In response to some questions about the Pad Patrol, FRIDA is fully aware that in cases where nursing homes or institutions fail to provide sanitary napkins as dictated by federal law, legal recourse is necessary in case where informal negotiation is not successful. We are in full agreement that systemic change is the only way to ensure long term justice. We do, however, feel that systemic change can be achieved on multiple levels. Some folks have asked whether, in distributing sanitary napkins and tampons to nursing homes, we would enable the nursing homes to continue evading the law. Our viewpoint is as follows...
First, in conducting outreach for a pad drive (which has reached as far as Australia) we are exposing a problem in a system, a problem that many feel a personal connection to. Anyone would be shocked by the idea that someone would have to blow their whole allowance on sanitary napkins or else sit in a crust of their own blood. Add to that the fact that showers are often regulated and you must bathe on a schedule. Sometimes, by relating to something so graphically everyday, we can push awareness of the problem to a critical mass of public opinion.
Second, the larger problem beyond the lack of sanitary napkins and the suppression of periods is the entire system of nursing homes and institutions in which so many people with disabilities become trapped. While the average person will be shocked by the pad issue, they will hopefully also learn a little to care about the wider problems of institutionalization. FRIDA feels, as does ADAPT and many other groups, that we would much prefer to live in our own homes with community supports for our needs, rather than in nursing homes, institutions or group homes.
In the end, we see that a feminist issue is really a human issue.
Third, and maybe most pragmatically, the woman who is having her period in 3 days cannot wait for a lawsuit to be settled in five years. There is a final question which FRIDA needs to answer to the public, and that is whether this problem really exists, and whether there are women who are willing to speak out about this issue. There are in fact such women but at this time their identities are protected by confidentiality.
FRIDA is working to identify women who are willing to speak out. If you or someone you know is willing to testify and let people know what's really going on with women's rights in nursing homes and institutions, get in touch with Monica at (312) 253-7000.