Ciao bella!


Have you ever seen this picture?  This unstaged photo was taken in 1951, 60 years ago this month, in Florence, Italy.  The title is “American Girl in Italy” and, while iconic, there has long been controversy over whether it was staged.  The photographer and its subject have always sworn that it was not.  And I, for one, believe them. 

What brought this picture to my attention now was an article posted today on Yahoo!.  In commemoration of the shot’s sixtieth birthday, its subject, Ninalee Craig, appeared on the “Today” show.  I thought this was funny:

In her “Today” appearance, Craig spoke about how, despite what some might say, the photo isn’t a “symbol of harassment.” Craig insists that the image is “a symbol of a woman having an absolutely wonderful time.”

Absolutely, if by “absolutely wonderful time” you mean ogled, gawked at, propositioned, harangued, goosed.  I guess what some call “harassment” others call “flattery.”

Having lived in Italy for some time, I have no difficulty believing that the photo was not staged (in fact, I would probably have more difficulty believing Craig’s later statement: “None of those men crossed the line at all.”  Maybe not 60 years ago, but I doubt an attractive twenty-three-year-old girl would be so lucky today).

The fact is, Italian men act exactly this way.  Openly.  Brazenly.  Unapologetically.  I guess there is something to be said for the complete abandonment of subtlety.  Refreshing, if you don’t mind being slapped in the face, I guess.

How do you think this same behavior would fly over this side of the pond?  Next time I’m out on the street, and I see an attractive woman, I am going to whistle, stare openly and lupinely, and shout “hey blondie, how beautiful you are!  I’d like to…”

I’ll let you know how that goes.

10 thoughts on “Ciao bella!

  1. Also, I’ve been watching Mad Men. This picture reminds me of what apparently every single guy in 1950s New York was like. I have no idea about that, but I love the show so far.

    • I know someone that has also been watching Mad Men, and she finds the show’s glaring chauvinism sort of off-putting. I wonder what women think about this behavior, truly? Does anyone miss it?

      • And I ask, because that’s what Craig’s Today show comment sort of suggests. But if you look closely at the girl in the picture, she doesn’t look like she’s having the time of her life. She looks like she can’t get off that street fast enough.

      • Janette has been “outraged” about it. But not outraged enough to stop herself watching 10 episodes in three or four days. And she laughs every time I say “Come on doll, I know I’m giving you hotpants.”

        • Well (and I haven’t seen the show) but isn’t it sort of, even indirectly or subconsciously, pointing out how ridiculous and offensive and outdated that behavior is? Certainly it’s not condoning the chauvinism!

          • Of course. I’m not sure what else it could point out. There’s no condoning kids playing with plastic bags on their heads, women who drink heavily while pregnant, those super-pointy bras, etc. Women still get objectified today. Maybe more so than ever, I don’t know.

            Jews and blacks receive nearly as much scorn as the women. They’re certainly not condoning that.

            I think this sums it up. During a lipstick focus group, a bunch of giggling women preen behind one way glass while the ad men watch them and smirk and joke. One woman doesn’t. Afterward she winds up uttering the phrase that becomes the line for the ad. She contributes to the brainstorming session, basically.

            Later, one of the men is describing it. “It was like watching a dog play a piano or something!” Referring to a woman thinking and not just being window dressing. I knew it was awful, and I laughed about as hard as I ever do. that line was so utterly ridiculous that I can’t imagine anyone taking it seriously.

  2. While I am filled with fury following most episodes, I do come away appreciating how much times have changed. So glad I wasn’t born 60 years ago.

    • I have seen some of this (what I refer to disapprovingly as “good old boy” behavior) as recently as the last couple years. Maybe it depends what state or line of work you are in, but some people are still trying to get away with this deplorable comportment. I am glad I wasn’t around then either. It’s mortifying.

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