Written by Jane Wicks
Graphic by Sabrina Tse
What season is it? Autumn? No, it’s Taurus season. Women around the globe are enthralled by rising signs, moon signs, whether they’re a fire or an air sign, whilst men roll their eyes. Why is that the case?
Belief in astrology and the legitimacy of star signs has had, unsurprisingly, a major resurgence over the past few decades. A huge percentage of the global population now turn to the stars for their weekly forecast or advice on major life decisions. However, a pattern has emerged that shows women gravitating far more strongly towards the spiritual belief than their male counterparts. According to a 2018 Pew report, 37% of women believe in astrology whilst only 20% of men do. Upon examining this phenomenon more closely, it reveals a lot about the inner workings of our society and the power dynamics that exist between men and women.
Astrology’s resurgence is intrinsically linked to times of turmoil and uncertainty. People may turn to astrology in times of stress to find comfort in its reassuring power over circumstances beyond personal control—the same comfort one might find within organised religion. The complex mapping of stars and planets makes astrology feel reassuringly scientific and easy for some people to put their trust into. However, despite its fundamental basis in the stars, there is no real science to it. Astrology’s appeal may also lie in its provision of advice that can be applicable to a wide range of people, and yet can make a reader feel as though it were written only for them. It makes people feel seen and understood, giving them a sense of stability in times of uncertainty and fear. It is unsurprising, therefore, that in our current global climate, astrology’s popularity has skyrocketed.
However, stress and anxiety are issues we all face, so why are women so much more likely to believe in astrology? One explanation is the difference in the ‘locus of control’ between men and women. The locus of control is a theoretical construct that measures a person’s idea of having control over their own behaviour. It can be defined as being either internal, if a person believes they are in control of the events of their own lives, or external, if a person feels they have no control in their lives. A 1997 study by Sherman, Higgs, and Williams showed that women are more likely to have an external locus of control compared to men, who more often feel that their control is internal. In a society where men dominate roles associated with power and privilege, many women feel as they have no control over their lives. Astrology and similar spiritual beliefs provide a comfort that there is a greater power at work, beyond the control of men in the material world.
It is also interesting to consider the way in which astrology operates differently to many organised religions in terms of gender imbalance and patriarchal structures. Traditional religions have throughout history perpetuated and enforced inequality between opportunities for men and women, which astrology does not. Women, therefore, may turn to astrology in place of such religions to feel the same sense of trust in a higher power without the constraints of another patriarchal institution.
Further, men are often told to man up and internalise personal struggles, especially emotional ones, in order to protect their image of masculinity. This conditioning helps us understand why men are less likely to practice astrology. The promotion of self-reflection and self-care central to astrology, particularly the discussion of grief, trauma, or sorrow, renders it a practice that is socially unacceptable for men. In contrast, women are more openly encouraged to engage in self-care practices. Astrology horoscopes often have empowering messages, inspiring readers to find strength and confidence within themselves. It promotes learning about your identity and values by providing you with a personality profile based on your star sign, which you can agree or disagree with. Even if you don’t align with your horoscope, it promotes reflection about what is true for you. Believing in astrology has now almost become a form of self-care in itself, so it makes sense that women gravitate towards it much more often than men do.
Whilst the majority of the population still remain sceptical of the belief in astrology, there are obvious benefits for those who subscribe to such ideas. The comfort and hope of astrology can act as a religious substitute for some people and can encourage them to see the good in situations—especially within themselves. Astrology can be valuable for many individuals regardless of gender, so women’s particular gravitation towards it signals a deep-rooted issue in our treatment of different genders. If we saw women take up more prominent leadership roles around the globe, and toxic values of masculinity break down, we might witness a greater balance between men and women in terms of their spiritual and astrological belief patterns.