This photo, of a sailor kissing a nurse in Times Square on VJ Day, 1945, is one of the most iconic pictures from WWII:
Now, 60+ years later, a feminist has come along to say — surprise!! — that everything you feel when you look at that photo is wrong, wrong, wrong, and you’re feeding into our society’s patriarchal rape culture. Yup. That’s right. This photo of a sailor kissing a nurse = sexual assault and rape culture.
A few facts have come to light. Far from being a kiss between a loving couple, we learn that George and Greta were perfect strangers. We learn that George was drunk, and that Greta had no idea of his presence, until she was in his arms, with his lips on hers.
The articles even give us Greta’s own words:
“It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and grabbed!”
“I did not see him approaching, and before I knew it, I was in this vice grip. [sic]“
“You don’t forget this guy grabbing you.”
“That man was very strong. I wasn’t kissing him. He was kissing me.”
It seems pretty clear, then, that what George had committed would be considered sexual assault by modern standards. Yet, in an amazing feat of willful blindness, none of the articles comment on this, even as they reproduce Greta’s words for us. Without a single acknowledgement of the problematic nature of the photo that her comments reveal, they continue to talk about the picture in a whimsical, reverent manner, “still mesmerized by his timeless kiss.” George’s actions are romanticized and glorified; it is almost as if Greta had never spoken.
In a way, I understand this. The end of war is a big deal, and the euphoria felt throughout the nation on that day is an important part of American history. For so long, this photograph has come to represent that unbridled elation, capturing the hearts of war veterans and their families alike. The fact that this much-loved photo is a depiction of sexual assault, rather than passion, is an uncomfortable truth, and to call it out as such might make one seem to be a priggish wet blanket. After all, this sailor has risked his life for his country. Surely his relief and excitement at the end of the war is justified? Surely these are unique circumstances? The answer to the first question is yes. He is perfectly entitled to be ecstatic. He is perfectly entitled to celebrate. However, this entitlement does not extend to his impinging on someone else’s bodily autonomy.
The unwillingness to recognize a problem here is not surprising, considering the rape culture in which we live. It is not easy to assert that a woman’s body is always her own, not to be used at the whim of any man without her consent. It is far easier to turn a blind eye to the feelings of women, to claim that they should empathise with the man, that they should be good sports and just go along with it. And the stronger the power structures behind the man, the more difficult it becomes to act otherwise. But if we are serious about bringing down rape culture and reducing the widespread violence against women, then we need to make it clear that engaging with someone sexually without consent is not ok, even when it is an uncomfortable position to take. Especially when it is an uncomfortable position to take.
I read all of this and thought, for crying out loud. And even that treasure trove of screeching hysteria, Feministing, is jumping in to agree.
A closer look at the image in question shows corroborating details that become stomach-turning when properly viewed: the smirks on the faces of the sailors in the background; the firm grasp around the physically smaller woman in his arms such that she could not escape if she tried; the woman’s clenched fist and limp body.
If there is a better symbol for how messed up our ideas about sex and romance are, I can’t think of one.
So, to recap: millions of people around the world — men, women, and children — had been killed in a massive war, hundreds of millions more were injured, and what feminists are whining about is… a kiss. Right.
But was it actually sexual assault?
Well, considering the women in the photo herself doesn’t describe it as such, you’d think it would be an easy call to make. But these are feminists we’re dealing with here. Women don’t get to make up their own minds about stuff, and they especially don’t get to feel differently than feminists do. That’s even more applicable when it comes to the EVIL!! patriarchy.
How horrific was the assault on Greta Friedman? Well, afterwards, she went back into her office… and never even mentioned the kiss. That’s right: it made that big of an impact on her. And what has she done in the decades since the terrible, awful, earth-shattering assault? Reunited with him several times. She even reenacted the kiss in 1980, and speaks of it in overwhelmingly positive terms.
Well, I think he was the one who made me famous, because he took the action. I was just the bystander. So, I think he deserves a lot of credit. Actually, by the photographer creating something that was very symbolic at the end of a bad period…it was a wonderful coincidence a man in a sailor’s uniform and a woman in a white dress… and a great photographer at the right time.
So nowhere does Friedman actually call it assault. After the fact, she went back to work proclaiming that the war was over. And in the decades after that iconic moment, she repeatedly took the time to meet up with the sailor in the photograph.
But the woman “assaulted” doesn’t get to say whether or not she was assaulted, right? That’s up for the feminazis to decide, because clearly, women are too dumb to make those kinds of judgements for themselves.
This photo wasn’t an example of sexual assault. It was an example of the exuberance of a nation exhausted by war, having millions of the best and brightest among them either be killed or injured. The photo captures that moment, the emotions behind it and the excitement, relief, and enthusiasm of the day, perfectly.
Feminists deriding this picture are, as usual, bitter harpies making a mountain out of a molehill, missing the picture and finding another reason to be angry over nothing.