As Time Goes By

// 26 January 2011

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Letters of Note has an interesting post about the iconic photo V-J Day in Times Square, taken by the photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt on the day of the surrender of Japan during the Second World War.

It seems that, in 1979, Edith Shain – the nurse in the photo – wrote to the photographer disclosing her identity and Letters of Note carries a transcript of her letter. While providing a fascinating insight into the background of the photo from Edith Shain’s point of view, the following sentence caught my eye:

I had left Doctors’ Hospital and wanted to be part of the celebration but the amorous sailor and a subsequent soldier motivated a retreat into the next opening of the subway.

Perhaps this is the humourless feminist side of me coming to the fore, but I couldn’t help but think that, even on a day of national celebration around the ending of an international armed conflict, there was still no truce in the street harassment war.

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Fair use image via Wikipedia

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Thanks to Kirsty for posting the link on Twitter.

Comments From You

Amy // Posted 26 January 2011 at 4:25 pm

don’t know if anyone watchwd a film called letters to juliet but that same image was in the movie.

crystal // Posted 26 January 2011 at 4:28 pm

shut up talk about being over dramatic.

Kati // Posted 26 January 2011 at 6:08 pm

That picture’s always made me uncomfortable, and I feel SO much more vindicated in my discomfort now. If you look at how hard he’s gripping her, it’s really unpleasantly predatory.

Cruz // Posted 26 January 2011 at 6:37 pm

Is it really a surprise that a story like this is connected to one of the most gender-binding, heteronormative pictures ever taken?

FD // Posted 26 January 2011 at 8:45 pm

It’s a bit hyperbolic… but I know what you mean. After reading that, I can’t quite look at the photo the same way.

amy // Posted 27 January 2011 at 1:41 pm

the woman in the picture allowed him to kiss her.

Cobryn // Posted 27 January 2011 at 2:20 pm

You mean she didn’t even know him? He just grabbed her??

I’ve always read that picture as a ‘lovers reunited’ thing.

I don’t think you’re over-reacting at all. If she didn’t consent then that’s basically an image of sexual assault that’s been trotted out, copied and parodied for years without any acknowledgement of what’s going on. Which is creepy.

Meg // Posted 27 January 2011 at 4:02 pm

“the woman in the picture allowed him to kiss her”

Did she? Look at the position of her arms, which aren’t around him, her legs which are pointed as if she were trying to walk past him resulting in the fact that her body is twisted slightly uncomfortably… the way he’s holding her so tight (compare with where her arms are again) and even has her head almost in a head lock! His clenched fist looks forceful as well. You can’t see her facial expression to say whether she’s scared or happy but his looks kind of creased and severe not relaxed.

It’s speculation to say either way for sure really, but you certainly can’t assume outright that she “allowed him” I’ve been grabbed and kissed before and the guy even managed to get his tongue in my mouth and I certainly didn’t “allow him”. I was shocked and scared. If someone had snapped that when it happened it’s kind of chilling to think people would say “she obviously let him do it” considering how upset, controlled and humiliated I felt for weeks after the event.

I always thought the kiss was between strangers but I’d not really thought about it in any deep way.

Amy // Posted 27 January 2011 at 6:37 pm

years after that image was captured the two people were tracked down and the woman said that although she did not know the man she allowed him to kiss her. why be offended on behalf of the woman, if she wasn’t.

Amy // Posted 27 January 2011 at 6:41 pm

it was a happy time, if i lived in those times i probably would have done something out of the ordinary.

dom // Posted 27 January 2011 at 8:50 pm

“Perhaps this is the humourless feminist side of me coming to the fore”

No perhaps about it Helen. Still, if looking for instances of sexual harassment/coercion is more important to you than another woman’s pleasure ( note the women smiling behind the couple aswell ), so be it.

coldharbour // Posted 27 January 2011 at 8:54 pm

@Helen

“Perhaps this is the humourless feminist side of me coming to the fore, but I couldn’t help but think that, even on a day of national celebration around the ending of an international armed conflict, there was still no truce in the street harassment war.”

Not to derail from the issue but while VJ Day is celebrated as “the ending of an international armed conflict” it was in reality the start of an intense military conflict between the U.S.S.R. & the U.S. that involved proxy wars spanning the globe and killing tens of millions of people. VJ Day was also for the major part a by-product of this..

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomic_bombings_of_Hiroshima_and_Nagasaki

dom // Posted 27 January 2011 at 9:02 pm

It’s an illustration of how mean spirited & petty ( not simply “humourless” ) feminism is that a celebration of an end to armed conflict ( conflict which the men in this photo had to endure ) is twisted to find a single instance of an implication of sexual coercion. To what end? Another victim chalked up. Well, chalk em up alongside the millions of servicemen’s lives lost if its victims you want.

Helen G // Posted 28 January 2011 at 7:37 am

Comments on this post are now closed.

Thank you everyone.

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