What type of person do you picture when you hear the occupation ‘gardener’ or ‘landscaper’?
A middle-aged, well-built white man with a van who mows the lawn, cuts hedges and is very capable of doing jobs you can’t do yourself?
What type of person do you picture when you hear ‘female gardener’?
An older, white, partly-retired lady with a few hand tools and who loves flowers?
I work in a white, middle-class town in West Sussex that lives by social norms and conforms to gender stereotypes. Attempting to work as a young female professional can be difficult as my knowledge, strength and capability is disputed everyday. I’m told what I can and can’t do; this is very frustrating.
I often lose out on work as people believe that I am not up to the task because of my gender and age. Regardless of this, if you are a gardener, you are already kick-ass; we are clever people that aren’t easily intimidated by larger, more complicated tasks.
These outdated views are not always held by my ‘older’ clients and it’s refreshing to be encouraged/trusted by these clients to do my job.
Although these comments aren’t meant to be malicious, assigning stereotypical gender roles causes unequal and unfair treatment; it can also cause difficulty in relationships.
A few of the comments that I receive on a daily basis:
- “You’re only a gardening lady”
- “Don’t hurt yourself, we’ll get a man in to do it”
- “That task is too big/complicated/difficult for you, we’ll get in a professional”
- e.g. I split my own wood, “Does your boyfriend help you with that?”
- “Is gardening just your hobby… something to keep you busy?”
- “Do you know any men that will do that for us?”
- “It’s a cute, little gardening business”
- “Do you know what you’re doing?”
- “Are you alright reversing your van out the drive? *client walks behind van, chaotically waves arms, gets in the way*
- “You want to buy a van..ok..here’s our most feminine model van” *points to a nondescript white van in a row of white vans*
- “Don’t hurt yourself trying to use this power tool, we’ll get a strong man in to do it *winks*”
- “My sister likes gardening too, pottering about the the garden, deadheading and weeding”
If you feel you’re in a safe space, you can challenge these stereotypes and speak up; often people don’t realise they are stereotyping or conforming to bygone social norms.
A new wave of gardeners are appearing; people of every age, gender and ethnicity. I am excited that learning to garden is becoming more enticing; house plants and GYO are especially popular at the moment.