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Not buying it.


Is it just me, or does the claim that "this popular photograph depicts sexual assault" seem silly to you? As you might know, the two love birds in the picture, Greta Friedman and George Mendonsa, weren't actually lovers at all, but rather perfect strangers who just happened to be in the right place at the right time (for the shot, I mean). According to a feminist blogger, however, the lucky girl whose kiss became a symbol of hope and happiness after a dark era wasn't quite as "lucky" as one might think. But before getting to the heart of the matter, the author of Crates and Ribbons states the obvious: "Most of us are familiar with this picture. Captured in Times Square on V-J Day, 1945, it has become one of the most iconic photographs of American history, symbolizing the jubilation and exuberance felt throughout the country at the end of World War II."

This we can all agree on. But then the blogger goes on to say that Mendonsa's sudden lip-lock action was something much more serious than a simple act of celebratory affection. In fact, she argues that the kiss has 'sexual assault' written all over it.

Okay, don't get me wrong—I definitely see where she is coming from. Even Friedman has been quoted admitting that she had no idea what was happening when the sailor unexpectedly grabbed her. So yeah, the London blogger's point isn't entirely lost on me: Friedman was kissed without her permission. And I agree that the nurse's (less frequently shared) side of the story wasn't without some cause for concern. But I also think that we have to understand the context of the situation before we jump to conclusions. If I had to guess, I would say that the man never meant to demean or harm the pretty lady in any way. He was thrilled about the American victory, the crowds were going wild with excitement, and there may have been alcohol involved. Can we possibly blame him for his impulsively romanticism? Some might say hell yes

But can all just chill for a second and ask ourselves one question: If you were in the same position as Greta, and an ecstatic soldier having returned home from war suddenly planted one on you while everyone you knew was rejoicing in the streets, would you be scarred for life? And if a photographer nearby snapped a photo of the embrace and turned the image of you and your (somewhat obnoxious) new friend into a poster for American pride, would you be ashamed?  Maybe this is just me, but given the circumstances, I think I could probably just laugh the whole thing off—after getting over the initial shock of the situation, of course—and be glad that there was something worth celebrating in the first place.

To all those that find my opinion offensive, I have to ask: when did an innocent (albeit spontaneous) kiss become the equivalent of rape? Have we grown so bitter towards the opposite sex that we'll freely accuse every man who kisses a girl without her written permission of having malevolent intent? I can't help but think that these kind of claims aren't doing women any favors; and that, frankly, they might even be causing more harm by belittling the experiences of those who have actually been raped or sexually assaulted. I hope that I'm not being insensitive here, but something tells me that I'm not: Friedman didn't consider herself a victim; in fact, from what I've read, it sounds like she's pretty proud of the moment. So why are we set on making Mendonsa a villain?

Personally, if you couldn't already tell, I adore this photograph. Call me a hopeless romantic or an anti-feminist* or maybe just a typical girl, but I seriously can't help but smile when I see it. For me, it represents a number of good things: joy, patriotism, courage, new beginnings, etc. And I know I'm not the only one; for years, this image has meant a lot to a lot of people. I would hate to think that our society is becoming so cynical as to readily distort such an innocuous photograph in order to make the claim that it represents something as awful and degrading as "rape culture."

But I'm curious. What do you make of the claim?


*By the way, I do consider myself a feminist, by this definition.

Comments

  1. I really enjoy that definition of feminism.

    And honestly, I've never seen that picture before haha

    ReplyDelete

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Hi, I'm Emily! I'm a 27-year-old writer, whole foodie, and wannabe world traveler currently residing in Dallas, TX. Welcome to my little corner of the internet, where I chronicle my everyday adventures, both at home and abroad. Stay awhile!

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