Go to HuffingtonPost.com and find the horoscope section without using the search bar. Where might you look first? Culture would be my first guess. Try the Religion section under Culture. No, not there…. Ok, how about…Entertainment? No, just Hollywood talk there. Oh, I know! Life & Style…. Right? No, nothing there either.
Try the Women’s Voices section. There. The horoscopes are pulled from Tarot.com and fed right into Women’s Voices. They are written in a distinctively cliched voice geared towards women, with phrases and words like, “get in your groove,” [Scorpio], “put a magical spin on nearly everything you say,”[Gemini], “generous with your affections” [Leo], “dramatize,” [Capricorn], “11th House of Dreams and Wishes” (I’m not even kidding) [Aquarious], etc etc. It might be worth noting that a man writes them.
Here are the cold, hard facts: More women do read, follow, and believe in horoscopes than do men. There are more female “professional” astrologers than male. So HuffPo’s decision, I can only guess before I get a response from firstname.lastname@example.org about why they put horoscopes where they did, is based off real-world data on gender and beliefs. Pure marketing.
Then where does HuffPo’s decision leave us educated women who DON’T take astrology seriously? More facts: Belief in astrology decreases as education increases. The general readership of HuffPo, liberal and highly educated, almost certainly doesn’t take astrology very seriously, but a woman is still more likely to take astrology seriously than a male of equal math/science education. The possible conclusion a male might draw? Astrology is for morons; women believe in astrology; women are morons.
Ok, “morons” may be taking it too far. (I would also like to note that I do not wish to use this piece as a platform to slam astrology. In fact, I don’t think that people, male or female, who take it seriously are inherently stupid or gullible.) But because most highly educated males think astrology is bunk, and women have to fight stereotypes associated with our ability to use critical thinking, math, and science as well as the boys, the feminisation of astrology is a step backward for women. HuffPo, by placing the horoscope section squarely in the Women’s Voices section of their site, is reinforcing stereotypes that women are interested in pseudoscience and woo, not hard science and experiment; candles and palm reading instead of data and hard decision making; intuition and feeling instead of facts and reason. That, despite any education landmarks we have achieved, we still want silliness and fluff.
I’d like to note I’m okay with fluff. HuffPo can keep horoscopes on its site, as newspapers traditionally have them–in Entertainment or Lifestyle sections. If the people at HuffPo wanted either to cater to those who believe in horoscopes as a legitimate form of advice based on science, or to offer them as a fun crossword section kind of cultural nod, then they would have put them in a more accessible section of the site where both their male and female readership could easily access them; instead, they put them onto a gendered section of the site, a decision that upholds astrology as neither a legitimate science nor a cultural quirk, but as a niche triviality, while simultaneously feminizing it. They would have pulled them from a less gendered source; instead, their content is riddled with phrases one might find in the most trite women’s magazines.
I took a look at major lifestyle magazines (not including cooking, fitness or home mags) specifically targeted towards women, and men. The magazines in bold feature horoscopes on their Web sites (I’m not sure about the paper magazines).
Women: Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, O [no dedicated section but some articles], Vogue, Glamour, Bazaar, Woman’s Day, Marie Claire [6/9]
Men: Complex, Details, Esquire, GQ, Maxim, Penthouse, Playboy, AskMen.com, FHM [1/8]
Except for AskMen.com, the only lifestyle magazines that have horoscopes are those specifically targeted towards women, and are not considered highbrow publications (don’t even get me started on how typical women’s magazines totally screw us–that’s another post entirely). Magazines that are specifically targeted towards men, as well as magazines about economics, arts, science, and politics, do not have horoscopes.
Hopefully, an educated man who does not believe in astrology, if he happened upon the Women’s section (because he is interested in women’s issues, after all!) would think nothing of finding the horoscopes there. But what if he were prone to stereotyping and thoughts, “Oh, there go women again, and their belief in woo and magic.” I’d have to prove to him that I do not buy into astrology or any other mysticism, despite what HuffPo would have him think, and that I am just as much of a skeptical and critical mind as he and his boys club. (Women have to do this regardless of where HuffPo puts its horoscopes, but this doesn’t help us along.)
Huffington Post, for the sake of women everywhere, I implore you: Save us from the dismisses from the ivory towers of the scientific elite. Free us from the ridicule of those men who think women believe in strange, spooky things. Break us from the bonds of fluff and gossip rags, tie us instead to the steady flagships of intelligent discourse and the destruction of harmful stereotypes. Move horoscopes to another section of your site!