Nia Lewis knows the feeling of shame so many women experience after being catcalled.
The young poet brought those feelings to life when she performed her poem “Closed” at an event for the LA-based youth poetry center Get Lit. The poem, which was uploaded to Button Poetry’s YouTube page on Sept. 21, illustrates emotional fallout of being harassed on the street.
Lewis describes trying to grow up quickly and “walk like a woman,” until the first time she was catcalled.
“He doesn’t understand that I am 13, he looks at my body and sees curves,” Lewis says. “But the only curve that he should look at is my smile. He looks at me with lust that teaches me nothing about loving my body.”
Lewis’ discomfort overwhelms her, she tells the crowd:
His words make me uncomfortable. Uncomfortable to wear what I want to wear. Uncomfortable with my body... One simple action can make me feel so small.
She’s tired of not wearing what she wants ― like leggings or yoga pants ― because she doesn’t want strangers to comment on her body.
“Respect me,” Lewis demands. “You must respect that I am a young, intelligent, smart, African American. Respect for my hips lips and breasts. Respect for my hourglass body. Respect for my flaws.”
As Lewis so eloquently puts it, men need to remember that women are so much more than their bodies. Her silhouette does not define her.
Head over to Button Poetry to watch more spoken word performances.