It's the mother of all misogyny charges.
Not everybody is happy about that 22,000-pound explosive we dropped on the ISIS nest in Afghanistan on April 13. And some of the least happy of all seem to be our friends in academia, upset at the acronym "MOAB" for "Mother Of All Bombs."
Here's Lucy Ferriss, writer in residence at the elite Trinity College in Connecticut, in an April 20 column for the Chronicle of Higher Education:
…[W]hy, many have been asking, is it the mother of bombs? Mothers give life. Mothers don’t fight wars.
Ferriss embarks on some very fancy literary analysis:
[W]e ]have a darker history of mothers and big bad things. There’s Lilith, whose myth runs alongside Eve’s but figures the original female as demonic; there’s Grendel’s mother in Beowulf; there’s Sycorax, the mother of Caliban in The Tempest. The destruction caused by the spawn of these women is generally laid at their feet; as the ones responsible for incubating and nurturing these awful progeny, they are held more responsible, often, than the monsters who do the actual destroying. In Yeats’s “The Second Coming,” the “rough beast” set to take advantage of our confused chaos invokes a monster-mother, as he “slouches toward Bethlehem to be born.”
And here's some tut-tutting (plus the expected sly dig at the Trump administration) from Dennis Baron, professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois' Champaign-Urbana campus, writing on his "Web of Language blog:
Since the 1970s, there’s been a strong push to make our language gender neutral, or at least more equitable, and to some extent that’s worked. We’ve largely done away with generic he. The Help Wanteds are no longer segregated by gender (and the whole want-ad genre’s been replaced by online forums). Occupation titles are largely neutral: server, firefighter, bomb designer. For a long time, hurricanes only had women’s names: Carol, Betsy, Camille. But by the 1980s, a growing awareness of unfairly-gendered language led to male hurricanes as well, hence Hugo, Andrew, even Dennis. And someone invented smart phones so men don’t need to ask directions. Unfortunately, society remains sexist (take a look at the top management at Fortune 500 companies or the president’s cabinet), and our language continues to reflect that bias.
But what really riles the mavens of academia is the fact that the icky big bomb actually killed some people. More from Baron:
We shouldn’t let a nickname distract us from the bigger questions, like, “Is it worth $170,000 to kill 90 ISIS fighters?” (the Air Force said one mother of all bombs costs that much, not including development costs; and it claims that’s how many ISIS fighters died, which equals $1900 per death, excluding fuel and taxes) or “Why are we still in Afghanistan?”
And more from Ferriss:
[M]isogyny may be the least offensive thing about the use of a weapon whose 94 victims may well be replaced within the hour by more angry jihadists….
What bothers me about this joining of ancient misogynies and modern mass destruction, though, is not that we are, once again, blaming the mother. It’s that we shout it from the rooftops: We are proud of her.
Actually, $1,900 per dead terrorist sounds cheap at the price. As of February, according to CNN, ISIS had launched 143 attacks in 29 countries, including our own U.S., slaughtering 2,043 people. And that was before the Brussels massacre, the Stockholm truck attack, and the Champs-Elysees shooting.
And I love the idea that the best way to discourage future "angry jihadists" is to look the other way when present angry jihadists launch their murderous rampages.
Only in academia.
Actually the "MOAB" acronym stands for "Massive Ordnance Air Blast." But doesn't "Mother Of All Bombs" sound great?