The iconic “Kissing Sailor” photo has long been a chest-beating moment for WWII-era America, sparking recreations and even a monument. And why not? It depicted a real-life hero. It artistically captured the exhilarating end to an epic war. But according to a feminist blogger, it was actually sexual assault.
Earlier this month, the blog CratesandRibbons featured a post about the famous photo in a modern context, offering this view:
"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 people in the photo, years later, have described that moment in 1945 in New York's Times Square as a snapshot of the times, but to at least one of the parties involved, it was a startling one.
“It wasn’t my choice to be kissed,” Greta Zimmer Friedman, a nurse back then, told CBS recently. "The guy just came over and grabbed!”
Indeed, neither person knew each other. The sailor, 89-year-old George Mendonsa, told CBS, that he was overcome with excitement. "It was the moment. You come back from the Pacific, and finally, the war ends," he told CBS.
Mendonsa also confesses that alcohol was involved. "The excitement of the war being over, plus I had a few drinks," George explains. "So when I saw the nurse, I grabbed her and I kissed her."
The identity of the sailor and nurse in the photo had been shrouded in mystery for years. More than a few people have claimed to be one of the lip-locked pair, most famously Edith Shain, who passed away a few years ago. But in recent years, Friedman has re-emerged as most likely the kissee.
"I did not see him approaching, and before I know it, I was in this vice grip!" Greta told CBS.
HLN readers, we want to hear from you: Is this picture a triumphant moment in U.S. wartime history, or a caught-on-camera sexual assault?