You’re reading She, a series of opinions during Women’s History Month explaining the various issues that women face.
On the opposite side of the conventional knowledge spectrum lies the hidden world of metaphysical tools and systems like tarot and astrology. New Age beliefs have always been criticized, but it is important to take a look at who is doing the criticizing.
The New Age movement, which spread in the 1970s and '80s, helps with spiritual transformation through practices such as tarot reading, astrology, yoga, meditation and mediumship.
The metaphysical gender gap has widened and worked unfavorably for women specifically — whether they believe in New Age practices or not.
Astrologer Danny Larkin said in a 2018 article for VICE magazine that willingly exploring vulnerable feelings like grief, trauma and victimization through astrological symbolism could be responsible for the gender gap. It is more common for straight men to reject these sorts of emotions, which leaves women and queer people more likely to explore and identify with these themes.
According to a study by Pew Research Center, 69% of women believe in at least one New Age belief, compared to 55% of men.
Major differences in media consumption and gender-based marketing contribute to this New Age gender gap. Magazines like Elle, Cosmopolitan and Glamour, all of which are marketed to women, include a hard-to-miss horoscope and astrology section.
Meanwhile, magazines like GQ, Sports Illustrated and Esquire generally showcase more conventional content on politics and economics. If men are rarely exposed to the metaphysical, they can never understand or believe in it.
From personal experience, I can say that criticism usually comes in the form of memes posted by men poking fun at the beliefs themselves, or at the people who hold these beliefs, which happen to mostly be women.
Even if a woman doesn’t believe in astrology, she may be associated with it because of these preexisting beliefs.
Similar to the differences in media consumption, the representation of women in society, specifically in the workforce, plays a role in how men associate women with the metaphysical. A 2019 study by Catalyst showed that 27% of workers in STEM positions were women. The STEM industry is an area associated with logic, practicality and rationality.
The lack of women represented in these left-brain fields leaves men with the age-old belief that women aren’t logical, rational people but more emotional and gullible.
Media representations of those who possess an interest in the occult have not helped women in the long run. There are far too many movies like The Witch, The Wizard of Oz and Hocus Pocus that portray women as scary, deranged witches. Although some of these movies are light-hearted, it perpetuates an unfair stereotype for all women and those who embrace the occult.
Whether or not one believes in the power of astrology and the metaphysical is not important.
What is important is recognizing the harmful stereotypes, unwarranted criticism and sexism that comes with invalidating those, especially women and queer people, who pursue these passions and interests to make sense of the world around them.
Astrology, tarot, crystal healing and all other forms of metaphysical knowledge should not be something that contributes to the already large gender gap in our society. It’s time to rebrand astrology and adopt more accepting and understanding perspectives on New Age beliefs.