The ancient system relies on outdated relationship standards and almost completely ignores the LGBTQIA community.
Giddiness overcomes me every morning when I read my daily horoscope. Yes, I believe that there is some truth to the zodiac. I think the science of planetary gravitational forces, Mercury retrogrades, and the Sun trining with Mars (whatever that means) potentially affects our lives.
The personality traits of my own sign, Virgo, are relatively true in ways traits of other signs are not. However, I also believe that everyone born within a one-month period does not have the same fate, destiny, or life circumstances. I also believe in self-will as much as I believe that many occurrences are created from random chaos. And recently, I have started to critique the heteronormativity frequently instilled in various astrological endeavors.
I would likely not exist if it weren’t for Hindu astrology. There are Hindus who do not believe in this, but my parents and their ancestors followed this advice, whether it was about career, money, marriage, and/or family. The family astrologer inputs your birth date, birth time, and birthplace. Then he or she creates an astrological chart, which they subsequently interpret. It was kind of exciting to have a personalized, family sage to consult on a long-distance call to India. This individual was the man whose father “matched” my parents’ horoscopes for marriage. He is also the man who said my father, who died 2.5 years ago at the age of 69, would live a long life well into his 80s. As I grew older, even before my father passed away, I learned that these predictions may not be accurate, and they were also based upon ideals that were socially-driven.
When I decided to get married, my parents were adamant about me going through the same ritual. This was frightening. I was fearful the astrologer would tell me I couldn’t marry my fiancé. Who was this guy to tell me about my relationship by staring at two charts and without even knowing us?
Thankfully, our horoscopes matched satisfactorily enough to give a green light for our legal union. We did end up divorcing, and I wondered if maybe he “knew” this. Maybe he was influenced by societal expectations to stay in marriages. Or perhaps he didn’t know. Regardless, I have discovered some of the falsities and assumptions made when matching horoscopes.
The purpose of a “match” is for marriage, which is a legal and social contract. This is not something that is based on physics or supernatural forces. Humans created it. So to interpret the zodiac and use it to make a decision for marriage assumes that marriage itself has a singular perspective.
Perhaps an astrologer can determine whether two individuals generally get along, however, the decision of our match is also based on how a specific astrologer perceives relationships. Typically, these are informed by heteronormative standards. They assume that marriage between a male and female is the goal, which would assume that children are also part of the picture. Additionally, it assumes a specific course of marriage. They can determine the longevity of life and health for the couple, which seems like it makes sense. Of course I want to be with my life partner…for life. However, these check boxes are not the only determinants of a meaningful relationship.
My mother recently told me about a heterosexual couple, madly in love with each other. They asked their family astrologer to look at their horoscopes for marriage. The astrologer saw something indicating tragedy of some sort, where one person may die very young. Because of this, they did not have permission to marry. When she told me this, I was heartbroken for them. And I was also infuriated. What if this doesn’t happen? And what if it does? Are relationships only about longevity? Is there no value in having a beautiful relationship regardless of the outcome? How are we using these social constructs to determine what “should” happen in our lives? This has made me wonder how much we use astrology to avoid pain instead of experience life. Pain is a part of life that has strengthened me, and I wouldn’t trade my scars in for anything.
This is just one example where relationship standards cater toward society’s expectations, a white picket-fenced existence, rather than enjoying life’s journey. When advice is given based upon assumptions, we may want to question how we are missing out. If an astrologer framed opinions of a relationship or other life choice from a perspective that supports difficult yet rewarding decisions, our lives could be set on an entirely different course.
These heteronormative and seemingly traditional standards also exist in the West in blatant, but also innocuous, yet harmful ways, specifically with sexuality and gender norms. While searching for zodiac compatibility, I found non-gendered compatibilities as well as explanations for the compatibility of a woman with a man. However, unless I specifically searched for homosexual or queer horoscope compatibility, I was unable to find a non-heterosexual alternative. I was dismayed that this wasn’t as readily available, however, I also questioned whether horoscopes should be socialized at all to address gender or sexual orientation. Does this neutralize, possibly erase, social constructs? If they are inclusive and more accessible, perhaps they should address challenges and relationship dynamics specific to those in the LGBTQIA community.
While examining my zodiac compatibility with other signs, I read interpretations of a Virgo woman with other zodiac signs of men. I identify as a woman, and I am cisgendered, so I felt this made sense. However, I also discerned gendered explanations of personality traits and gender roles in relationships while doing so. Seeing these differences made me wonder why I designated gender at all, however, as with sexuality, I do think that being blind to gender is misguided. How would horoscope compatibilities look from a feminist perspective as opposed to enforcing gender stereotypes? How would they look for transgender individuals?
While researching the relationship compatibility of a Virgo woman and Cancer man as well as a Virgo man and Cancer woman, I discovered distinct gendered language. The Virgo woman is characterized as very calm, shy, and sympathetic. The Virgo man is practical, dutiful, and needs his own space.
The Virgo woman and Cancer man:
He has a desire to lead and she finds his leadership fine in all the ways…Understanding and tolerance can help her to see beautiful forests for the trees with him and he gets stimulated by the gentle ways of his lady to become more open and expressive.
The Virgo man and Cancer woman:
The Virgo man makes the Cancer woman feel that she won’t be left alone and ignored, to starve and pine away from loneliness. He knows and understands, and looks after so that the relationship is kept polished and not allowed to rust. He can display a very calm and composed temperament in a bid to conceal his sensuality…The submission of her makes him more confident regarding their relationship, stirring his emotions and giving a flame to his passion.
These gender characterizations as well as the implications of dominance and submission in heterosexual relationships are quite troubling. In one explanation, the Cancer man has a desire to lead, and in the second explanation, the Cancer woman is submissive to a degree that increases the man’s confidence.
There is much to be examined from our just-for-fun (or for some people, quite serious) forays into horoscope interpretation. The expectation of a certain life path can be misguiding. Gendered language poses as much of a problem as a lack of specificity of sexuality. Neutrality caters toward uniformity and heteronormativity.
I’m sure it seems my critical analysis of a fun activity is a buzzkill. Yet, these momentary joys fold into our daily grind, which is already infused with messages of heteronormativity ranging from mass media to fashion to male-dominated Wikipedia editors. It is these innocent activities that unconsciously shape our perceptions and, ultimately, our life choices.
Nisha Mody is a writer living in Chicago. Her writing has been featured in Chicago Literati. She also works as a speech-language pathologist in a public school. When she isn’t writing or running after children, she is scrambling eggs, eating avocados, looking at bunny pictures, and reading. You can follow her on Twitter @cuttingthecheez and read more of her writing at http://cuttingthecheez.