In 1974 there appeared the book A Bridge Too Far, which, tells the story of Operation Market Garden, a failed Allied attempt to break through German lines at Arnhem across the river Rhine in the occupied Netherlands September 1944. The title comes from a comment made by British Lt. Gen. Frederick Browning, deputy commander of the First Allied Airborne Army, who told Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery before the operation, “I think we may be going a bridge too far.”
During my working days at the J.J.Thomson Physical Laboratory in Reading, I sometimes heard technicians complaining about the demands placed upon the by the academic staff and the students. One phrase I occasionally heard was “the Arnhem Factor” when the demands were seen as OTT (over the top), or A Bridge Too Far.
I sense that these days, arguments from those who want to change our laws and our corporate behaviour are going the same way. I am going to mention two examples, which are totally different in character, and there is no connection between the two, except that both attempt to cross the same logical river.
The first is a simple letter to the Daily Telegraph, where the writer says:
“A disability is a difference that we must recognise and cherish, not eliminate.”Does that mean that in future, under diversity laws, disabled people not be allowed to seek a cure for their condition? One suggests that the idea would in practice be determined by civil servants, considering only whether will that mean less money for the National Health Service, or more for support services.
A totally different case is that of the SlutWalk protest marches. Now I am not objecting to the marches themselves, and as for the Toronto policeman who suggested that to remain safe, “women should avoid dressing like sluts”, one might point out to him that even where such arguments are used to impose very restrictive dress codes on women, women are not thereby made safe in such societies.
However, some people talked of “reclaiming the word ‘slut’.” Here again, they are trying to cross the same logical bridge. When I was at primary school (boys only), one schoolmistress used to refer to some girls as “little sluts” or “little hussies”, solely on the basis that those girls were “lower class”. From her I never learned what those words really meant. However, I do not think the word should somehow be “reclaimed”. How else is one to describe those women who seek to discredit popular figures by “kiss and tell” allegations?
My only reservation is that in popular parlance there does not seem to be an equally pejorative word for the male equivalent.