Dear Tampon-Apprehensive Dad,
I saw your inquiry on Twitter asking if you were wrong for not wanting your daughter to use tampons and my knee-jerk reaction was, “Thank you for asking. Indeed, you are. Please let your daughter access the hygiene products she needs.”
I saw you were already getting a heavy flow of responses, though, so I decided to let it go. But it’s been on my mind, and as I’ve thought more about it, I’ve realized the answer to your question is more complex.
First of all, you mentioned asking both your sister (who agreed with you that tampons aren’t appropriate for younger girls) and your wife (who deemed you a misogynist) about this, and then even took to the World Wide Web for additional perspective. Seriously, that’s a great start!
You’re raising a child who has a body with different needs than yours, so you’re seeking wisdom from people who have that lived experience. I do the same things when I’m befuddled by parenthood (which is all the time).
You also checked yourself to see if your treatment of your daughter was different from how you’d treat a son if you had one by noting you wouldn’t buy him condoms at this age either. While the comparison is flawed (more on that in a bit), I wish more folks would ask themselves if their interactions are motivated by gender bias as they navigate the world. Good on you.
Your third win is your concern about over-sexualizing your barely teenage daughter. This is really important and actually the crux of my thoughts on your situation.
The thing is, to assume the interactions a woman has with her body are always sexual in nature is, in fact, the sexualizing you were hoping to avoid.
I can assure you that for many (dare I say most) uterus-owners, managing our menstruation is free from physical pleasure. Our anatomy serves several functions, as you probably well know.
That’s why comparing tampons to condoms is faulty. While they both can mitigate mess, condoms are for sex while tampons keep a woman from having to bleed externally.
Anyway, I genuinely applaud your brave handling of these important topics with your daughter. I just want to help us all create more access for women across the board. Because we live in a world where the restrictions and misunderstandings around women’s bodies can be more toxic than not changing tampons frequently enough (your final concern for your daughter).
This is key, because it’s not just about menstruation — these discriminatory notions, whether intentional or well-intended, dictate what we can and can’t wear, how we compete, how we learn, how much we’re paid, when and how we can feed our children, and the list goes on.
If we want young girls to grow up healthy, safe, and prosperous, we have to honor them and their bodies as more than sexual beings (while also not faulting them for being sexual beings, but that’s a column for another day).
But tampons aren’t the problem. Period.
Marina Gomberg is a communications professional and lives in Salt Lake City with her wife, Elenor Gomberg, and their son, Harvey. You can reach Marina at firstname.lastname@example.org.