Gender and Floristry

Two years ago Florence and James from Petalon did the flowers for James’s brother Alex’s wedding. James and Alex have a younger brother, Jonah, who was 10 years old at the time. He lent a hand with the bud vases, cutting stems and doing some arrangement with us. He enjoyed it so much that on the Sunday when everything was done he asked if he could take the arrangements he made home with him.

On the drive back to London we talked about how refreshing that was. Would Jonah have done the same thing 4 or 5 years later as a teenager? Or would the pressures of his gender role have made him embarrassed by his enthusiasm and enjoyment of floristry? We really hoped not. But the evidence that we’ve seen while working in this world suggests he may well have. We think we’ve had around 500 floristry workshop attendees over the last 5 years. About 10 of them have been men. That’s around 1 in 50. Amongst the freelance florists we work with the ratio is better. But it’s still somewhere between 1 in 5 and 1 in 10. The same ratio seems roughly true of owners of floristry studios. As for those who send flowers with us, we have about 3 times as many female customers as we do male.

We’ve tried a few things to encourage men to come and learn about flowers with us. Wreath workshops seem more accessible for some reason. Perhaps because these can feel more like sculpture than arrangement people see them as being less feminine. We’ve also tried running Valentine’s workshops where people make a bouquet for their partner (which we then deliver). We thought we’d had absolute blinder when we came up with that one, but people didn’t really go for it. We couldn’t work out why - though someone suggested it might be down to a lack of confidence. Maybe men didn’t feel like they’d do a good job and they were a little embarrassed that the result wouldn’t be up to scratch? The whole “masculine vs feminine” activities thing is easy to understand, if a bit silly in 2018. This latter issue, of a lack of confidence amongst men about their potential skills in the area, is a little harder to explain.

As a society it feels like we are slowly (very, very slowly) moving towards a more gender equal society. The gender pay gap is increasingly well understood and also increasingly widely considered to be totally unacceptable. Women are encroaching on male domains across the board, not least the SAS. But is this one of the extremely rare areas in which it is men who need to feel more comfortable? These cases are few and far between (yoga comes to mind) and we’re not saying that anyone needs to start shifting their focus away from the glaring disparities that still exist between men and women in society any time soon, but we’d really love to get more men trying their hand at floristry. There isn’t much in life that doesn’t benefit from being seen from different gender perspectives (male, female and everything in between them). We’ll keep trying, but as ever, we’d love to hear your suggestions as to how we might encourage some more dudes through the door to hello@petalon.co.uk.

Florence Hill