Astrology, Women and Men: Covering the Potentials of the Whole Human Race
This article assumes that there exist definite physical differences between the sexes. There exist in each culture, different psychological roles for men and women which are enforced through familial and societal conditioning. Whether or how much personality differences would exist without societal prescriptions is a questionable point. Cross-cultural studies (e.g. Margaret Mead) suggest that very few—if any—personality differences are innate to males and females.
Even if we postulate a few inborn differences in character tendencies, the data from psychological research is clear: any differences which MAY (or may not) exist, are incredibly amenable to influence, change, etc. (especially at early ages) through conditioning and training. (E.g., see The Psychology of Sex Differences by Maccoby and Jacklin and Man, Woman, Boy, Girl by Money and Ehrhardt.) Furthermore, even in today’s role-divided society, differences AMONG women and differences AMONG men are far, far greater than any average differences between men and women.
It is well known that pressures, beliefs and attitudes of others affect our behavior and attitudes. Studies are beginning to examine the negative impact of sexist attitudes, i.e. those which discriminate and differentiate persons solely on the basis of sex, rather than individual ability. Sandra Bem’s work in androgyny has some excellent data on the constricting effects of the traditional feminine role. And more and more men (e.g. Herb Goldberg) are writing about the pains and perils of the traditional masculine role. Sexism is a negative influence on the self-esteem, relationships and aspirations of women and (perhaps to a lesser extent) men.
Given that sexism exists and is a phenomenon working against the full development of human potential, I will explore some of its manifestations in astrology and discuss alternatives and options.
I accept the concept of Jung (and others) that everyone—male and female—has within both “masculine” (i.e. initiating, active, rational) and “feminine” (i.e. preserving, accepting, intuitive) qualities. The “masculine” qualities are NOT dominant in all males, nor are the “feminine” dominant in all females. Life, as always, strives for balance. Most people are close to half and half, and change over time and over situations. It is important to remember that even a “super-feminine” woman will exhibit “masculine” behaviors some times, in some situations in her life.
I do NOT assume (as do Jung and others) that these qualities form a “natural” constellation of behaviors. Whether or not so-called “masculine” behaviors tend to group together is still open to question in my mind. Similarly, I do not see a settled issue in the idea that “feminine” behaviors, attitudes, etc. are a natural, basic package. I certainly do not see them all as innate.
I suggest as strongly as possible that astrology throw out the terms “masculine” and “feminine” completely. People equate “masculine” with the male gender and “feminine” with the female sex. They start assuming that men alone are “masculine” and only women can be “feminine.” Anything else is considered to be odd, abnormal or impossible. This kind of reasoning and these assumptions lead to very limited ideas of sexual roles and human potential. Unfortunately, these limited ideas and roles are scattered throughout our society (including in astrology) in the form of unquestioned assumptions about the “nature” of women and men. It is time to open up the options of the human race—both parts of it.
The traditional stereotypes (which have been held even by mental health practitioners—See Broverman and Broverman et al.) are that men are assertive, courageous, logical, ambitious, etc., while women are supposed to be more submissive, dependent, emotional, etc. Millions of women and men break the stereotypes daily and yet people (including astrologers) continue to cling to them. It is so convenient to have little boxes, to have a black and white world, instead of considering each person as an individual, a person in his or her own right, not to be filed just by sex, age, race, sun sign, or anything else. Pigeonholes are for objects—not people.
My philosophical premises are that men and women both contain qualities within them which used to be called “masculine” and “feminine.” Women and men are striving to achieve a balance of these polarities, neither one over-doing the other. Ideally, attitudes and behaviors chosen are appropriate to the time, the situation and the person(s) involved, and NOT predicated upon the sex of the individual.
Examples of Sexism in Astrology
My thanks go to Tiffany Holmes, who is one of the first authors (Woman’s Astrology) to address the issue of sexual discrimination in astrology. Her synopsis of the different sun sign descriptions for males and females found in current astrological literature is both amusing and horrifying. For example, the male Aries is seen as energetic and confident; the female Aries is labeled as “aggressive” (presumably of the castrating variety). Geminis of the male gender are “verbal,” while females are “gossipy” according to Ms. Holmes’ sources. Male Virgos are “discriminating,” but females are “nit-picking.” And the Scorpio male is “sexy,” but the female of the species is a “nymphomaniac.” (I am tempted to remind readers of the old definition of a nymphomaniac—someone whose capacity for sexual enjoyment is greater than that of the person calling her a nymphomaniac.)
Tiffany Holmes’ book carries many other depressing examples of sexism in astrology, but one has merely to peruse the subject to see sexism everywhere—in the popular press and in books by supposedly sensitive, liberal, well-trained authors. Discrimination between interpretations given on the basis of sex is pervasive. And almost everywhere, it is written as though these discriminations and differences were innate, or even caused by the planets. Only a few authors I have seen show any recognition of the power of sex role conditioning and societal pressures. Everyone else speaks as though men and women were different species, born that way and immutable.
And yet, the acme of irony in this whole situation is the well- known fact, which most astrologers agree on: one cannot tell—from a horoscope—whether a given individual is male or female. If the horoscope does not make a distinction, why then are so many astrologers eager to differentiate and divide the sexes?
Common Sexist Errors in Astrology
Part of the problem, of course, lies in the old traditions and those books based on old meanings. In the past, sex role divisions were even sharper than they are today. Brute strength counted for more in ancient times than it does today. Men could and often did retain their positions of power through use of their greater physical strength and also because—before the advent of birth control—women were much more tied down by pregnancy and nursing babies. But today’s world (fortunately) is different. Pregnancy is now often a choice and not a way of life. Mental and emotional strength are more important than physical, and—despite sexual stereotypes—it is clear that women have just as much mental and emotional strength as men. (See, e.g., Psychology of Sex Differences.)
But old ways die hard. Many people do not like to let go of the past. Sex stereotypes are based on old patterns of life which have no relevance in today’s world, when half the women in America are working out in the world as well as at home; where many women are in touch with their assertive, courageous, physical, ambitious, rational, logical and dominating sides, and many men are in touch with their need to be tender, compassionate, sensitive, involved with children and demonstrative.
Still, many astrologers refuse to see the changing tides by hanging on to old, traditional meanings. One example of this, discussed by Dr. Dobyns in Finding the Person in the Horoscope, is the use of the exaltations. Exaltations are based on old, out-dated concepts of the Arian Age. We are no longer in the Arian Age—when the warrior hero was exalted. Civilization has progressed a bit. Venus was then “exalted” in Pisces because warrior heroes wanted sex objects who were submissive and seductive. Wives were preferred to be placid (not making waves), but strong-backed (to work in the fields) and fertile (to bear lots of sons), so the Moon was “exalted” in Taurus. Etc. One “obvious” conclusions here is that the exaltations were designed for the chart of a male. We could guess women did not get their horoscopes. Records suggest that in ancient times only kings and pharaohs had their personal charts erected. They were, of course, male. Astrologers who continue this sort of usage are perpetuating Arian Age traditions.
Beyond the old books and traditions, however, lies another—more serious—problem; that is the problem of the astrologer him or herself. The greatest limitations on human potential come in the minds of, and stereotyping by individuals, particularly those in the “helping, healing” professions.
All people operate within an assumptive world. Each of us has our own idea of what the world is, what it means, how it operates. We all have our own interpretation of truth, reality and existence. With most people, these assumptions about the nature of the world, people and reality operate as blinders, blocking vision in certain areas. Someone who firmly believes that such-and such “just is” will not perceive otherwise. There is no room for anything else in his/her view of reality. People who genuinely believe that women are suited only for work in the home, raising children, or very dull, routine office work, will just not “see” all the women who are making it in a “man’s” world. But those blindered people WILL notice—and perhaps comment on—all the women content with “women’s work.” They will also notice all the women who do not succeed in an executive job. And much of the time, this is not even a deliberate avoidance. They literally are unable to perceive a reality different from their own.
So the basic problem facing astrologers is that all of us were raised in a sexist society. And we were told, that is “just the way it is.” Or, “People are born that way.” Or, “It’s natural.” Etc. So we grew up with blinders. But the times are changing. More and more people are looking at their blinders or taking them off and realizing that human beings do not need boxes of any kind. Certainly astrology, of all areas, (since it is ruled by Uranus—the planet of individualism) ought to be one of the first to recognize the particular importance of each person. Stereotypes are a form of Capricornian structure and organization. With Aquarius, we move beyond and consider each person’s own unique merits.
Many astrologers (who have kept their blinders) ignore certain possible meanings because of their assumptions about male-female roles. This can be very limiting to clients in all respects: vocationally, in relationships, and in terms of their identity, to name a few. Astrologers who are limited in their views of male-female roles cannot expand the limits or see all the options of their clients: male as well as female. Mistakes along these lines that astrologers can make are as follows.
(l) In terms of Vocations: a Mars conjunct Mercury in the Sixth House was interpreted as problems with co-workers or health for a woman, but as mechanical ability for a man. In this particular instance, the woman involved happened to be extremely skilled mechanically (and was not having problems with health or co-workers), but only heard about the mechanical possibility a year or two later when the male astrologer who had interpreted her chart discussed a male chart in class and mentioned mechanical ability as connected to Mercury-Mars.
(2) In terms of Relationships: An astrologer sees the Moon in Pisces in the Seventh House in a man’s chart and tells him to seek out a sweet submissive woman. The astrologer ignores the fact that the Moon in Pisces also symbolizes that man’s own soft, submissive, nurturing, dependent side and the kind of relationship he desires. He is just as likely to seek a woman (or a man) he can lean on and be nurtured and protected BY, as to seek one he can support and look after. (Either side and both are possible in almost every astrological situation.)
(3) In terms of Self Image: Certain astrologers do not scruple to tell clients that they should work harder to fit traditional “masculine” and “feminine” roles. E.g. A man with Sun conjunct Moon in Cancer and Mars in Pisces is told he must strive to be a “real” man lest the “feminine” planets overwhelm him. This advice is destructive in several respects. Here, the astrologer is essentially telling a client to repress one side of his character—to deny it and squash it. Repression in not a healthy thing to do. At the very least, it is energy-draining. Continued repression often leads to physical illness, or the repressed part of the person coming out in very indirect ways. Men who are conditioned against expressing their softer, dependent sides may find illness as their only path to being dependent and still feeling “OK” about their dependency. It is similarly dangerous for astrologers to tell female clients the “proper” behavior for a “lady.” A “real” man/woman is one who can be him/herself as much as possible with all one’s inherent contradictions and not one who constricts his/her personality into the straitjacket labeled “approved masculine/feminine behaviors.” Such language encourages the client to feel as though the planets are “doing it to him” and leave him relatively powerless. Clients need to be encouraged to find their power and use it constructively.
Most astrologers are only too willing to limit the potentials of their clients, particularly through projecting (“giving away”) a part of an individual’s horoscope (and the character it symbolizes) to persons in that individual’s environment. For example, Mars and the Sun are traditionally read as keys to the men in a woman’s chart, rather than as her own identity, self- confidence, assertiveness, creativity, self-esteem, ego and need for emotional response. Similarly, Moon and Venus for a man are read as keys to the women in his life. He is actually encouraged to live through women with these characteristics rather than develop his own dependent, nurturing, sensual, loving nature.
It sounds incredible, yet many astrologers continue this process of diminishing a client by seeing many of her/his qualities only in the external world. Examples include a woman encouraged to see a strong Tenth House as her very dominating parents, not recognizing that it is also her need to dominate, to have a career, to have an impact on the world. Or the woman who is encouraged to express her Fifth House creativity only in terms of children and told her children will be free-spirited and independent. She is not told her Fifth House also symbolizes her own need for a free-spirited and independent form of creativity and self expression. Then there is the astrologer who “finds” a client’s “smart brother” in the Third House of the chart and ignores the fact that this is also a part of the client—her own capacity to enjoy learning and exercising her mind. There are ample opportunities all over a horoscope to project, and the unaware astrologers are continually giving away parts of their clients to their clients’ significant others. We LEARN through the people and environments we meet. We attract people who share some qualities with us. Hopefully, in our interactions, we come to recognize and own parts of ourselves—through the reflection of the other. An astrologer who encourages a client to think, “It’s all out there,” is doing a great disservice to the client and her/his human potential for awareness and growth.
I do not believe in “masculine” and “feminine” planets or signs or houses. I think the terminology is dangerous. Research clearly shows that our language is one of our limiting factors. The words we use reflect our assumptions about the world and few people ever question their assumptive world. They are more thoroughly hemmed in by their beliefs and words than they would be by any physical barrier. They might see a physical fence; they seldom perceive their semantic limits.
When most people (including astrologers) read “feminine” they think of women and girls. With “masculine,” the image is of men and boys. These terms aid and abet the concept of men and women as separate and different creatures. In its mildest extrapolations, astrologers utilize this polarity to tell women they are in danger of being “too masculine,” or men “too feminine.” In more severe forms, astrologers have been known to tell clients they were destined to be homosexuals or lesbians because of a preponderance of “feminine” (Earth-Water) or “masculine” (Fire-Air) planets—that is, planets in so-called feminine or masculine signs. Such statements, especially in these times of Bryant-aroused hysteria, are worse than misguided.
For those still swayed by interpretive myths surrounding homosexuality:
1. There is NO evidence that “masculine” or “feminine” occupied signs or houses correlate with same-sex partners. All the data is against such a simplistic recipe.
2. Astrology is symbolic: people have choices and options. No one is “destined” to be homosexual, heterosexual, a doctor, an astrologer, a victim, etc. Our characters create our lives; our horoscopes do not. A horoscope is a map of personality potentials. It symbolizes psychological principles and drives. A horoscopes does NOT show the specific details of how those principles will manifest in individual lives. Self-aware people have choices as to how they will express their basic drives.
3. Male homosexuals do NOT universally or even generally exhibit those characteristics labeled “feminine” in excess, nor do lesbians as a general group exhibit “masculine” behaviors and characters. Both groups—like the general population—have a mixture of behaviors, some of which would be stereotyped “masculine” and others labeled “feminine.”
Sexual Bias Within the Elements
I reject the terms positive/negative in regards to Fire-Air versus Earth-Water for semantic reasons. People ASSOCIATE positive with good and negative with bad. The terms suggest a good : bad division, much as people try to rationalize in terms of electric charges and energy. Actually, this rationalization is incorrect because the negative charges in electricity are the active ones and positive charges are stationary (within solids). In liquid and gas, both positive and negative charges move.
Nor will I use active : passive or active : receptive. They tie in too closely with traditional male : female stereotypes and can only reinforce them. Besides, air can be just as passive as water, and earth just as active as fire. Yin and yang are no better in my book. Most people simply translate them back to feminine and masculine and we return to stereotypes.
“Left” and “right” have occurred to me—after I had researched the recent work done with the left and right hemispheres of the brain. However, the literature suggests the left brain is involved with the logical, rational, step-by-step mind, concerned with physical “reality.” The right brain is more like fire-water: emotional, intuitive, artistic, instinctually spontaneous, global rather than step-by-step. After considering these developments, I have discarded this line of inquiry as far as Fire-Air and Earth- Water divisions. “Left” and “right” are still not perfect correspondences for Air-Earth versus Fire-Water, but they seem to fit more closely than the traditional (Fire-Air vs. Earth-Water) combinations.
I am unsure why people have any objections to simply saying Fire-Air or Earth-Water. I suppose one term always seems simpler. It is interesting to me that the other pairs of element groups are much easier to distinguish. Fire-Water vs. Earth-Air make a classic feeling versus thinking division. Both Fire and Water are emotional elements, albeit one tends to express out and the other to hold in. Both air and earth are logical and rational, although earth tends to be more concrete and practical, while air is more abstract—the over-view.
Similarly goes the Fire-Earth vs. Air-Water division. The first combination is oriented towards having an impact in the EXTERNAL world. Fire initiates and Earth produces in the physical world. Water and Air are oriented towards absorption in the INNER world. Air goes into internal thoughts and ideas. Water symbolizes inner feelings. (This division is actually the one which would be closest to the old active-passive division.)
Yet there seemed no clear-cut division of Fire-Air versus Earth- Water. The closest I could come was an impression that Fire-Air are concerned with integrating the present with the future, while Earth-Water are concerned with integrating the present with the past. Aries is basically present oriented with Leo and Sagittarius being future-oriented. Gemini and Libra are more focused on the present, while Aquarius focuses on the future. Similarly, all water signs have past overtones, but also assimilate present experience. All Earth signs are present (status-quo) oriented, but Capricorn is also particularly concerned with the past in terms of consequences (feedback) in the now.
Fire and air have more of a restless quality, if we remember to include mental restlessness, while Earth and Water are inclined towards stability: preserving the status quo. Fire and Air generally feel “lighter,” more optimistic, while Earth-Water seem “heavier,” more serious. Fire-Air generally give a rapid response; they are quick. Earth-Water are slower; they deliberate.
The best I can suggest for the moment is a quick and light versus slow and deliberate division for Fire-Air versus Earth-Water to replace the old “masculine” and “feminine.” Obviously, this does not fit easily into traditional sex role stereotypes of “masculine” and “feminine.” Depending on which negative image of women one adopts, women are seen as flighty, irresponsible bits of fluff (in which case Fire-Air should be “feminine,” not “masculine”) or as downer parasites living off of men and holding them back (Earth-Water types).
Naturally, one can evoke similar negative stereotypes for men (e.g. the irresponsible playboy), but they are not quite as stereotypic or widespread. Suffice it to say that any “masculine : feminine” division will be heard in the minds of people as male-female. And any such division cannot be other than a gross simplification and over-generalization. It is an attempt to fit people into the proverbial Procrustean bed, and all too many astrologers take morbid joy in chopping off limbs (in the form of abilities, talents, strengths as well as weaknesses) in order to make the client “fit” the “proper” bed for her/his sex. So let’s just drop the terms.
It is my contention that the quadruplicities, like most of our patriarchal, male-oriented society and astrology reflect a sexist bias. Elements which fit into the stereotype of “masculine” behavior in our society get off lightly, while elements of the traditional “feminine” role are treated more harshly.
If we examine the old stereotypes (which are still held today by many people), it becomes clear that ALL Fire would go to men—initiating, courageous, confident, creative—except the small corner women would get for the act of childbirth. According to the stereotypes, ALL air would go to men—logical, rational, detached, objective. Furthermore, the old role divisions would give men about one-half of Earth—all of Capricorn (ambitious, career-oriented); the efficiency of Virgo; the sensual enjoyment of Taurus. Women would be relegated by tradition to the underside of Earth: sensual, sexual OBJECTS with Taurus; concerned with shitwork and boring details with Virgo. All of course are powerless roles, and the basic division of sexual stereotypes deems that men have a lot of direct power and women have a little indirect power.
Women are given almost all of water, but seen in its most “negative” aspect: overly emotional, sensitive, dependent, or possibly as smother mothers or emotional blackmailers. (Manipulating others through emotionality is the major form of indirect power women stereotypically receive.) The exception in the water realm is Scorpio. As one of the power signs, its qualities are not entirely ascribed to women. In the rigid role divisions, men would receive the power aspect of Scorpio, while women would retain the dependent, mate-oriented aspect. Women’s identities remain primarily sexual—in terms of their bodies and sexual functions, not in terms of their personhood. That is, women are stereotypically women first and sometimes people; men are stereotypically people first and men secondarily.
The water signs reflect the Madonna versus Whore image which has long plagued women. Cancer-Pisces is the perfect Madonna mixture: the deferential, nurturing, submissive woman who is always willing to be supportive, take second place and care for the children. Scorpio picks up the Whore antithesis: the so-called “nymphomaniac” image of women: can’t trust them, over-sexed, treacherous, sneaky, etc. (The literature of feminism contains several good discussions of the Madonna-Whore complex. This polarity view of women has haunted us for hundreds of years.)
In other words, male values assign to men power over the mind, power over physical matter (except in “minor” areas) and power over identity and confidence. Women are granted only power over emotions and are often accused of abusing that.
These patriarchal biases are reflected in most descriptions of the elements. Fire and air—seen as purely masculine—get off VERY lightly. Fire is confident, witty, joyful, expansive, fun, exciting, initiating, courageous, etc. Nominal warnings are given about over-confidence and impulsivity—barely a hand slap. Rarely are the alternative possibilities of rankest self-centeredness, complete disregard for others, total instability, rashness to the point of idiocy, etc. mentioned. Fire is “masculine,” and the masculine role is seen (through rose- colored glasses) as superior, so negative possibilities are largely ignored.
With Air, the masculine bias continues. Air is logical, rational and detached—obviously far superior to Water’s emotionality. Rarely is the possibility of intellectualization, rationalization and cold, impersonal indifference mentioned. Air has the capacity to be utterly callous.
Now consider Water, the one element traditionally given almost entirely to women. Water is sensitive, needing a sheltering matrix, dependent, nurturing, security-oriented. The dangers of over- emotionality and deep hurts with water are stressed. Our masculinized, intellectualized society fears the feelings of water and generally portrays it as difficult and painful. Unfortunately, this attitude goes hand in hand with seeing the unconscious as an enemy of the conscious mind—one to be subdued, subverted and if possible, done away with. Total conscious awareness is valued as an ultimate. So the patriarchal goal is to eliminate Water. Less emphasis and value are placed on the empathic, caring ability to feel fully with and to shelter another human being, inherent Water qualities. Rarely is Water seen as strength.
If we accept the theory that much of illness and physical distress has an emotional origin, we see some interesting repercussions from this rigid sex stereotyping. Men are discouraged from dealing with their deepest, inner emotions, indeed encouraged to fear them and regard them as an enemy. And the larger percentage of men are victims of most diseases than women and die sooner than women. What price the repression of emotionality? (Women are encouraged to repress anger and aggression—fire emotions—and are prone to illnesses tied to that kind of repression: depression—long seen as blocked anger, headaches and conditions sometimes leading to major surgery.)
And what of Earth—that divided territory? Capricorn (a “feminine” sign by tradition) is ruled by Saturn—generally seen as a very “masculine” planet. Capricorn is associated with big power, ambition, executive drive, status in the world—all traditionally masculine roles.
The only negative side of Capricorn discussed in most books in over- ambition, over-reaching followed by a fall from power. Absolute power and its absolute corruption have remained a male prerogative almost entirely. Dr. Dobyns has pointed out another possible negative side to Capricorn: self-blocking, fear of failure, refusing to try because one is convinced it won’t be good enough.
This is an area where some men have my sympathy. The pressures of a traditional “masculine” role are tremendous in terms of making it in the physical world—getting to the top of the vocational heap, at all costs. No wonder some men feel terribly inadequate and go into self-blocking. A rat race is NOT an optimum environment for full development of human potentials. (Men who use the rat race to step on others in “making it to the top” do not have my sympathy.)
With women’s liberation and a few changes, women are beginning to join the career race in greater numbers. This will encourage self- blocking in women. They have the further disadvantage that society still sees successful (career) women as “unfeminine.” Matina Horner studied the phenomenon of “fear of success” in women: if they succeed at a high level, society says they lose their “femininity.” Men battle fears of failure and inadequacy. Women battle fears of failure AND fears of success. (Perhaps it is no surprise that a woman first clearly described the self-blocking potentials of Capricorn, Saturn and the Tenth House, given the female double bind here.)
Those astrologers so enamored of having the Tenth House always be mother ought to look again at how society assigns status and reputation in the world (Tenth House). If both parents are there, father is usually the index of status—not always, of course, but generally. Researchers in economics, psychology, sociology, etc. generally base their estimates of status, economic level, educational level, etc. of a family almost entirely on the father’s indices. Mother is almost or entirely ignored. (Of course, in one-parent families, this changes.) Women marry “up” (raise their status from father to husband) or “down” (lower their status from father to husband.) Men just marry. As one would expect in a male-dominated society, status and reputation (Tenth House) are very father-dependent.
My experience is that the Fourth House more often symbolizes Mother (that is, the individual’s perception of his/her mother). This is most often the case in traditional role families: father dominant, mother dependent. However, I have seen many cases where the parents have “switched” houses: mother is the Tenth and father is the Fourth House parent. And, quite often, there is a blend: both parents share both houses, or one parent plays both roles and is symbolized in both the Fourth and Tenth Houses. I suspect that astrologers will increasingly work with many more Fourth and Tenth House blends as parents move past strict role divisions.
Moving on to Taurus: despite protestations of a sexual revolution, our society continues to practice a double standard in sensuality and sexuality. Little girls are more discouraged than little boys from exploring sexual/sensual areas. Masturbation remains more a taboo among women than men.
Pornography is overwhelmingly male-oriented. Women are seen purely as objects for male enjoyment. (Again, a powerless role for women.) It is sad to me that the female form and suggestions of sexuality are used to sell so many products. Besides the dangerous objectification that takes place and encourages the abuse of women, such practices result in a certain stereotyped body becoming the standard of beauty. We lose not only appreciation of many and varied female figures, but also appreciation of the male body. It depresses me that so many people are conditioned to see the traditional female form as beautiful, while male forms are “just there” or even “ugly.”
And despite burgeoning sex clinics and literature on the subject, many, many people accept the old myths about differing sexual needs of men and women. Unaware astrologers help promulgate these myths in their practices.
Myth l: Men “need” sexual gratification more than women. (Men are assumed to be more aroused than women and thus more in need of release. Studies indicate that the arousal level in the sexes is equal in response to stimulating fantasies, etc. However, women, probably due to conditioning, are less likely than men to label their physiological responses as arousal. See, e.g., A New Look at Love by Walster and Walter, p. 63, l78.)
Myth 2: (Since men “need” it more) women “ought” to satisfy their male husbands, lovers, etc. even if they are not interested themselves.
Myth 3: Intercourse is the “best” form of sexual expression. (Not always. What is “best” depends on the people involved, their feelings, their physical condition and the circumstances.)
Myth 4: Women’s pleasure is not as important as man’s.
Myth 5: Men are totally responsible for women’s pleasure (as the “initiators” and “experts.”) This has the corollary myth about lesbians: “All she needs is a good (male) lay.” I have not run into a corresponding myth for homosexual males; perhaps it exists.
Myth 6: (This is the opposite of Myth 5 and yet they co-exist.) If a woman does not climax or enjoy herself it is all her fault; she is frigid, etc. and should lie to her male partner lest he find out.
Shared sexuality, like any interaction, is a mutual creation. No one person carries the responsibility for any interaction. Each individual contributes. Each bears a part of the responsibility and the ability to change the relationship. Good communication and deep caring do more for mutual sexuality than almost anything. As helpers and healers we can encourage open communication in our clients and continue to avoid sexual myths and stereotypes in our practice.
Men generally have major control over the money and material possessions symbolized by Taurus as well. (Again, the power issue.)
Virgo is the other Earth sign we can examine. The bias which says men think and women feel is quick to ascribe the rational efficiency of Virgo to men. However, men have long been willing to put women in the servant role and historically give women work they judge unimportant, concerned with details and dull. Despite much verbal support of “equal pay for equal work,” women and men doing the same job are still generally paid differentially. And counselors (including astrologers) continue to push men towards “exciting, creative, executive” work and women towards “supportive, routine, service” work.
If we study “men’s” and “women’s” work cross-culturally, it becomes clear that almost all societies make distinctions. And almost all societies value “men’s” work more highly than “women’s”—regardless of relative importance. E.g., in hunting and gathering societies, women generally gather and collect around 80 per cent of the food, but the hunting men are the high status workers. The bias becomes almost laughable if it were not so tragic, when we see one society where a trade (e.g. weaving) is “women’s” work and seen as dull, routine, anyone could do it. And the society where weaving is “men’s” work sees it as creative and demanding.
There has been a similar situation in our country. While a profession was largely female-staffed, it was “dull, routine, unimportant.” With a male influx, it suddenly became more important—and better paid. The reverse took place in clerical work and nursing. The original clerks and nurses were all male. When women managed to enter the fields, they were rapidly downplayed, seen as routine, and the pay was lowered proportionately.
To summarize, then, men in our sexist society are given roles encompassing all of Aries, Leo (except for childbirth), Sagittarius, Gemini, Libra, Aquarius and Capricorn. The power aspects of Scorpio, Virgo and Taurus are also ascribed to men. Women are conditioned to accept roles encompassing Cancer, Pisces, the sex object of Taurus, the drudge and powerlessness of Virgo, and all except the power of Scorpio. Through projection, many people are encouraged to give away much of their potential.
It remains for astrologers to lift themselves above their sexist assumptions. Only when we realize BOTH women and men have the capacity for rationality, logic, detachment and confidence; both women and men deserve pleasure from the material/sensual/sexual world; both women and men have the capacity for tenderness, empathy, caring and sensitivity, will we be astrologers who are expanding our clients’ vistas and options—not contracting them.
We Must Deal With the Reality of Sexual Conditioning
There is one further important point. Sexism does exist. Discrimination does exist. Societal conditioning does exist. All of these impact women and men. Thus it is true that many women find it difficult to express their Fire side; society discourages it. Many men find barriers to feeling their Water side. If we accept this, we merely buy into society’s roles and encourage people to remain limited. Remaining silent encourages the status quo. If we are committed to growth and the development of human potential, we will point out ALL the talents and abilities indicated in the horoscope, whether traditionally “masculine” or “feminine.”
We also, however, have to point out the possibility that some individuals will face flak from society in developing their options. Encouraging people to live life fully includes discussing realistically the problems women will often meet as they develop their confidence, assertiveness and uppityness. It includes reminding men that there is little support in much of society for their developing softness, caring, and vulnerability. People on the cutting edge of change have to contend with the inertia, resentment and sabotage of those clinging to old ways.
Opening people up carries also the responsibility of affording them some protection in their new state. Mutual support is an important part of this. People need a good support network of friends, lovers, etc. to help them through some of the inevitable rough spots of growth. And a practical discussion of some possible negative and positive consequences of change is vital. People must be prepared and armed with useful talents and abilities to deal with a society which often resists change bitterly and may be relentless in its attacks on changers. But if we support each other, progress will continue. I am for growth and full utilization of all human potentials in both sexes. Where are you?
Warm thanks and acknowledgement to Lynne Berman and Moonrabbit of Womynscope in Minneapolis and Karen Vossler of Cincinnati for their valuable comments, ideas and criticism.
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