Do you know who Ruth Orkin is?

By Tatiana von Tauber

Ruth Orkin's "American Girl in Italy"

Recognize this photo?

Ruth Orkin photographed it in the early 50’s after meeting another young woman, Ninalee Craig (the model) in Italy while traveling solo.  Together they attempted to capture the experience of traveling alone in Italy. 

Some have claimed this photo is a symbol of harassment.  While Craig claims it’s a symbol of having a “wonderful time”  (source), I think it’s more a symbol of the kind of power feminine beauty has in Italy – and not much has changed in 60 years.  In Germany guys don’t make gestures, in America construction worker comments have killed the romantic potential but in Italy and in France, there still exists a “romance-worship” to the female.  With that comes a level of sexualization, sure, but when placed into the correct context, it’s a turn on rather than any symbol of harassment.  This photograph is a compliment.

By default of existing we are looked at.  Where some see judgment other see compliment.  If more men weren’t afraid of being accused of sexual harassment when none was intended more women might enjoy the compliment of a whistle or two.  Attention isn’t always comfortable but no attention for too long makes for an old, bitter maid.

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