Woman 2020: Lydia Celine / by Jenn Heflin

It has been a crazy year for women. Historically, though, we know every year is crazy for women. If ever things are going to change, now seems like the moment. WOMAN 2020 is a snapshot of women during this time of upheaval. We are building careers, raising children, living our lives, and trying to impact the world in positive ways, and I believe all women have much to say. This is Lydia’s Q&A.

What is your name, occupation, and role (or roles) you most identify with?
Lydia Celine, personal trainer, restaurant server, extroverted introvert, observer, daydreamer, self exploration warrior.

What is the most positive thing about being a woman in 2018?
Options. I can be a single 39 year old woman - no partner, no child, no property - living a fulfilling, connected and purposeful life in 2018. I don't need to follow the roles of traditional society. And what's even more amazing is that I can find and connect with other's who share the same life experience. I am very lucky and blessed to be part of such a self-empowered community.

What is the hardest thing about being a woman in 2018?
Challenging social expectations. Most of my peers grew up with Disney and Barbies, so we were given a very skewed idea of what we should expect from ourselves and from men especially. I continue to struggle with breaking the fantasy of waiting around for Prince Charming to show up on his horse and 'save me'. I have to remind myself daily that I am on my own path - strong, capable and confident in my own right. Men are born into a society that empowers their right to strength and independence from birth. As women we have to fight for it, externally, but also more importantly, internally.

When did you first notice that society treated men and women (or boys and girls) differently? 
I remember the very first friend I had was a boy. I was about 4 or 5 years old. We lived in a very isolated area in upstate NY and his family were our only real neighbors. He had 3 older brothers and they started teasing him that he was friend's with a girl. I remember he acted embarrassed and he didn't want to be friends after that. It was the first time that I felt different and excluded. Later on I remember his brother nailed me in the face with a snowball when we were driving by their house. I had opened the car window to wave at everyone playing outside. It stung, literally and figuratively. I felt a very strong and lasting sense of rejection.

How do you maintain your resiliency in these times? 
I learned to turn inward, to withdraw, to remain unnoticed. I was a skittish animal. I continued to be bullied and ignored in middle school, and mostly it came from the popular boys. I was called ugly, fat, smelly, weird, potato, chia pit (the joys of hitting puberty before my male counterparts and making the mistake of raising my hand in class while wearing a tank top). So I stopped participating. I became more quiet. I stopped raising my hand. That's how I got through being a teenage female.

Why do you think past movements haven't moved the needle for women? Or have they? 
On the surface they have. I feel like it's similar in some ways as other minority movements - laws are passed, rallies are held, marches occur and then the traditional status quo of society can say "see? We don't have racism anymore" or "look, sexism doesn't exist in the workplace". Because by some odd reasoning speaking out somehow equates to equality (as if freedom of speech is all you need to be free), when the only thing it does is start a conversation. I think ultimately the reason why movements of disempowered people fail is because of the selfish greed and entitlement of the upper ruling class. They are not willing to work with creating a society of equals - they enjoy their privilege and their feelings of uniqueness from the masses. Rich, white, elitist males will continue to see independent, intelligent and driven women as a threat to their dominion. So it's easy to disregard these powerful women as bitches.

Do you think the current movement will be the one to change things for future generations? Why? Which movement specifically?
I think we need a movement of bitchy women. We all play too nice and allow ourselves to be stepped on and stepped over. As women we have come a long way, but there are still so much inequality and suppression of the female experience. Even earlier today I was having a conversation with a male client who said that his wife hardly went into labor when birthing their 3 children. He laughed and said "I don't believe child birth is that bad, it's like kidney stones". This disregard of such an integral part of the female experience by a man truly offended me. It goes to show how little people are willing or capable of empathizing with another's experience. And how truly oblivious and ignorant people can be in this age of supposed enlightenment.

What needs to happen for us to move forward?
Speaking up. Saying no. Sharing stories. I do think that the #metoo movement has had some largely positive effects in bringing to light all of the covert and overt cases of sexual harassment and abuse that people have experienced. It's important for us as a society to talk about how female complacency and submissiveness creates situations where women feel coerreced without even being aware of it. I've definitely had experiences in the past that upon reflection I realized I felt harassed, taken advantage of and even abused. And at the time I didn't say or do anything because I felt embarrassed, uncertain, uncomfortable and without options. Learning to stand up for ourselves and to support each other is important.

What can women do to make it better for other women? 
Share their own stories of struggle, of overcoming obstacles, of relearning and redefining their roles in society. Listen and engage. Support one another as we go through our own personal journeys of discovering our deeper selves.

What can men do to make it better for women? 
Listen. Listen. Listen. Stop dominating the conversation. Don't mansplain to me how giving birth is like passing a kidney stone.

What are some of the influences (people, art, books, songs, movies) you loved growing up that made you realize your power? 
Frida Kahlo has always been a background presence in my life. Her art is raw, beautiful, painful, but incredibly powerful to me. She painted her suffering and her love. She was a strong woman who was in love with a man who notoriously cheated on her and broke her heart. I find that part of her life hard, but am still amazed that she smashed down the social norms of her day. Eartha Kitt is another woman of great power and strength, her voice when she speaks, when she sings, just pure fire. She was a force to be reckoned with. She owned herself, she famously said "A man comes into my life and you have to compromise? For what? A relationship is a relationship that has to be earned! Not to compromise for..." ♡ she knew her value.

Visit the WOMAN 2020 webpage to tell your story and to stay in touch about the exhibition opening in Spring of 2020.