When you meet someone for the first time, what is the thing you notice about that person immediately? Most people identify gender. Are they male? Female? It is a typical response, and one of the ways we start to categorize each other. Most of our languages assign some kind of a gender to pronouns. Some languages assign gender to nouns. Many of our creation myths involve one gender created before the other, one better or dominant over the other.
And we use so many things to define our gender roles: hairstyles, clothing, patterns of thinking, types of permitted emotional expressions, typical careers, group activities, leisure choices, and even colors like pink & blue. And when some of us bend these rules, society is quick to assign us to subcategories. “He’s a sissy ” and “She’s a tomboy” are two of the gentler descriptions.
When you strip astrology all the way down, past signs, planets, houses, elements & modalities, we are at the starting point with dualities: male/female, positive/negative, yin/yang. The earth & water signs of the zodiac are considered female & negative, and the fire & air signs are male & positive. As a Westerner, I tend to gravitate towards the terms yin & yang from Asian culture, because in a Taoist use, they seem less judgmental. For me, less baggage is attached to them. One is not better than the other. Yin and yang signify cold & hot, dark & light, female & male, respectively. And in the simplest terms, Taoism states they cannot exist without each other, and that each allegedly opposing trait needs to be considered as part of a balance, as part of a singular whole. Opposite signs in astrology are regarded the same way.
In the type of astrology usage I call “old fashioned,” gender roles are reinforced. Examining a woman’s chart, an astrologer looked to her Mars placement to see what type of a male she would find attractive and compatible, because she expressed her “male” or aggressive attributes through her male partner. With men, you looked to their Moon placement to see his ideal female mate, as he would seek to express his “feminine” or emotional qualities through her. And “old fashioned” astrology could not function very well when examining homosexual relationships.
But for me, if you take the long view, astrology actually makes a different case. When I first pick up a client’s birth chart, there is nothing in the chart that indicates the client’s gender. A man’s chart looks exactly the same as a woman’s chart. What do I make of this? Astrology is telling us men & women are the same. And really, except for some biological differences, we are. Most of our assigned gender characteristics are societal & cultural.
To address some creaky old stereotypes, men are perfectly capable of being compassionate & nurturing & empathetic. Women are certainly able to be tough & strong & logical. As the world and culture evolves and opens up, these old roles are starting to cripple us. Cultural historian and author Riane Eisler, in her book The Chalice & The Blade, asserts we had equal-gender societies in the distant past, before we became patriarchal. And I feel we are moving in an equal-gender direction again.
Guess what? I’m a guy and I couldn’t care less about sports. My wife, however, rolls her eyes every time I ask, “Who is this A-Rod guy again?” It’s March Madness (whatever that means) and she follows it avidly. Me, I am under the impression it’s something about basketball.
Be who you are. Don’t let gender stereotypes imprison your self-expression.