There’s 1 thing missing from this famous photo — consent

Published 2019-02-22 11:06

These 2 people didn’t know each other

An image of two people kissing on one of the happiest days in American history could either be seen as romantic or disturbing.

The picture of a sailor kissing a woman in a nurse’s uniform at the end of the Second World War has become famous over the years.

But the gesture has also been criticized.

Why we are talking about this now

The man in the photo, George Mendonsa, died this week at the age of 95.

On that day, Mendonsa was celebrating the end of the war along with dozens of other people in New York’s Times Square.

A man in a sailor uniform holds a woman by the waist, dips her and kisses her on a busy city street.

This photo was taken on the day Japan surrendered to the Allies, leading to the end of the Second World War. (Victor Jorgensen/US Navy/Handout via Reuters)

Lawrence Verria, who co-wrote the book, The Kissing Sailor, said in an opinion piece in the Providence Journal this week, “the United States lost a national treasure and a personal escort to the happiest day.”

“Two survivors communicated for the ages what the end of a long, costly and triumphant war feels like.”

Over the years, the true story of the people in the photograph has emerged, making some people question how romantic this gesture truly was.

What really happened

Mendonsa didn’t know the woman he was kissing.

Her name was Greta Zimmer-Friedman, and she was a dental assistant.

In a 2005 interview, she said it wasn’t her choice to be kissed.

The photo has become so famous that a replica statue even exists in Sarasota, Florida, called Unconditional Surrender. On Feb. 19, 2019, police in Sarasota took a picture of the #MeToo slogan spray-painted on the leg of the woman. (Sarasota Police Department/Handout via Reuters)

Keetha Mercer, program manager of community initiatives at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, teaches teens about what it means to have a healthy relationship.

She doesn’t agree with Mendonsa’s actions.

“It’s been shown to us as a celebration, but we know now that the idea that you can grab someone and kiss them without their consent is not an idea that we want to continue to say is OK,” she told CBC Kids News.

How this relates to the #MeToo movement

Mercer explained that throughout the #MeToo movement, women have been speaking out about experiences like this.

“We are seeing this conversation about unwanted touching,” she said. “It’s really changing the way we talk about consent.”

Mercer suggested that when anything goes viral like this, we should be asking ourselves who is in this picture and what’s behind it.

With files from the Associated Press

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