The Gentlemen's Club
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Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 1:04 pm ]
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John, I can only speak for California in the sense of being in two clubs. The men in those clubs are funny, charming, and very pleasant, but no one has been any more personal than that, the atmosphere is friendly and light.
My southern friends, however, have spoken many times about the more traditional attitudes towards women there. They have been clear that women have certain roles, and they do feel that a woman alone is more likely to draw attention. (Was that nicely enough said??) They feel more protected, on one hand, and less considered, on the other hand. Is this incorrect? When women talk to women, they say things that they wouldn't, to men. How many women in your club, John? How many are single? Do you ever notice women coming to meetings once or twice, and then never again?

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 1:21 pm ]
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Now there's a poll on BT, hopefully worded carefully enough to get good responses.
Let's see what comes of it.....

Author:  James L. Doggett [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 1:28 pm ]
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I created this survey as a way to find out what the women I know in bonsai think. It would be impossible to start with a fully blind survey questioning why women do not do bonsai. I thought this would be a good place to start. I did give the carviate that the sampling was small and ?hand selected?.
These women are either clients of mine, colleagues, or friends I have made at workshops. All of the people on my bonsai list are people I communicate with regularly, with the bonsai aspect being (usually) secondary to our interactions. Several of these women I have not seen in quite some time and I was pleasantly surprised that all chose to respond.
Of the 11 women all have post-secondary degrees with the majority holding a Ph.D. (1-BS, 1-BFA, 1-MBA, 8-Ph.D. ranging from education through fine art). All but one is between 35 and 60 years of age (one is 22 years old and daughter of another on the list). All have been involved in bonsai for at least 10 years with the mean being 21 years of working with their trees. This is a group of professional women, the majority (7) teaches at the graduate level, and all would be referred to as self-confident and hard workers.
All have received invitations in the past to come to the sites I frequent to join the discussion. Most say they have visited these sites (BonsaiChat, BonsaiTalk and here, I do not feel it is appropriate to share their comments on individual sites), read articles they find of interest, but as of yet none has posted on any of them. I do agree with your comments about ?not having the time? I read it as a polite way of saying they would rather not answer, though I know most of these women could honestly use that as an excuse. Most, I would say, lead very busy, active lives. Several did state they do not go to sites where they must register (not all are as familiar or comfortable with the Internet as others are).
As far as ?To what are they comparing their trees?? I did not ask. I am not sure it is a valid question. Unless I am invited to someone?s home, the only time I see someone?s trees is if they have a question or have something they wish to share. If I were redoing the survey I might add other questions to gather additional data. I did this survey simply to see what this group of women thought.
I see a difference between joining a club and posting in an online forum. A club membership requires monthly attendance while forums can be viewed in a casual manner. A forum can be read for information while staying quietly anonymous. The comments about online ?Masters? I read as reference to the idea that many sites have people who are self-proclaimed experts. As for clubs, I no longer belong to one, meetings are too far away or at inconvenient times for me. I know that it is not necessarily just women who feel less than welcome at these functions.
In correlating the replies, I see a pattern that the longer these women have been in bonsai the less they feel their input is taken seriously. This same cohort is the ones who replied that they ?Did not feel comfortable at the meeting?, ??{were} not taken seriously or put down?. ?? went to partake, not serve as a gofer?. All attend workshops and seminars to increase their knowledge, it is the social events they avoid. Their discomfort could simply be due to their limited free time coupled with knowledge of other things they could be doing, but that would be supposition on my part. I have actually witnessed all of the above at different bonsai events (2 of the women on my list are friends now because I stepped up to their defense, though I suspect neither really needed defending), how to correct the problem is the harder part of the issue.
Atilla, that is mild by a couple of situations I have seen at club meeting.
It will be interesting how the future of bonsai evolves.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 1:51 pm ]
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That's very interesting, James! No wonder your women said that they didn't have the time...they are busy, professional people. How amazing that they didn't feel respected, considering their accomplishments in real life! That puts a whole different spin on things.
There are several other women here, anyone else care to comment??

Author:  James L. Doggett [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 3:19 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Joanie Berkwitz wrote:
That's very interesting, James! No wonder your women said that they didn't have the time...they are busy, professional people. How amazing that they didn't feel respected, considering their accomplishments in real life! That puts a whole different spin on things.

The thing that strikes me is that they should be respected simply as being human beings. While I can't say with full certainty, but I doubt any of these women introduce themselves by their degrees. I do suspect they are used to level of equality in the way they are treated. While few cited any specific example of disrespect, perception can become reality. I am sure there are other busy, professional women out there who have different experiences, it will be interesting to hear from them.
I hope to send out more surveys this next week to women on a site where I am a moderator (I prefer to ask the site administrator before I use the site for research) and add that data to what I already have. This will represent a separate cohort as they will be from women who actively participate in on-line intercourse.

Author:  John Dixon [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 3:50 pm ]
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Interesting perspective.
How many women in my club? I can think of about six off-hand. Not sure about marital status. Most are married I guess, and I think one is a widow. I guess that just doesn't matter to me because I have never really paid attention to it. I'm not looking for a "fling", just friends in bonsai.
As far as your Southern friends go, I respect their opinions, but how many of them are really "Southern". That's getting to be a rare situation in the area of bigger Southern cities like Charlotte. Many differences are the result. People like the "country" setting, but want the convenience of urban shopping and nightlife. Just that one aspect makes for a remarkable argument among people. "Southern" is just not what it once was. I say ma'am, and I will hold a door for a lady in a second. Both those polite gestures have got me told off too!!! Sometimes with enough profanity to make a sailor blush. I just stand there wondering to myself, "what the hell did I do"? Does that mean I should have let THEM open the door for me? Said "hey baby" instead and goosed her? Or should I just make myself spontaneously combust? I mean really, I ain't no mind reader. It baffles me how true, genuine, southern politeness insults someone. I mean the North kicked our butts in the Civil War, about all the South had left was a little internal pride. I guess that's next on the chopping block.
I'm just a simpleton. I need to know the rules before I play the game. I really wish I could figure out how to make women welcome and happy in bonsai, but I'm starting to believe that is not possible for the gender, just the individual woman.
I still say it ain't no Gentlemen's Club.
Joanie, you are welcome here at my local club anytime along with anyone else who is interested in bonsai. I will always retain that welcome for others.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 7:56 pm ]
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John, who knows how any one person interprets things? I taught my son to open doors for women (by pointedly standing in front of the door and waiting) and of course to be polite. But my southern friends (and believe me, they are generationally and deeply southern) see a distinction where perhaps the men do not. I have nothing to add on the subject, having no personal experience.
This thread has been going on for a while, and only three women have chimed in. It would be great to hear from the others.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Thu Jun 30, 2005 11:39 pm ]
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Take a moment.....
peek into the forums for the "garden web". Look at the different forums that are specific to trees. Read the intros if they are there. Look for obviously male and female names. Look at who is participating.
Look at who likes geraniums. Orchids. Carnivorous plants. Roses. Conifers. (conifers was interesting in particular) Read a little of the chitchat.
Go ahead.
The answer is more simple than we tried to make it.

Author:  Richard Fish [ Mon Jul 04, 2005 6:32 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Joanie Berkwitz wrote:
This thread has been going on for a while, and only three women have chimed in.

This sort of proves the point. Still, it unfortunately doesn't explain the reasoning yet.

Author:  Michelle Gray [ Mon Jul 11, 2005 5:02 pm ]
Post subject:  We Might Look Crazy

I had a thought about this recently. I love to go collecting, but I'm always a little worried about what someone might think if I go trapseing out into a field with my shovel and knapsack.
My husband has friends and relatives who have some land, but I worry that they might think his wife is a "little odd" if I ask for permission to dig. I even worry a little about my own husband thinking ill of me if I mention that I want to go to a local demolition site to hunt for trees.
So, that's one thing. I don't know if it's typically female or just me being a little self concsious sometimes. Most of the time I go anyway, or I ask the friend about collecting on their land, even though I DO feel a little guarded.
Then there's the danger vs. protectionism thing.
Yesterday while I was carving on my flowering almond, my chisel slipped in my hand and cut my thumb and all the way through my thumbnail. That'll take a while to heal. But my spouse was both concerned for me and a little scolding-muttered something about how I "can't be trusted with sharp tools..." I do actually nick myself often while performing a number of my hobbies and diversions. And that made me think about his role in my bonsai interest. He mostly tolerates it.
But when I take off on digs that bring me into perilous heights and rough terrains, sneaky snakes and wolverines, well, he's a bit lost. He knows I will not tolerate alot of worrying or protectiveness. Not to mention that when I go to my bonsai club meetings, I'm surrounded by fellas. (There are several female members there by the way). So, what is the big, brave husband cro-magnon to do? He and I dance a precarious waltz regarding my tree thing.
Don't know if this makes any sense, but it's what came up this week.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Mon Jul 11, 2005 5:16 pm ]
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Since no one answered for a while, here's my three simple reasons why there are (and always will be) more men in bonsai:
1. It just appeals to men more. It is a more "masculine" hobby, manipulating a tree. As evidence, go see the garden web forums. Look at "conifers" and see who posts....mostly men. Look at "carniverous plants". Yes, you guessed it. Then look at more "feminine" types of gardening, and see all the women who post there. It just doesn't appeal to women as much, they aren't drawn to it in the first place.
2. All other things being equal, women won't compete with men. In the forums that are mostly women, it is the women who are doing demos and writing books. But in a forum which is more equally mixed, it is the men that are demoing and writing. Some women hold back intrinsically, rather than go toe-to-toe with men. (grin) But we smell better.
3. It has nothing to do with how the women are treated....witness the poll on BonsaiTALK. The women who are in the bonsai world, and do work alongside the men....and the men who teach them...aren't talking about discrimination or anything else. Those who aren't involved may have other perceptions, but for those who do participate....they don't detect any such problems. (Not to say that there isn't an isolated and occasional problem, there certainly could be.) And the ratio of officers in the clubs being more equal, but the demonstrators and authors being men, would tend to suggest that women are more comfortable in these non-competetive situations. If they were discriminated against, or looked down upon, or hassled...would they be officers in the clubs? In cultures where the women are more willing to be competetive, such as Australia and to some extent the US, women are more willing to get right in there and work and compete on an equal footing.
Just my opinion, based on a couple of nights reading....

Author:  Attila Soos [ Mon Jul 11, 2005 6:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Joanie Berkwitz wrote:
It has nothing to do with how the women are treated....[/i]

I agree. As a man, I can assure you that most of the men I know would go out of their way to encourage any women with the slightest interest in bonsai. Because our perception (at least amongst the men here in the L.A. area) is that there are less women involved, we would even go as far as to reverse-discriminate (offer more advantages to women vs. men) just to attract more women in this hobby.

Author:  Mike Page [ Wed Aug 10, 2005 3:44 pm ]
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I'm a newbie to this forum, and have been reading some of the threads. This one concerning female participation in bonsai is a question that has always been of interest to me. I think in all artistic undertakings there is a feminine touch and a masculine touch, and there's no reason they can't be mutually beneficial to each other.
I guess the question still stands unanswered, and may have no answer, as to why it seems that bonsai is mainly a man's game. In my 30 years in bonsai, I've seen no overt impediment to full female participation, but have observed reluctance by some women to fully engage in things such as lectures, demonstrations, teaching, etc. However, I have learned in my 72 years that women and men are much more than creatures with different fixtures. The physical side of it is the least of the differences, and I'll admit that my understanding of the feminine psyche is still woefully deficient.
There are women that are prominant in bonsai. Two of the books in my bonsai library are by women, Deborah Koreshoff and Amy Liang. One of the teachers in my earlier days that I had the utmost respect for and still revere was the late Melba Tucker of Southern California.
There are 100 names listed in the 2004 World Bonsai Contest. I counted 15 female names, and possibly there could be more, but I can't be sure due to my linguistic ignorance. In my club, Sei Boku Bonsai Kai of San Mateo, CA there are 70 members, 33 of which are women. Not a bad percentage.
Tool use, especially power tools is sometimes a problem for some women. However, they can be taught if they're willing to learn. I've worked with women on the use of power tools many times over the years. I still have a plaque on my shop wall given me by some of the women in the Bonsai Society of San Francisco for conducting worshops for them in the use of various tools including power.
One of my favorite storys involving women and workshops involving power tool use took place at a GSBF convention in 1988. I was asked to conduct a tanuki workshop, which involved each participant buying a diegrinder to carve the groove in the deadwood to insert the live juniper trunk. About half of the 10 workshop participants were women, and none of the 10 had used a diegrinder. The women that I remember the best was a whitehaired LOL that had no power tool experience. My assistant and I worked with each student in the techniques involved, and set them all to working, going around the room and helping as necessary. I'll never forget that the first student finished was the whitehaired LOL who had never used a power tool before. Inspirational!

Author:  Will Heath [ Wed Aug 10, 2005 5:06 pm ]
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Well said, welcome to the forum.

Will Heath

Author:  Jennifer Triptow [ Sun Aug 14, 2005 4:01 am ]
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Hello to all---this is my first post to the AOB forum. I found this topic quite interesting.
When I first joined my local club I had no idea what to expect. My husband and I developed an interest in bonsai simultaneously, so I was ignorant to the possibility that it could be a male-dominated venture. The first ?meeting? I attended was actually a club BBQ a year ago in July. Being that it was an informal club event, there were spouses and family members present---so once again I had no reason to believe it was a ?gentleman?s club?. The next month my husband and I sat in on our first meeting and it was overwhelmingly male. I would also venture to guess that I am one of the youngest members of the club (I am 31).
In my curiosity, I looked over my club roster and we have 79 members, 27 of which are women. That?s 34%---but this includes some husband and wife ?joint memberships? and I am unsure of how active all the women in the club are. I am still getting to know names and faces.
I think the responses to this topic show how widely the women to men ratio can change from region to region. That could certainly be a factor in my region. I?ll give you a non-bonsai example: I am not a native Texan and my social circles have always included both men and women. When I first moved here (last year) my husband and I joined his sister and her husband at their home for drinks with friends. It was a social anomaly for me---the women split from the men and the socializing was done separately. It has been the same at almost every other social event I have attended since. I am very uncomfortable with this. Interestingly enough, the only time this has not happened is at my local club meetings and club events.
Although bonsai may (or may not) be comprised of mostly men, in my experience, I have never been made to feel unwelcome because I am a woman. And isn?t that what is important?

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