The Dawn Chorus

Fresh Australian Feminism

Only Chicks Believe In Horoscopes

Posted by Mel Campbell on August 7, 2008

The other day I had an excellent horoscope from the Sydney Morning Herald:

LEO: Happy Birthday. If you were to start a new (love) relationship today it is probably going to be very intense and feel almost other world-ish as if it were meant to be. Try not to jump in too quickly. If a money matter has been niggling at you, then you should face it and sort it out once and for all. Your love life should be intensely passionate today and you should be looking forward to a night of fun and frivolity.

I’ll tell you what I had to look forward to: working on the latest batch of freelance stories until about 8pm, hiding from some charity collector who knocked on my front door, Chinese takeaway in front of a repeat episode of NCIS, and going to bed alone.

It shouldn’t be surprising at all that my horoscope lied to me; we all know they’re just made up. Merely being born in a given span of days definitely doesn’t give someone certain personal qualities; nor can the millions of people who share birthdays have similar experiences. Thing is, there’s a gendered quality to this ‘commonsensical’ knowledge.

Horoscopes are commonly portrayed as a superstitious, fantasy-building pastime for frivolous women while men concern themselves with the rational world. Check out this ad for BT Super, which recently ran in Good Weekend (click for larger version):

What a foolio that chick is, taking a bogus peek at her future when she could be actually contributing to her real future! HOROSCOPE FAIL, etc.

But it really pisses me off that we get caught up in whether horoscopes are ‘true’, and that it’s held to demean women’s intellect that we might enjoy reading them. I emailed my horoscope to a male friend, just for a laugh and an “I wish!” moment, and he replied, “I’m surprised that you would take horoscopes slightly seriously, let alone actually read them.”

And why’s that, then? Being an intelligent, critical thinker does not preclude me from having imagination or prevent me from revelling in a sense of possibility. This, rather than cheap conjuring tricks or pagan ceremonies, is what I believe magic is: a sense we get sometimes that life is wonderfully surprising and unknowable. And even if I do look up my horoscope (and those of my friends and the dude I’m crushing on at any given moment), that probably says more about the way that women’s magazines and literature groom us in this language, this way of making sense of relationships and of the world’s unpredictability.

My friend found it hard to come up with an equivalently irrational practice that’s unequivocally ‘male’. The best he could do was “not going to the doctor enough”.

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12 Responses to “Only Chicks Believe In Horoscopes”

  1. tina_sparkle said

    I actually thought it was the sport she was checking out on the back page, while he’s clearly looking at a half naked celebrity in the gossip pages (for the article, of course).

  2. blu-k said

    A male friend and I discussed something similar the other day – he doesn’t like football, but said he felt that when he stated that to other men, they were almost offended, whereas if a woman says she hates footy it’s accepted.

    I said I felt the same way as he did, but about horoscopes. I can’t stand them, but when women at work (for example) try to include me in their discussions, they seem almost offended when I say I think it’s rubbish and am not interested in talking about it. My male friend agreed that if he said that it would probably be more accepted coming from a man.

  3. Mel Campbell said

    I feel troubled about both tina_sparkle and blu-k’s comments, which both distance themselves from horoscopes. Because this entire post was arguing that there is nothing wrong with liking horoscopes.

    I think it’s more of a feminist act not to participate in the marginalisation of horoscopes as something only dumb, boring chicks are into.

  4. Scal said

    But Mel it sounds like you’re arguing that there is nothing wrong with liking horoscopes if you are an “intelligent, critical thinker”. As opposed to someone who believes in them.

    It takes a certain kind of humour or aesthetics or something to enjoy horoscopes as cute little whimsies – and no, I don’t think it’s my feminist duty to support you (or any other intelligent critical thinker) in doing so. But at the same time, I certainly don’t think it demeans your intelligence.

    But I’d wager that most women who like horoscopes, actually believe in them – and that does demean their intelligence.

  5. tina_sparkle said

    not at all, mel. my point was that BT have made an incorrect call with their tag line. why should it be assumed from the picture that the woman is reading the horoscope? surely if one has basic knowledge of newspaper layout one knows that the sport is always on the back page.

    my view is just as valid as yours. isn’t that what feminism is all about?

    and for the record, I do read horoscopes and enjoy them. I take them with a grain of salt but I really don’t give a shit what other people think of my intelligence because of it.

  6. Mel Campbell said

    Nah, Scal. There’s nothing wrong with liking horoscopes, full stop. It doesn’t matter if you’re dumb or smart, if you’re a total skeptic or choose to believe them wholeheartedly – and if you’re a man or a woman. I just suspect that not believing in horoscopes is a strategy women use to avoid being personally implicated in the ‘commonsensical’ social belief that:

    a) only chicks believe in horoscopes
    b) Liking horoscopes makes a chick dumb, gullible, etc.

    If you don’t like ’em, fair enough. But rather than calling bullshit on horoscopes, I prefer to call bullshit on the genderedness of that belief.

  7. Scal said

    I actually do like horoscopes. So I understand your response to them – but by calling bullshit on the genderedness of horoscope reading, are you saying that you think men secretly like them as much as women?

    I don’t believe in horoscopes, but it’s not some strategy I’ve determined upon. I also don’t believe in ghosts, mediums, tarot or fairies. It’s not a choice I’ve made because it’s viewed as uneducated and feminine to do so, but because I see no grounds for belief.

    It’s reasonable to ask why women enjoy them and/or believe in them while men generally don’t (or don’t admit to it), but to claim that women are being traitors (or – if I understand the implication of your most recent comment – untruthful) if they say they don’t like them is a nonsense.

  8. Mel Campbell said

    It’s not a question of being traitorous or untruthful (which, by the way, is your inference, not my implication). I’m just asking women to stop and think about how superstitions (of all sorts) are feminised – and how skepticism is a masculinist discourse. You might not personally feel implicated by those gender politics, but that’s not to say they don’t exist.

    ps: I was just on Facebook before and noticed a male friend of mine has a horoscope application on his profile.

  9. audrey said

    I think it’s true that, barring the X-Files, superstitions are generally represented to be feminine interests while males are presented as the more cynical ‘logical’ of the human species.

    Personally, I love horoscopes. I rate some much more highly than others. For example, the Woman’s Day starsigns have always felt more accurate than the Weekend Australian’s, mainly because Mystic Medusa is incomprehensible. And Adelaide street press Rip It Up has the best weekly horoscopes of any i’ve ever read.

    But ultimately, I guess I like to read them because they’re fun and like you said, it’s enjoyable to have a little bit of magic however fake dazzling you from time to time. What’s the harm in that?

    I don’t think anyone here is actually claiming that women who like horoscopes are less intelligent, nor are they denying that there’s an assumption that people who like horoscopes are particularly flimsy women. What they are saying is that they either personally do or do not enjoy reading them, but whatever that preference it has no impact on how they view themselves or other people.

    I understand you’re frustrated that the point of your post is being conflated with personal preference for horoscopes, but in the grander scheme of things I think everyone here is on the same page.

  10. Scal said

    Sorry Mel, I didn’t pick up the frustration in your voice until Audrey pointed it out. I am really interested in what you’re saying – and I didn’t mean to conflate the post with my own views!

    What I meant was that yes, superstitions are generally seen as “female” interests, but unlike you, I actually think the view is borne out; that women are, in fact, more likely than men to believe in horoscopes, ghosts, mediums, tarot etc. So rather than breaking down a gendered view of superstitions (as you are doing), I would be more inclined to ask why it is that women believe in these things, while men don’t.

    (And I know I’m awful, but if someone I knew really, truly believed in horoscopes, I probably would think less of their intelligence.)

    My boyfriend always reads the horoscopes on Saturday morning while we do the crossword. I find it utterly charming – but I think it’s only for my benefit.

  11. lauredhel said

    I think there is definitely a gendered discourse at play when it comes to belief in the supernatural, but I’m not so convinced that the more simplistic “women are more superstitious” is all that rooted in fact.

    Women might be more into tarot, crystals, and horoscopes, but men have it all over them in UFOlogy, conspiracy theory, and control over organised religion, not to mention the more extreme survivalist type cults. Creationism-inflicters get serious, prolonged court cases and front page news. And just try taking away a sportsman’s lucky underwear. Perhaps it’s more that the highly feminised superstitions are the more deprecated ones?

  12. Scal said

    Lauredhel, you’re right. But I also think that those “male” concerns are more extreme and fringe ideas than “female” superstitions are. Conspiracy theories and UFOlogy are sometimes seen as symptoms of mental illness, while superstitions are seen as – at worst – frivolous and ignorant.

    I can’t imagine any of the men at my work believing in UFOs, but I bet a number of the women have some kind of interest in the supernatural.

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