“The Kiss”

13 Nov


It is often called the picture that ended World War II.  It is arguably one of the most recognizable images within American culture.  It is the picture of a sailor dipping a nurse, and simultaneously kissing her in Times Square, New York City.  The streets are bustling with smiling faces of soldiers and passers-by.  Recently, new information has surfaced in regards to the people in this picture, and this information has sparked much controversy in the blogosphere.  In this post, I examined, “The Kissing Sailor, or “The Selective Blindness of Rape Culture” and I reflect on what it says about our culture, and why it matters.

The original blog post that sparked the controversy was written by the blogger, Leopard on her blog, Crates and Ribbons.  Leopard is a feminist from London who frequently discusses issues involving women in today’s society.   In this post she writes about how iconic and embedded in our culture this photo is.  She cites three separate new sources (Huffington Post, Daily Mail, and CBS News) who discuss the recent revelations of who this sailor and nurse are.  According to her and the articles she examined,  the sailor in this picture, George Mendonsa, and the nurse, Greta Zimmer Friedman, were perfect strangers.  According to the blog, George was drunk and Greta has no idea he was going to kiss her.  She was quoted in the article saying, “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed.  The guy just came over and grabbed!”

Leopard continues to break down her argument that the picture is a glorification of rape culture by saying that by standards today, this was sexual assault.  It is not socially acceptable today to just grab any woman off of the street and kiss her.  She calls to attention the way that our culture glorifies this picture, and how we talk about it in such a romantic context, when this in actuality is not a depiction of romance at all.  She acknowledges that yes, it was the end of a terrible war, and yes, he had every right to be exuberant about its end, but she says that it doesn’t mean that we should ignore the fact that he is still in the wrong.  She says she is not surprised by people’s willingness to overlook these facts because of “the rape culture we live in.”  She says that if we want to change this rape culture, we must assert that it is not okay to kiss someone without consent, no matter the circumstance.

My first reaction was a bit of shock and there might have been traces of disbelief.  As I read further into the article, there were so many light bulbs that clicked in my head.  After I read the article, I searched for more information on this “kiss”.  A blogger (Lori) on the website Feministing.com, made reference to the body language displayed in the picture.  She talks about the way her fist is clenched, and how her body is limp.  I would also like to add that something I noticed was the slight double chin she has, which to me signifies that she was pulling her face away from his.

I do happen to agree with these articles that this is not a picture that represents love and romance, but rather, a kiss that was forced upon a woman.  I also agree that we as a society need to stop glorifying this photograph for being something that it is not.  Yes, it was another time, and yes, things were different during that era, but that does not mean that we can ignore the issues presented by Leopard.  The only way to continue to fight against street assault and the rape culture that exists within our society is to start to recognize this picture for what it really is.  We have come a long way, and embracing this picture time and time again, takes us as a society a little step backwards.



3 Responses to ““The Kiss””

  1. runesandrhinestones November 14, 2012 at 3:15 am #

    Maybe just the awareness will be enough to start changing people’s minds about the picture – at least if it isn’t constantly celebrated then we can start talking more about consent and harrassment.

    • clairekochmer November 14, 2012 at 11:26 am #

      I completely agree.

  2. jcjohnson3 November 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm #

    I’ve had that poster in my room since high school. I knew that they were strangers even then, but I preferred to think that she consented, that there had been a moment that led into that. I’m really disappointed that he did it like that, he looks like he has her in a head lock.

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