The Gentlemen's Club
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Author:  Dori Emerson [ Mon Aug 15, 2005 11:36 am ]
Post subject: 

Hello All...New to this site, thought I would start here. I read thru this thread and find it very interesting. I can understand or think I do from my point of view/experience.
I have always been interested/active in what has 'traditionally' been considered man's 'territory'. I work in the Steel Industry. At the plant I worked at in MN it was 'normal' for women to drive forklifts etc. When I moved to FL people found it surprising even shocking to see me on a lift, hands buried in a press. For the most part I have not felt as tho men were condecending when I asked for help. Although I am pig-headed and ask for help as a last resort at times.
There are things I won't do, use a chainsaw for example. They scare me and I don't think I am strong enough. Does that make me 'weak'? No just realistic.
Is fear a problem? Are men fearful of losing face? Are women fearful of being put down? For myself fear is a factor. Responsible fear concering chainsaws. However, at times I am fearful of making a fool of myself.
Just a few thoughts I had.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 12:24 pm ]
Post subject: 

Dori, you may or may not be on the bonsaiTALK forum also, but there was just an argument over there about the language used in critiques. And no matter what side you come down on, the end result is that any time you challenge one of these dominant men about their actions you are called names. Rather than cite examples, or discuss those you cite at them, they would prefer to dismiss your point of view and get personal.
That is why, in my opinion, most women stall out somewhere in the mid range of bonsai. They may have the ability and the desire, but they will not stand up to the harsh personal criticism and name calling. Men call men out, but most women would prefer to back down. Generally speaking, women do better in environments where civility is the tone. We expect civility like men expect a miminum amount of hygiene. It is just part of our makeup. But having been called passive aggressive, namby pamby wussy thought police for standing up for what I believe, I now remember again that men are willing to draw blood rather than cede one inch on their perceived territory.
That, "gentlemen", was EXACTLY why you won't have many women in the higher ranks. Because you cannot conduct yourselves with honor or respect when you are challenged. (And you know who you are) Many of you would rather stay silent or walk away than stand up for a modicrum of civil conduct. Apparently, amongst the males of our world, as long as the speaker is more dominant he is not to be held to any standards.
Luckily, there are a few of us who can and will take it.

Author:  Sylvia Smith [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 1:43 pm ]
Post subject: 

I may be new in signing on to any forum but I am far from new to bonsai. I was very much involved in reading the post on the language of bonsai critiques, which I happen to agree can be benificial to those willing to hear them, and it was your post here today that has prompted me to be take the time out to share another woman's point of view.
First of all, I very much disagree with your idea that women stall out at mid range. Although there are fewer women who are serious about their bonsai, the numbers are growing. Look at Kathy Shaner who studied in Japan under the harshest of conditions. Not only tough when you are an apprentice but extra tough as a woman and still she persevered. I myself am a graduate of Boon Manakitivipart's 3 year bonsai intensive, and frankly I would be pissed if Boon treated me any differently than the guys just because I happen to be more emotional than they are. If any woman has the desire to persue their bonsai endeavors then they should be prepared to listen to the facts. But if any one - whether man or woman - cannot stand the heat, of say a critique, or the harsh reality that your tree may not be as beautiful as you once thought, then you have closed your mind to that which could have been learned.
In all things learned one must accept teaching. If a teacher tells you that you have done something incorrectly, you learn the correct way. If it is an art form, then the teacher must teach the basics and the student must therefore be willing to hear, accept and apply what is being taught. It is only then that one can move on to their own style. If the criticism is too harsh, find a new teacher.
For me, time is a factor in writing posts. Kids, dinner, laundry, bonsai. Just don't really have the time......guess I better make the time.
By the way, the person who used the word wuss in the other forum thread is a woman from my bonsai club. I didn't feel offended by her use of the word, nor did I feel she used it in a personal attack. She was just making her point.

Author:  Carl Bergstrom [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 2:20 pm ]
Post subject:  A request

The last two posts are interesting, on topic for this particular thread, and I appreciate both, because both made me think.
I do have a pre-emptive request, to head off trouble before it happens: Let's be careful not to let the argument from the other forum spill over to this one. Let's keep it focused on how such presentation styles influence the gender balance in bonsai, and not let it spread to the broad issues being discussed elsewhere.
Thanks in advance,

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 3:06 pm ]
Post subject: 

Carl, my intent was exactly to talk about the gender situation. Which is why I didn't name names or link to the discussion.
Some of us women can take the heat.... many others can't. If you disagree with this, well, that's fine. You can deny the large gender gap that's here. We keep referring to a handful of women to prove that there are women who are competitive in bonsai. The irony of that apparently escapes some.
I never said that people should tone down their critiques....never. Ever. If that is what someone read into my posts, I'm sorry, your perception is flawed. Read them again. Read the whole thread again. All I said was that there are ways to word critiques that are MORE direct and useful.
But my point in posting here is that I know how women act, react, and interact. I have 350 women customers, and I deal with them constantly. I know that they would shy away from the harsh personal criticisms that are apparently par for the course in bonsai circles. Not every single woman... witness the few who post here. But the vast majority. We are just wired that way.
Deny biology and upbringing if you like. But as the original question of this thread was why there were fewer women than men, I am pointing out in a straightforward manner the answer. We don't react the same and we expect a higher standard of CIVILITY. If you equate civility with toning down, or pulling punches, or being less than forthright, then you are the fool. Is that straightforward enough? Or am I even allowed to say that, here, where politeness generally reigns?

Author:  Sylvia Smith [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 6:05 pm ]
Post subject: 

No problem Carl. Getting back to Richard's original question: Although we can all agree that men and women are inherantly different creatures, both in thought process and physical structure, we can also agree that both are capable of enjoying the same art forms. To say that bonsai has been practiced mostly by men is equivalent to saying that only women can be stewards. Over time this too has changed and I believe that bonsai is moving in the same direction. Even just 20 years ago you would not see women in the workfield as today.
So, do you accuse women of bonsai only being of the competative type? Can't a woman just want to learn more? Sure they are more reserved about cutting roots but I teach bonsai and I would argue that men who are new to the art are the same way. What about the man who wants to learn Ikebana? Do you call him wimpy? Is he any different than a man who likes to cook? I say no. Things just change. I think that all people as a whole are more receptive to such a change and in time this too will be more evident in bonsai.
Yes, women are not as strong, but it doesn't take strength to learn how to develop a beautiful shohin display. Suthin had a wonderful shohin display at the World Bonsai Convention, look at any Gofu book for more examples. The notion that most women like to be indoors escapes me. Talk to any woman in my neighhborhood and most like to be outdoors. But, for the sake of conversation lets say most women prefer tropicals or flowering trees. All you have to do is look at the tropicals that won the WBC contest. Awesome trees, two tropical and one flowering in the 2003 contest. So why are women not the makers of such trees? Maybe these trees are still in development. Maybe we are still learning the art.
There are twice as many women who have joined our local bonsai club over the last 6 years. Many of them because it was their hobby not their husband's. We just haven't as a whole been doing it long enough for it to be noticable yet. Given time I think this will all be a moot point.

Author:  Carl Bergstrom [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 6:09 pm ]
Post subject:  Re:

Sylvia Smith wrote:
What a bout a man who wants to learn Ikebana? Do you call him wimpy?

As a man who loves kusamono almost as much as bonsai, I sure hope not.
Sylvia Smith wrote:
There are twice as many women who have joined our local bonsai club over the last 6 years. Many of them because it was their hobby not their husband's. We just haven't as a whole been doing it long enough for it to be noticable yet. Given time I think this will all be a moot point.

I certainly hope that is true.
Best regards,

Author:  Sylvia Smith [ Sun Sep 04, 2005 7:16 pm ]
Post subject: 

As a man who loves kusamono almost as much as bonsai, I sure hope not.

Just a generalization Carl. Scary though, huh?

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Mon Sep 05, 2005 12:05 am ]
Post subject: 

I'm sorry, Sylvia. You are responding to posts that were part of an evolution of ideas. At the conclusion of the process of posting and investigating, I felt that women are generally not interested in going toe to toe with men. Having looked at internet forums for things that most interest women, things that most interest men, and things that are most mixed.... my personal conclusion is that women in a mixed atmosphere will not, generally, go up against men on men's terms.
I am not "accusing" the women here of being more competitive... that's not it at all. I think that some women are more willing to put themselves into the fray and take their licks. I do think that moving up in bonsai is a competitive endeavor, and you have to be willing to act more as the men do, to get to the upper echelon.
Many women won't do this. They just won't. Certainly it is getting better, but it is by no means equal yet. And it is also cultural... some cultures have women that are much more willing to compete.
Now of course these are just personal conclusions. I would welcome discussion of other opinions. In fact, I asked for it here in previous posts. If you look, however, at the areas that I suggested previously, you will need to consider why it is that women hold their own amongst themselves, and are the ones who write books and give demos, but in mixed company they represent far less than half. (And anecdotal local evidence is not terribly representative... you need to look farther afield. Look in the magazines, see who writes the books, see who is demoing... see also who are the officers in the clubs.) A openminded perusal of the evidence would tend to show that women are *not* represented in the numbers that one would expect, and none of the other reasons can really cover all of the evidence, at least at the moment.
By the way, I didn't start this thread, the men did. They wanted to know why.... they want to change it. So now I have told them why, in my opinion. They can do with it what they will.

Author:  Sylvia Smith [ Mon Sep 05, 2005 2:31 pm ]
Post subject: 

I do think that moving up in bonsai is a competitive endeavor, and you have to be willing to act more as the men do, to get to the upper echelon.

A. How does a man act when making a beautiful bonsai?
B. I've got a couple of articles in the making but I'm just too lazy to finish up and get them to print. Does this mean I'm not competative enough or I'm I just caught up with so much mom stuff that it's just a lower priority right now? Maybe men just have more cave time to get their thoughts on paper than we do. Frankly, I'd rather socialize than lock myself up and write a book or magazine aticle.
C. Upper echelon examples of woman in bonsai (just off the top of my head): Kathy Shaner, Mary Madisson, Mary Miller, Yvonne Padilla, Candi Hansen, Cheryl Manning, Deborah Koreshoff, Sara Rayner, Esthela Flather, Solita Rosade, Amy Lang, Beatriz de Borrero, Martha Olga de G?mez, Mercedes Cuenca, Milagros Rauber, Petra Engelke, Chiara Padrini, Parizia Cappellaro, Melba Tucker, Hideiko Metaxis, Pauline Muth, Christine Schmalenberg, Lisa Tajima, Leila Kusumi, Carolyn Carver, Mollie Hollar, Ruth Staal, Pam Woythal and Sue Brenan. Just some of the names of women who have written books, given lectures and/or demos and have taught bonsai.
I'm sure there are more men, but we are talking about bonsai, not sports. In the grand scheme of things bonsai is a small hobby compared to other hobbies so you can't possibly theorize based on the U.S. standard for what most women like.

By the way, I didn't start this thread, the men did. They wanted to know why.... they want to change it. So now I have told them why, in my opinion. They can do with it what they will.

Just to add my two cents, I don't believe that men have any obligations to change anything!!

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Mon Sep 05, 2005 4:23 pm ]
Post subject: 

Sylvia, I'm very sorry that we got off on the wrong foot here.
If you say that women are well represented and have no problem in this arena, then I for one am glad to hear it. It means pretty much ignoring the original part of this thread, which seems rather odd, and it also must ignore the points I made before. Which means, I suspect, that you did not take the time to go to the forums I suggested and see for yourself what I saw.
Be that as it may, I also am very busy. I have a husband and two kids and several pets, and a small home based business that keeps me working seven days a week. I also write articles, do demos and workshops, and am involved in two clubs. No being an efficient person, I perhaps waste as much time as I am given, but on issues like the one at hand I felt that there should be a little more indepth analysis. Having spent several late nights looking at women's forums and having been involved in others at first hand, it is not the time factor which keeps the majority of women from participating. It does seem that women are less well represented, and for every woman you post I could post at least three men. Or is that untrue?
Okay, you fellows. You started this, it was your impressions that began the thread before I even joined. Have your impressions changed? Do you now feel confident that women are equally represented at all levels of bonsai? Or is the whole Gentlemens Club moot?

Author:  Howard Smith [ Mon Sep 05, 2005 6:28 pm ]
Post subject: 

In Sylvia's post above she acknowledges that there are more men in bonsai than women, but she points out very clearly that women are perhaps not as underrepresented as may be implied by reading this entire thread. I am very active in my local club in Texas, as well as in my teacher's club in California. I see female participation at all levels in the bonsai endeavor at a nearly fifty percent rate, and I fully expect women professionals to reach fifty percent in the near future.
You stated in a previous post "I do think that moving up in bonsai is a competitive endeavor, and you have to be willing to act more as the men do, to get to the upper echelon." Sylvia's follow up post asked for you to elaborate on this comment. I agree with Sylvia that a woman can create a bonsai as beautifully as a man, perhaps even more so. I also believe that to become a professional, first and foremost one has to create beautiful bonsai. Sylvia was pointing out that it is not intuitively obvious what willing to act more like a man has to do with getting to the "Upper Echelon".
It seems to me that Sylvia did not ignore the original part of the thread as you suggest; she disagreed with it at least in part (Sylvia please correct me if I read your post incorrectly) - there is a distinct difference. She also did not seem to ignore your previous posts, perhaps she simply disagreed - again a distinct difference. Also, perhaps your reading assignments to her were not as compelling a body of evidence as you first thought. Just my opinion.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Mon Sep 05, 2005 8:15 pm ]
Post subject: 

Howard, you are no doubt correct. I wasn't concentrating on Sylvia's post.
Sylvia and yourself have a different view, and that's just fine. I really don't think that women are represented 50/50 in the upper echelons, based on perusal of non biased, non involved active forums and magazines and club websites. And by upper echelon, I mean those who are actively demonstrating, giving workshops, and that sort of thing. I do agree that women are making inroads and it is getting better.
By being competitive, I was trying to express an impression I have that women (not every one, of course) tend not to compete with men when both are involved in the same activity. This conclusion came about when I viewed the active forums in which mostly men predominated, mostly women predominated, and those in which the mixtured seemed not to tilt one way or another. I found that representation among women dropped off as a percentage when there were more men involved. Of course this wasn't scientific, I didn't run numbers or polls, but I did look rather closely at the makeup of the forums and the interaction I saw there.
I was also trying to point out that very few women will participate in discussion on these forums. (According to Richard's first post, 10% of this forum is women) In the women's forums that I have participated in, the tone is different. Generally there is an expectation of politeness. Women get uncomfortable when put into a position of arguing or defending themselves. If you disagree, well, we both have our life experiences and they certainly are only valid for us! In my experience, women interact differently than men. Men become covertly and overtly competitive when the stakes rise. Women tend to defer from such competitiveness. That is my contention.
Of course it doesn't apply to every woman, and considering that we are really only discussing it among the women who ARE here, we are not getting those who could perhaps tell us more. But it is my contention that the women shy away on a level below their conscious awareness in most cases, they don't just decide to stall out and not go forward into the more competitive areas. As studies have shown in math and the sciences, women who are taught in an atmosphere without men tend to do better. We can discuss whether this is actual, or whether if actual it is cultural, all day long. But there doesn't seem to be an explanation that fits all the facts as well. At least not in my mind.

Author:  Joanie Berkwitz [ Tue Sep 06, 2005 12:47 am ]
Post subject: 

Here is an excellent study of great pertinence to the discussion.

Author:  Jennifer Triptow [ Tue Sep 06, 2005 4:44 am ]
Post subject: 

I am summarizing here---but it seems that, as Sylvia pointed out, women are fairly well represented in the ?upper echelon? of bonsai. However, there are still less women then men across the board; whether that be in clubs, online forums, etc.
Joanie stated in a post above, ?Men call men out, but most women would prefer to back down. Generally speaking, women do better in environments where civility is the tone. We expect civility like men expect a minimum amount of hygiene.? This particular quote got me to thinking about a generational (and sometimes social) difference.
Going back to personal, non-bonsai examples:
On Backing Down: I can tell you that for every woman I know (in my age group and younger) who prefer to ?back down? in a boisterous debate or confrontation I could name 3 men (in my age group or younger) who feel the same. It was other female role models in my life who inspired me into the world of vocal debate, and I (and they) back down to no man. The women in my life are, for the most part, at-level (or above) men in debate and confrontation.
On Civility: ?Civility? is very subjective. I can tell you that what is considered ?civil? debate or discussion to me may well be lightyears from what a 50+ year old woman may consider civil. This is another generational (and arguably social) difference that we all assume we can define. It?s like the word ?moral? in politics.
Finally, On Men?s Hygiene: Don?t laugh---I know that Joanie was making a light-hearted remark here---but, really, it is quite generational, too. I am of the generation of ?Queer Eye for the Straight Guy? and the ?metrosexual? man. Many men I know primp a heck of a lot more than I do.
Basically, the point I am trying to make is this: as the ?gender gap? has closed quite a bit over the course of the last decades, is it at all possible that the future of bonsai may well be filled with women? When age is considered before sex, as I stated in my last post on this thread, I am one of the youngest members of my local club. If that is a representative slice of the bonsai world pie and people generally do not enter into this art until they are perhaps a bit older (with a home and a backyard in which to care for their trees), then will we indeed see a rise in the participation of women as my generation ages? This is, of course, assuming that a main reason less women participate in the first place is that they prefer not to either socialize or compete on-level with men. This could be very flawed, and admittedly, I am unsure that it is a compelling argument.
One last note. In the post above Joanie has linked to a very interesting study of female vs. male classroom participation and the psychology thereof. The article is dated 1985. I wonder how different that study would be if performed today.

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