Happy IWD (March 8) to everyone. The UN's official theme for the 2013 IWD is
"A Promise is Promise: Time for Action to End Violence Against Women."
On 16 December 2012 in New Delhi, a young Indian woman (a medical student)
was brutally raped by several men, later dying of her injuries. This case has
already brought unprecedented attention to the issues of rape in India.
One difficulty is that some of the men who are supposed to oversee how to end
sexual harassment, if not violence, against women seem to be part of the problem.
"One cabinet minister...chased a woman round a sofa in his office in an
unsuccessful attempt to kiss her. ... One woman who has experienced sexism
at Westminster said that men who behave inappropriately were not guilty of
innocent mistakes. 'It is power. They know they have embarrassed you when
they make a sordid lurch and try to kiss you.' ...Campaigners say the anecdotes
of sexual harassment build a picture of a Britain still governed according to
'antiquidated rules' in Westminster."
--Nicholas Watt (25 February 2013, 'The Guardian'
On the other hand, popular culture has long given 'mixed messages' about at
least some of this 'sexual harassment'. A man giving (or stealing) an unwanted
kiss to a woman is a trope. In films it often occurs during romantic scenes where
the heroine's being swept off her feet. Indeed, one of the most iconic images of
the ending of the Second World War in the United States is a photograph taken
of 'the Kissing Sailor' (or the 'Kissed Nurse'
in New York City's Times Square.
Celebrating victory over Japan on 14 August 1945, a US Navy sailor seized a
passing young woman (apparently in a nurse's uniform), bent her over backward
(her slender legs forming a graceful spiral), and kissed her with gusto.
The the impromptu couple parted ways, not knowing each other's name, not to
see each other again for many years. Over the years, at least three women
have claimed to be the one who was kissed in that famous photograph.
Edith Shain (who died in 2010) was the most widely accepted claimant, even
becoming a minor celebrity. A 2012 book _The Kissing Sailor_ has concluded,
however, that the kissed woman most likely was Greta Friedman (not a nurse).
How did she feel about that famous unwanted kiss? Greta Friedman has said that
it was unwelcome and rather distasteful, but it did not trouble her for too long.
At that time, the concept of 'sexual harassment' hardly existed.
So on one hand, our (Western) culture would like to discourage male politicians
from chasing female secretaries around the desk in order to kiss them and, on
the other hand, our culture celebrates a sailor who forced an unwanted kiss upon
a passing young woman to the extent of building a larger-than-life-sized statue
named 'Unconditional Surrender' (hers?) that depicts the couple's intertwining
bodies while he's enjoying the kiss, which she has said that she did not enjoy.
What a 'mixed message'--no wonder many people seem confused about what's
considered acceptable conduct between a man and a woman!