Dr. Hager tacky, underdocumented, sensationalist and, most damning, wide of the point. The Nation usually has higher standards. I want to know what this man’s professional history is, not whether he paid his wife for anal sex.

PATRICIA HART


Chicago

Thank you, Ayelish McGarvey, for your wonderful, albeit enraging, exposé of Dr. Hager. Not only does it bring the issue of marital rape out in the open; it also exposes a man who is the biggest hypocrite in our government–and that’s saying a lot. So, according to Dr. Hager, he follows Jesus’ example on how to treat women. Unless I’ve been reading the wrong Bible, I doubt that includes repeatedly raping your wife. I’m grateful for the very brave and selfless actions of Linda Davis in telling her story.

LAURA KEHOE


Washington, DC

The fact that David Hager has worked to impose his Christianist views on the reproductive options of American women is probably enough information to convince most Nation readers that the man has no place in government service. Unverifiable accusations about sex have no place in serious journalism. Should I be expecting an exposé of Michael Jackson’s politics based on his purported love of young children in a future issue?

LUKE BREAN


Woodbury, Minn.

It has been my experience, in many years as a labor and delivery nurse, that men choose the field of obstetrics and gynecology for one of two reasons: Either they love women and enjoy assisting them in childbirth, or they hate women and enjoy having power over them. I suspect Dr. Hager falls into the latter group. Men who enjoy sodomizing women enjoy demeaning, humiliating and hurting them. I, too, was married to a highly respected and successful man, a man who used emotional, psychological and physical force to sodomize me against my will over a period of more than ten years, until I was finally able to support myself and escape the marriage. That a man like Dr. Hager advises the President on women’s health issues is beyond appalling.

NAME WITHHELD BY REQUEST


Franklin, NC

Ayelish McGarvey’s excellent piece on the abusive Dr. Hager asked whether this man should be advising Bush on women’s health. Sorry. Hadn’t you noticed that Bush doesn’t take advice from anyone who doesn’t agree with him? Hager, like the rest of the lickspittles and sycophants posing as “advisers,” is simply a Bush clone. To disagree with the Boss is to get fired.

EDWARD G. ROBLES


Gainesville, Fla.

Your article on Dr. Hager was not easy to read. I was uncomfortable with the personal sexual details, and I hope the author was not unduly influenced by a bitter spouse. But I am in favor of exposing the sanctimonious hypocrisy of Dr. Hager, given his public role as an adviser on women’s health issues. The malevolence and hypocrisy of the Christian right’s views on other issues–like abstinence, clean needle exchange, condoms and a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer–must also be exposed and resisted by rational and free-thinking citizens.

MICHAEL WEISBERG


Bridgeville, Pa.

Domestic abuse among evangelicals is no surprise. As many as one in four church members is a victim or survivor of domestic abuse. Armed with a claim of “tradition” and divine sanction as well as a misinterpreted Bible, many religious conservatives teach that the husband is the leader and the wife must submit. As a result the relationship can easily become abusive and, like Linda Carruth Davis’s, a Christianized version of S&M. Both secular and Christian domestic violence researchers link the husband leader/wife submitter model to the presence or likelihood of abuse. They note that while not all hierarchical marriages harbor abuse, almost all abusive marriages are hierarchical.

The religious right pushes a retro Father Knows Best paradigm. Traditional gender roles are not only being promoted by Bush judicial nominees like J. Leon Holmes and William Pryor but also through family and marriage services like financial counseling (Crown Financial Ministries); marriage and child-rearing education (Focus on the Family and Family Life); and premarital counseling required by states providing the Covenant Marriage option.

Clearer heads are having their say, though. With organizations like Christians for Biblical Equality and the Willow Creek Association, evangelicals are challenging the right’s views on gender roles, saying that just as Christians erred in their interpretations of slavery and segregation, they are erring in their interpretations of marriage. When Scripture is properly interpreted, they say, it points to mutual submission and shared leadership.

SANDRA DUFIELD


I’D LIKE TO BUY THE WORLD A COKE?

Boston

Alexander Cockburn reports [“Beat the Devil,” May 2] that soon after Coke began bottling operations in Plachimada, India, water levels dropped dramatically and water quality declined so much that it created health problems and gave people rashes. On the brink of a global water crisis, corporations like Coca-Cola are turning a human right into a commodity. As wells run dry and water tables drop, people’s health and lives are threatened.

Members of Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact) have been exposing the truth behind the corporate PR, challenging irresponsible and dangerous corporate actions for more than twenty-five years. When we first confronted General Electric’s top leadership, they denied their role in the deadly nuclear weapons buildup. When we first challenged Philip Morris, the corporation was still denying that its products are addictive, or even harmful.

At the Coca-Cola annual shareholders’ meeting, which I attended on April 19, CEO E. Neville Isdell denied Coke’s responsibility for the problems facing the people of Plachimada and claimed that “we have a good story to tell about water.”

Activists took control of that shareholders’ meeting, delivering a resounding message that the worldwide movement challenging the corporation’s abuses is growing. Isdell failed to address people’s concerns, but mounting pressure is forcing Coke’s leadership to respond.

KATHRYN MULVEY, executive director
Corporate Accountability International


CORRECTION

The report by John Conyers’s Congressional committee, mentioned in Gore Vidal’s “Something Rotten in Ohio” in the June 27 issue, has been published by Academy Chicago Publishers (www.academychicago.com) under the title What Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election. The book features an introduction by Gore Vidal, a portion of which appeared in his Nation piece.