Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Astrology and Sexism

Skimming through my archives, looking for something to click a switch in my head and lighten inspirational darkness, I hovered on a post from the summer of 2011:
Thoughts on Misogyny, Misandry & Sexism. With Hillary Clinton in the presidential campaign run once again....hmmm.

Misogyny: The hatred of women. Misandry: The hatred of men. Sexism: The belief that one gender is superior to the other........................
C.E.O. Carter in his Encyclopedia of Psychological Astrology has no entry for misogyny, misandry or sexism. I suspect because in the mid 1920s when the book was written these were not yet perceived as problems; or if so, in certain enlightened circles, an author - even an astrologer - might shy away from voicing an opinion on the matter, if selling books and maintaining a reputation was the aim. I've noticed quite a bit of sexism arising in casual turns of phrase in old astrology books I've picked up in antique/junk stores.
I doubt that a tendency towards sexism or gender conflict is identifiable in a natal chart. These are most likely the result of life experience, or era-related societal culture. I've noticed, even more often, since writing that post, that sexism does creep into the text of some older astrology books. Scratching around the net for more on how sexism might have crept into astrology generally, and why, I came upon a good piece at the CURA website (most reliably good astrology articles on the net are there, in my estimation).
The Repression of the Feminine in Astrology by Shelley Jordan

SNIP from introductory paragraphs:
Astrology's Hidden Agenda

Anyone studying the techniques of traditional astrological interpretation with eyes open will inevitably be struck by its prejudicial assumptions. Most astrology texts state flatly that certain factors in the birth chart lend themselves to either ease or difficulty of life and expression. For example, detriments, exaltations and the like still send chills of fear or excitement up and down the spines of many astrologers. After all, isn't it supposed to be 'good' to have a planet in exaltation and 'bad' to have a planet in detriment? And in spite of a recent well-intended and humanistic stretching of definitions, aren't certain planets still considered fundamentally preferable to others?

Even more pervasive and persistent in its judgmental nature is the evaluation of the aspects as either 'good' or 'bad'. An insidious dichotomous thinking surrounds aspect interpretation, which, at its roots, is both sexist and racist. There is a largely unknown historical, numerological basis to this dogmatic but unrecognized prejudice that precludes the possibility of reform and evolution in the field of astrology.

The major Ptolemaic aspects, the trine, sextile, square and opposition have traditionally been divided into two general categories. Trines and sextiles are typically considered favorable, desirable, harmonious, easy, creative, and soft. Squares and oppositions are described as discordant, afflicting, stressful, frustrating, challenging and hard. Astrological erudition has, until very recently, been dominated by cookbooks representing trines and sextiles as patently good, squares and oppositions as inherently negative. It is commonly asserted that a chart for an auspiciously blessed life will preponderate with trines and sextiles between beneficent and well-placed planets. The infelicitous and the unendowed will have baleful squares and oppositions to afflicted bodies. This superstitious and erroneous litany regarding the dangers of certain astrological conditions permeates nearly the entire corpus of astrological literature.

There's more food for thought in that piece. We have to keep in mind, though, that astrology's basic doctrine comes from eras and cultures where societal norms were so very different from today's in the West. It's easy for us in 2015 to do a bit of revisionism, criticise early and even much later astrologers; we "know the ending", or the results as far as we've reached to date. What we should be criticising is any astrology/astrologer who continues to allow any hint of sexism into their writings, interpretations and advices.

A natal chart does not indicate gender. The "masculine/feminine" polarity dictated by astrological lore is usually referred to as masculine/feminine or positive/negative; both less than ideal ways to express what the polarity indicates in human terms. Some astrologers use Chinese terms yin and yang instead. (Wikipedia) In Chinese philosophy these describe how apparently opposite or contrary forces are actually complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.

Virginia Woolf put it another way:
“It is fatal to be a man or woman pure and simple; one must be woman-manly or man-womanly. ... Some marriage of opposites has to be consummated.”
~ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

What the world is missing is more of what humans have come to see as "the feminine" in all humans - not necessarily just more female humans in power, though I guess that could help on the surface, depending on the female humans involved! A healthy respect for "the feminine" in all humans, alongside equal respect for "the masculine" would be a good starting point; seeing people first as people, not as a gender would help too.


mike said...

Many things to say about this topic, but I'm not sure to what extent any verbosity is valid. Many psychological studies have accrued over the years yielding certain generalities, but psychology is a pseudo-science at best, and has some of the same constraints as astrology. Environmental role models during adolescence seems the most important. The relationship between the two parents and the relationship each parent has with the child is primary, with sociocultural trends as secondary. I'd assign astrological aspects as a secondary determinate, too.

It's impossible to forecast how any particular planetary placement or aspect will affect the individual, but I do believe that that information can be used to indicate a trend or potentiality. I particularly notice this when you write your "Arty-Farty" posts regarding a famous artist and their biography. Most artists have a colorful, distinctive pattern of relationships, which includes sexism, and the astrological data is coincidental and typically supportive of the biographical history.

More often than not, when I see strong aspects-placements in a natal chart, the individual does have a particular predilection toward the predictive interpretation, though I may not have a finger on the details.

Sexism is a weird beast to completely define, too. There are many alpha males that purport their dominion over females, have a submissive wife, but are reputedly attracted to mistresses that are dominant. Some alpha males pay money to be denigrated by alpha women. It's a classic! [The astrology could be Mars-Pluto in the 8th trine Venus in the 12th house...LOL!]

Not much different is the dominant, alpha-male, congressman, with strong Christian-family values, a sweet wife at home adoringly tending to their progeny and female-wifely duties. Yet the congressman is exposed by his longtime, male prostitute-escort. Is this situation sexism or charades? Difficult astrological transits for this individual!

Anti-sexism is an ideal, but I don't believe it's truly achievable in the USA today. Females continue to have breast implants and other procedures; cosmetics and high-heels are a major industry. I read a recent study that a majority of women still want a tall, strong man to make them feel secure. And of course, most men want women to be all things and more, but rather submissively. So, genes and biology rule. Self-interest and egoism are often camouflaged as being sexism, too.

mike (again) said...

"American Beauty" comes to mind in the discussion of your post, Twilight. I know you didn't particularly like the film, but the movie contains misogyny, misandry, and sexism thematics.

"Pennington argues that American Beauty defines its characters through their sexuality. Lester's attempts to relive his youth are a direct result of his lust for Angela, and the state of his relationship with Carolyn is in part shown through their lack of sexual contact. Also sexually frustrated, Carolyn has an affair that takes her from 'cold perfectionist' to a more carefree soul who '[sings] happily along with' the music in her car. Jane and Angela constantly reference sex, through Angela's descriptions of her supposed sexual encounters and the way the girls address each other. Their nude scenes are used to communicate their vulnerability. By the end of the film, Angela's hold on Jane has weakened until the only power she has over her friend is Lester's attraction to her. Col. Fitts reacts with disgust to meeting Jim and Jim; he asks, 'How come these faggots always have to rub it in your face? How can they be so shameless?' To which Ricky replies, 'That's the thing, Dad—they don't feel like it's anything to be ashamed of.' Pennington argues that Col. Fitts' reaction is not homophobic, but an 'anguished self-interrogation'.

With other turn-of-the-millennium films such as Fight Club, In the Company of Men (1997), American Psycho (2000) and Boys Don't Cry (1999), American Beauty 'raises the broader, widely explored issue of masculinity in crisis'. Professor Vincent Hausmann charges that in their reinforcement of masculinity 'against threats posed by war, by consumerism, and by feminist and queer challenges', these films present a need to 'focus on, and even to privilege" aspects of maleness 'deemed 'deviant''. Lester's transformation conveys 'that he, and not the woman, has borne the brunt of [lack of being]' and he will not stand for being emasculated. Lester's attempts to 'strengthen traditional masculinity' conflict with his responsibilities as a father. Although the film portrays the way Lester returns to that role positively, he does not become 'the hypermasculine figure implicitly celebrated in films like Fight Club'. Hausmann concludes that Lester's behavior toward Angela is 'a misguided but nearly necessary step toward his becoming a father again'".

LB said...

Twilight ~ I think misogyny and misandry are two examples of how Jung's ideas about projection and shadow play out within the human psyche. Our projections aren't limited to masculine-feminine, male-female issues. Most of us (unconsciously) do it in a lot of other ways as well.

Your Wikipedia quote about yin and yang as complementary forces is a good one.:)

It's taken me a lifetime to learn how integrate the masculine and feminine (active-receptive, protective-vulnerable, rational-intuitive) sides of my nature, without the scales tipping too much to one side or the other. And without becoming enraged at the 'others' who represents all those shadowy qualities I'd rather not acknowledge within myself. I'm still working on it and probably will be for as long as I'm able.

This astrological site has a great series on "Healing the Astrological Shadow" by Joe Landwehr:


It's not hopeless. Like Jung said, there's 'gold' in the shadows . . . once we understand their roots and learn to integrate them without acting out our lower natures. It takes some digging to get there though. I think we're naturally resistant to looking deeply at ourselves. It's much easier to focus on other people's stuff than our own. That's been my experience anyway.:)

Twilight said...

mike ~ Thank you for your thoughts on this. It's a topic can go in several directions, and, as you said, it's a "weird beast" to pin down, and liable to get a gal into trouble!

On my original point, I'd hope that today's astrology is non-sexist, but suspect it isn't - not always. Depends on the astrologer's own mindset I suppose.

When moving into the area of gender related sex - sexual desires, entitlements...."romance" etc waters can become very, very murky. I'm of the view that much of that murkiness would be eliminated if only humans would see other humans first as people not first as genders. There will always be desire, created by gender difference in hormones etc. that should come second: desire to whatever...love, own, satisfy, create. Every individual has different needs in those areas, as in all other areas, so generalisation can be dangerous - very!

I do agree that "anti-sexism" isn't realistic, not only in the US, but anywhere - I'm being Pollyanna-ish, I know. Maybe in the far future, IF we survive as a species, that will develop gradually, as humans move ever further from their animal origins. I guess we're still pretty close to them, with the added nuisance of intellect at various levels to contend with. ;-)

Twilight said...

LB ~ I agree on misogyny and misandry - that they can be looked on as types of "shadows". We aren't born with a mis......y gene, some of us, through life experience seem to find an outlet for grief, frustration or revenge through expressing hatred of the opposite gender - sometimes subtle, sometimes outright in that way.

Thanks for the link - I'll get to reading those chapters later.

Yes, it's always difficult to admit to our own faults of this kind, and probably very painful to investigate them in depth. Once a person has been wounded, it could be well nigh impossible to "un-do" the damage, depending of what originally caused the wound.

Difficult subject!