On Top of It #20 by Lisa Martens


I spent the weekend at the PURE dance conference, and one panel discussed intimacy and dance . . . and quickly became a discussion about why some people seem to hate when women embrace their femininity and own the stage, especially if said woman is not conventionally beautiful.

Project Harpoon was, to me, a spectacular example of this misogyny online. For those who are lucky enough not to know, this was . . . and still is . . . a “project” that takes plus-size female models and photoshops them slim, so these women can see how hot they “could” be. So basically this involves these steps:

  1. Take a photo of a plus-size woman, who has overcome insecurities and pursued a career in modeling, and who is successfully working as a model
  2. Spend possibly hours photoshopping it
  3. Post the photoshopped photo online where other people are also spending time to voice their opinions on the before and after
  4. Attempt to shame this woman into being thin

This is so confusing on so many levels.

A woman who is confident with herself, and with her body, taking this stage and putting herself in front of a camera, is not somehow hurting the people who are photoshopping and posting these edited photos. There are also lots of thin women online. Thanks to smart phones, you can scroll past a woman who does not meet your preferences with a flick of your thumb.

The Internet gives some people the ability to be unnecessarily cruel (and seriously, even if you forget the lack of human decency part—the whole task is futile and time-consuming).

So I began to think—what on earth could be said that would begin to unravel the hatred these people behind their computers must feel? What about a confident, sexy woman who is not conventionally attractive offends some people in such a visceral way? Why do they feel the need to spend so much time fighting something the Internet allows them to ignore?

And, most importantly, how could that ball of anger be unraveled, and that energy be used for something productive?

I’m not being as catty or sarcastic in this post as I usually am . . . as I am towards people who catcall me or tell me to smile. Sometimes incredulity is the only response I can give.

On my way back from the airport a week ago, bags in tow, as I did my best to curl up and take as little space as possible, a man actually told me I was taking too much room, and he needed to spread his legs. “Don’t you know I have balls?”

Verbatim quote.

I was too exhausted to fight, or even to say anything. I just stared at him. I didn’t move. I just couldn’t help but look at the person before me, and wonder: What the hell causes someone to think his balls need more room than my suitcases?


Lisa Martens

Lisa Martens (Episode 22) currently lives in Harlem. In her past 10 years in New York, she has lived in a garage on Long Island, a living room in Hell’s Kitchen, the architecture building of CCNY, and on the couch of a startup. She grew up in New York, Costa Rica and Texas, and she’s still not sure which of these is home. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing from CCNY. Her thesis, What Grows in Heavy Rain, is available on Amazon. Check out her website here. Follow her on Instagram here.