To the Seven Sheikhs of the UAE:
Hi boys. How’s she hangin’? Great, now that we’ve gotten the friendly salutations out of the way let’s get down to business, shall we?
I just wanted to touch base regarding your law requiring women to breastfeed their children until they are two years of age. From me to you, and on behalf of the women in your country who can’t or choose not to breastfeed, I have to say a huge, “اللعنة عليك.”
You claim breastfeeding is the right of every child for two years. What about the woman’s right to choose what to do with her body? What about her right to decide what is best for her and her baby? You suggest a woman who chooses not to breastfeed is neglecting her child. What about the neglect that will fall on these children when you punish these mothers? You suggest wet nurses should be provided for children whose mothers cannot breastfeed them. Forcing a child to feed from a wet nurse will undeniably rob mother and child of their chance to bond. If you truly care about children’s rights, you will let women choose how they would like to feed their babies. I guarantee mothers in your country care more about their children than you do. Breastfeeding can be an empowering experience, but so can making the decision to bottle feed if nursing is difficult, impossible, or unenjoyable for the mother. A mother knows what is right for her baby. Not you guys—you are just little boys playing the part of big men.
Formula is not arsenic. It will not put a baby at a disadvantage to be bottle fed. Guess what will happen if a women chooses to feed her baby formula? Her baby is going to grow…tentacles…haha, just joking. No, she’s going to grow big, strong, and healthy. She’ll be just as smart and strong as her mom, maybe even more so. She’ll be busy and playful; full of energy and life; developmentally on par with her breastfed counterparts. She’ll have her own opinions and ideas. My guess is you don’t want that. You’d rather these little girls grow into women who are trapped by a law that makes it difficult for them to be truly active in the workforce for two years/child. How many women were involved in your decision to enforce such a law, I wonder? None? Oh, what a surprise. Interestingly enough, your social affairs minister is a woman, and she has some serious concerns about this law.
And there we have it. We all know this isn’t an issue of bottle versus breast. This is a power issue. It’s a way to push women into a tiny corner where their husbands can beat them (as long as they don’t leave any marks). Do you know something interesting though? In 2006, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development figured out that countries where women have more economic and political power are richer than countries where women are fairly powerless. Magine, eh?! Patriarchal societies are weaker than ones where men and women share equal rights.
So let’s go back to the drawing board on the whole forced breastfeeding law, shall we? Let’s look deeper into this issue and perhaps, women’s rights in general. Let’s support women who choose to nurse, and make resources available for those who choose to bottle feed. Let’s increase maternity leave beyond 60 days for government employees, and the even skimpier 45 days you allot for those who work in the private sector. This alone could encourage women to breastfeed longer. Let’s be honest about the motivation behind this new law and admit it was a big, stupid mistake by a bunch of tiny, ignorant men. There is still time to right this wrong. If you choose not to amend this law, then I stand by my “اللعنة عليك.”
A woman from Canada