Against her will
SAVE OUR BAY FRONT sees the forceful action depicted in the “Unconditional Surrender” statue as not being reciprocated and therefore, considers it an inappropriate symbol to showcase in a community that prides itself on social and civil equality and, which discourages violence.
Some view the ‘Unconditional Surrender” statue as a romantic image and regard it with nostalgia as a part of Americana, transposed from the original iconic “V-J Day in Times Square” photograph that the statue copies. For some, this iconic photograph simply represents the joy felt on V-J Day and thus no effort is made to understand it, much less the message it delivers on another level.
In our efforts to make our reasons clear, SAVE OUR BAY FRONT located, purchased, and is presenting a copy of the contact strip of all four shots Alfred Eisenstaedt took of these two people in Times Square on August 14, 1945, the date of the American V-J Day. Take a look at the series. The body language revealed in this series speaks volumes about what really was happening.
We at SAVE OUR BAY FRONT-and many others who have commented in blogs and letters to the editor-feel quite differently, seeing this as a violent act, noting that this woman was been held in a headlock against her will and thrown off balance for a significant amount of time. Given the movement of the bystanders shown in the series, it certainly was not a fleeting, spontaneous moment.
The four sequential images of the scene confirm the attempts of the woman to resist the actions imposed upon her by what is called an uninhibited sailor and must be interpreted as being against her will. Only one of the images was published in Life magazine and it carries a caption that notes her struggle to keep her skirt down and a grip on her purse. It merely hints at her lack of willingness, alluded to in the text on the opposite page as a lack of inclination. Looking at all four images shows her attempts to push the man away in two of the frames.
Scrutinizing the photographs reveals how her fisted left hand went from pushing him away to struggling to keep her dress down and back again desperately trying to push the sailor away. Her right hand remained as a fist between them in all four exposures. He had a strong grip on this petite woman, however, and being much larger than she was, he practically bent her over with his hand, which spanned her waist, immobilizing her. The body language shows that he was not letting go of her-although she resisted and struggled to free herself.
The reality of the situation in these four photographs it is not at all romantic. This is a far cry from the images of joyous celebration seen in other photographs of that day.
Text from 1945 Life magazine displaying V-J Day kissing scenes
The Men Of War Kiss From Coast To Coast
When peace news was confirmed, Americans, full of the same high spirits they had displayed abroad, put on a spirited display of public kissing at home. News photographers had long trained servicemen to assume ardent poses for the camera but there was little posing in last week’s coast-to-coast frenzy of kissing. From city to city and block to block the purpose was the same but the techniques varied. They ran the oscillatory gamut from mob-assault upon a single man or woman, to indiscriminate chain kissing. Some servicemen just made it a practice to buss everyone in skirts that happened along, regardless of age, looks, or inclination.
Caption under photograph:
In the middle of New York’s Times Square a white clad girl clutches her purse and skirt as an uninhibited sailor plants his lips squarely on her lips.
Willing and not so willing V-J Day Kissing.
The press had “trained” servicemen to kiss the nearby women for photographers. Among the numerous published photographs taken on V-J Day from around the country there are plenty of reciprocated kisses that were based on mutual agreement, some as obvious romantic embraces, and a few frighteningly unacceptable assaults by today’s standards.
Besides a kitschy twenty-five feet tall statue being out of place on our bay front, one that is of an obviously unwilling encounter-being against her will-is unacceptable to us as a symbol to our contemporary world of today. Therefor moving the statue off of the bay front is a suitable win/win compromise for those who do not agree.