Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Kissing Sailor

From Crates and Ribbons
Just about everyone is familiar with The Kissing Sailor. It’s an iconic photograph taken in 1945 after the end of World War II, seemingly a moment of spontaneous romance and unbridled joy. For years, no one even knew who the people in the photograph were - it was merely a moment that was captured on film many years ago, living now as posters in dorm rooms across the country. A few months ago, however, a book was published that claimed to have officially identified the couple in the photo as Greta Zimmer Friedman and George Mendonsa.

Comments from Friedman are beginning to shift perception of the photograph from "romantic" to "problematic." Friedman and Mendonsa were complete strangers, and Mendonsa was quite drunk. When Friedman describes the moment, it becomes highly evident that it was not consensual - Mendonsa grabbed her, and held her in what she describes as a "vice grip" while he kissed her. "It wasn't my choice to be kissed," she remembers, "the guy just came over and grabbed!" She also notes, "That man was very strong. I wasn't kissing him. He was kissing me."

As the blogger Leopard from Crates and Ribbons points out in the second of her two posts on the picture, there are in fact three pictures of that moment, caught by photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, but only one of them became popular. In the other two, Friedman's hands are balled into fists, and in one of them she appears to be trying to punch Mendonsa.

Clearly, Mendonsa's actions were not consented to - and in today's terms, that would be assault. While it's true that Friedman holds no ill will towards Mendonsa, the thing that Leopard takes issue with is not so much that it happened, but that in all of the recent media coverage, despite the evidence from Friedman's quotes, no one has mentioned the violent and unwanted nature of what happened. This man grabbed a stranger and kissed her forcefully, and until Leopard, no one was talking about it. While it's perhaps true that at the time it wasn't thought of as an especially big deal, times have changed, and we need to talk about it. When such a ubiquitous symbol of love in our culture is in fact an act of violence, we need to address the issue instead of just claiming that it was "a different time."

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