Saturday, October 13, 2012

Taking Advantage of "The Kiss"

This image, taken on the day World War II ended in 1945, is arguably one of the most famous photographs in history. Just looking at it, I'm overwhelmed by the joy and emotions that Americans felt that day-so much so that a young couple kissed passionately, unknowingly in front of a photographer. But new light has been shed on this popular photo and not all is as it appears.

An article from Crates and Ribbons a few weeks ago launched this couple into the blogging world. I admit, until I read this article, I did not know that the couple had been identified, much less the real circumstances surrounding the photo. 

The couple was finally identified in 1980 as Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa, a dental nurse and sailor, respectively. Is this a photo of a joyous couple? Not at all, actually. It turns out that the two didn't even know each other. Mendonsa was drunk, saw Friedman, grabbed her, and kissed her. Cue world-famous photo. 

What was Friedman's reaction to his public display of affection? She has been quoted as saying, "It wasn't my choice to be kissed...The guy just came over and grabbed!" and "I did not see him approaching, and before I know it, I was in this vice grip" and “You don’t forget this guy grabbing you” and “That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”

Obviously, this photo is not what we assumed. The article from Crates and Ribbons (mentioned earlier) considers this photo's contribution to rape culture. I agree with that author. Yes, this photo was taken in a different time, and yes, these were extenuating circumstances, and yes, it was just a kiss. But that does not give anyone the right to sexually engage without consent. If this society condones this behavior, that simply makes it acceptable for others to repeat it. Sure, it's just a kiss. But a kiss can very quickly turn into much more. 

More Articles on "The Kiss" From
Crates and Ribbons (the second part of articles on this topic)
CBS News
Daily Mail
Huffington Post

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