When discussing historical events or figures, it’s essential to approach the conversation with sensitivity and a deep understanding of the context. In the case of Alfred Eisenstaedt’s photograph “V-J Day in Times Square,” commonly known as “The Kiss,” the narrative around it has evolved as societal norms and understandings of consent have changed. In light of this being Women’s History month, and with some calling for “The Kiss” to be cancelled, Let.Live wanted to examine the photo in the light of our standards for consent culture.

New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square. - NARA - 520697

The photo was taken on Aug. 14, 1945, known as V-J Day, the day Japan surrendered to the United States, as people spilled into the New York City streets from restaurants, bars and movie theaters, celebrating the news. George Mendonsa spotted Greta Friedman, spun her around and planted a kiss. The two had never met.

Friedman told the Library of Congress in 2005 that “it wasn’t a romantic event. It was just an event of thank God the war is over kind of thing.” She added in an oral history of the photo: “It wasn’t my choice to be kissed. The guy just came over and kissed or grabbed. It wasn’t that much of a kiss, it was more of a jubilant act that he didn’t have to go back,” she said. “And the reason he grabbed someone dressed like a nurse was that he just felt very grateful to nurses who took care of the wounded.” 3 months before, George Mendosa had been aboard the USS Sullivans at the Battle of Okinawa

There is some talk now that this photo should be “cancelled” because this contact did not meet the Planned Parenthood FRIES model for consent.

Reflecting on this iconic moment through the lens of contemporary consent culture, it’s crucial to acknowledge the nuances and perspectives of those involved, as well as the broader historical context. Greta Friedman’s account of the event provides insight into her experience, emphasizing the spontaneous and celebratory nature of the act within the context of V-J Day celebrations.

In discussing this photo and its implications, it’s important to navigate the conversation with care, acknowledging both the historical significance of the moment and the evolving conversation around consent. It’s an opportunity to reflect on how societal norms have shifted and to engage in meaningful discussions about consent, respect, and understanding in all interactions.

While historical contexts may differ from today’s standards, revisiting such moments can help us appreciate the progress made in understanding and advocating for consent culture. It also reinforces the importance of continued dialogue and education to ensure that the values of respect and consent are upheld in all aspects of society.

There is no conversation about consent that is inappropriate, and we should welcome conversations about what constitutes a consensual activity. Based on what we have read, Ms. Friedman’s oral testimony, and that of her family, the kiss was consensual and the photo should be admired and studied for its frozen frame view of America at the end of the war.



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