In her dating profile, Sofia Adler is upfront about her career as an astrologer and meditation teacher, as well as being all-around interested in spirituality. That being said, she recently went on a date with a scientist who spent the majority of their time together telling her how reiki is “bogus” and that he didn’t believe in spirituality at all. Needless to say, they didn’t meet up again.
“The men I've dated who are turned off by astrology don't think it's real and, I believe, don't like giving their power away to forces greater than them,” says Adler.
Women who aren’t full-time astrologists also face similar prejudices about astrology while dating. Dani Styles, a YouTuber and blogger, had similar experiences to Adler when she would ask men their signs. “I got a very dismissive statement several times,” she says. “They would say things like—’You don’t really believe that bullshit, do you?’”
Astrology has historically gotten a bad rap from skeptics, like in 2016 when NASA debunked the constellations actually aligning with the zodiac signs in a viral Tumblr post. However, straight, cis-gender men in the western world seem to consider it as an especially frivolous, feminine interest and—thanks to the patriarchy—aren’t afraid to speak their mind about it. In fact, a 2017 Pew Research study found that 37 percent of adult women in the U.S. believe in astrology, whereas only 20 percent of adult men do.
On social media, the trope of the astrology girl who likes to recharge her crystals and won’t go out when mercury is in retrograde runs rampant. Memes make fun of women who are into astrology, portraying men running away from women when they ask what their sign is. On Reddit, there are threads of people complaining about potential dating partners making assumptions based on their zodiac signs—mostly regarding online dating and women.
Jeremy, a 27-year-old straight man, says he doesn’t believe in astrology and recalls one girl calling him her soulmate because he’s a Pisces. “I’m willing to pretend I believe in it if it means the dating partner is more interested in me,” he says. On the other hand, Mark, a 28-year-old straight man, calls astrology “pseudoscience that passes the time.” He adds that he’s less interested in a woman the more she is into astrology. Let’s just let that sink in.
But let’s also back up for a minute. Astrology is the belief that heavenly bodies, such as the sun, moon and stars, predict earthly events based on their positioning and movements. For example, we earn our zodiac sign based on the constellation the sun was in on the day we were born. However, astrology accounts for more than just our sun sign—there’s an entire natal chart that talks about your personality, motivations, how and what you love, philosophy on life, and more, based on the time, place and date we were born.
Astrology has ancient roots in early Mesopotamia, China, Egypt and Greece and started becoming more popular in the western world in the early 20th century. Nowadays, horoscopes are readily accessible everywhere—from the popular app Co-Star to media websites—so that we can read about what’s supposedly going to happen to us this week.
Chase, a 26-year-old straight man, likens astrology to fortune cookies—something fun but not really interesting to him. “People can have their hobbies or things they enjoy,” he says. “It might be slightly concerning though if it’s something that rules their life.” So why then, are more women interested in astrology than men—or at least less harsh about criticizing it? (Of course, male, queer and non-binary astrology enthusiasts certainly exist.)
“All the ‘soft’ interests—relationships, family, self-improvement in general—are coded as ‘feminine,’” says Carol Sternhall, a professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. “Women are more likely to seek help of all sorts, including therapy and medical care.”
It’s also possible that more women turn to New Age beliefs, religion and open-ended thinking to cope with the lack of agency they’re given within the patriarchy and within traditional gender roles. Robert, a 26-year-old straight man, thinks astrology is a fun way to connect with others and is willing to chat about it if a date brings it up. He believes the recent rise in spirituality offers a deeper emotional connection, which could be considered feminine. In 2017, over a quarter of U.S. adults said they were spiritual but not religious—a number that’s been steadily rising.
It’s also common to see women’s media outlets like Cosmopolitan and Refinery29 publishing horoscopes over men’s media outlets like GQ and Men’s Health. But can we really blame the media for pushing astrology on women? The answer is complicated. “[The media is] like a somewhat distorted mirror, reflecting our society but distorting it at the same time,” says Sternhall. In the end, most media will publish content that sells.
While more magazines are becoming more progressive, inclusive and diverse, there’s still a long way to go and many remain gendered. The patriarchal society many of us still live in also makes feminine interests seem lesser. “All genders have a blend of masculine and feminine energies, but society doesn't support men in expressing their feminine side,” says Adler.
To that end, there’s even a thing called “manstrology”—and it’s exactly what you think.
“The truth is that astrology has been gendered as ‘feminine’ for a long time, when it was once considered universal knowledge,” says Catherine Anderson, an astrologer. “As long as these stereotypes exist, people will believe them without question or challenge. It's important to think about who has access to information, knowledge, and power.”