A French feminist group has demanded the removal of a historic statue celebrating the end of World War II and currently on display in Normandy, saying it represents a “sexual assault.”
The sculpture replicates the iconic LIFE magazine photograph of a sailor in Times Square bending a woman over backward and kissing her after hearing the news of the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945, that effectively ended the war.
The 25-foot-tall, 13-ton ‘Unconditional Surrender,’ sometimes known as The Kiss, is on a one-year loan to the Caen Memorial Museum in Normandy from the Sculpture Foundation in California.
The loan marks the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, according to the Daily Mail.
French feminist group Osez Le Feminisme demanded the removal of the statue because the kiss was “forced upon” the woman.
“We cannot accept that the Caen Memorial erected a sexual assault as a symbol of peace,” a spokesman for the organization told the Mail. “We therefore request the removal of this sculpture as soon as possible.”
Museum director Stephane Grimaldi has no plans to remove the statue, saying that the woman who was kissed, Greta Zimmer Friedman of Austria, has never complained about the event.
“She never considered that she was assaulted,” he said.
However, feminists point to a 2012 statement from Friedman as evidence that the kiss was against her will.
“’I have not seen him approaching, and before I understand what is happening, I found myself gripped in a vice. You caught me. This man was very strong. I kissed it, it was he who kissed me,” Friedman then said.
Osez Le Feminisme’s spokeman said that George Mendonsa, the sailor in the picture, had alternatives to forcing a kiss upon Friedman.
“The sailor could have laughed with these women, hugged them, asked them if he could kiss them with joy. No, he chose to grab them with a firm hand to kiss them. It was an assault.’
The group’s petition to remove the statue has so far gathered fewer than 800 signatures.
Here’s the original LIFE photo:
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