Friday, 3 July 2015

Flower Power, Florists & the Lithuanian Army

"Flower Power" is a photograph taken by Bernie Boston (1933-2008) during a march to the Pentagon on 21 October 1967, nominated for the 1967 Pulitzer Prize. It shows a Vietnam protestor placing carnations in the rifles of guardsmen. It is not clear who the young man was. According to the Washington Post, it was George Edgerly Harris III, an actor who moved from New York to San Francisco where he came out, changed his name into "Hibiscus", and co-founded the "Cockettes", a "flamboyant, psychodelic gay-themed drag troupe" (via).

The young man's identity is not known for sure but "Hibiscus" would perfectly match both the the symbol of flowers and weapons being incompatible and the stereotype that is currently having a revival at the Lithuanian army. The Lithuanian army, after reintroducing compulsory military draft last March, screens candidates for suitability by, e.g., applying a "psychological" test that can identify if somebody is gay by asking, for instance, "whether the candidate likes picking flowers and whether he has ever considered a career in the floral industry" (via). Flowers seem to be unmanly. Interestingly, there is also the clichè of the stereotypical "hot gardener that does more than landscaping", a macho the neglected housewife has an affair with - in Hollywood, in $2.99,- books found at Barnes & Nobles and according to various headlines (e.g. via and via and via and via). Gardens are "a place where gender power relations are played out, are highly significant in the social construction of 'home'." (Bhatti & Church, 2010). Gardening is often called "feminine" today but used to be considered to be inappropriate for upper-class women in the past (via).

Above: The same day, on 21 October 1967, anti-war activist Jan Rose Kasmir was photographed by Marc Riboud while marching to the Pentagon (via).
"Yes, it’s feminized ; perhaps it attracts fewer men ; it’s an occupation where salaries aren’t necessarily very interesting for a family (Mathieu, self-employed, single, childless, aged 38)." Le Feuvre & Zinn (2013)
In Australia, more than 91% of florists are women (NSW, 2013). According to Le Feuvre and Zinn (2013), only 6% of the florists in Switzerland are men while representative functions, such as the Board of the Swiss Professional Florist Association, are mainly composed of men. Zinn (n.d.) discusses the question if one can still refer to it as a "female dominated occupation" when men are numerically under-represented but may not experience any domination and hence it is not clear what "domination" refers to.
"As a man, becoming a florist proves that you really want to be a florist, because for a man it is less obvious, it is very unusual. And by really wanting to become a florist, you have to try harder than anyone else and then it is much easier to have your own business and to be self-employed (Dominik, self-employed, in a long-term relationship, aged 31)." Le Feuvre & Zinn (2013)
People seem to have strong opinions on which job is (not) suitable for men and women. In Britain, 64% believe that women make better florists while only 3% think men are better florists. When asked which jobs men are not suited for, 12% of men and 8% of women reply "florist". 73% of men and 61% of women disagree with the statement that neither gender are better than the other at working as a florist (WorldPay Zinc, 2013). Swiss florists also seem to use gender category mobilisation strategies selling simple, not too fancy, not a lot of care needing, easy to handle, brightly coloured flowers to male clients or to women who want to buy flowers for men and pastel shades to women (Le Feuvre & Zinn, 2013).
In the way of working, it’s really [laugh], it’s really, umm […] obvious, it’s really obvious. So, when I’m teaching sales techniques to students, I always start by explaining that they’re not going to behave in the same way with a man or a women ; really in the way of guiding the client […] When a woman comes into the shop, you’re going to leave her to have a look around ; so we’re talking about a passive sale here : a passive approach in the way you interact, whereas with a man, you’re going to be directly active […]. (Nicolas, floral teacher, married, two children, aged 44).
Le Feuvre & Zinn (2013)

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Flowers & Anti-War: Marlene Dietrich sings ...
::: Where have all the flowers gone? WATCH/LISTEN
::: Sag mir wo die Blumen sind WATCH/LISTEN

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- Bhatti, M. & Church, A. (2010). 'I never promised you a rose garden": gender, leisure and home-making. Leisure Studies, 19(3), 183-197.
- Le Feuvre, N. & Zinn, I. (2013). Ambivalent Gender Accountability. Male Florists in the Swiss Context. Recherches Sociologiques et Anthropologiques, 21-45 (link)
- NSW Government (2013) Women in trades: the missing 48 percent (link)
- WorldPay Zinc (2013) Attitudes in the Workplace. A study of sexism and discrimination in Britian (link)
- Zinn, I. V. (n.d.) Butchers, florists and the workplace: when and how does gender matter? link
- photographs by Bernie Boston and Marc Riboud via and via


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