Jessa Crispin: Astrology Can Be So Damned Sexist

Theda Bara

If you are a Cancer female, it is probably best if you don’t read any astrological books written before the 1970s. Cancer has been associated with the mother forever, sure, but for a long time there wasn’t really anything else a woman was supposed to do. Male Cancers got to be historians and inventors, but for the women it was just breed, breed, breed. The descriptions of our personality range from the insulting (“overly emotional,” “irrational,” etc) to the insulting (“nurturing,” “good mothers”). One risks breaking a toe kicking the wall or perhaps choking to death on one’s own vomit.

 This carries over into the contemporary, of course, depending on your chart reader’s views of women. I have a super loaded fifth house, and have been told by various people that this means I will have many children (ha). And because I have a Cancer Sun and Jupiter, I must have a close and friendly relationship with my mother (HA HA HA). When we are dealing with archetypes, it is very easy for people to project their own nonsense into those blank spaces.

 Mystic mentioned, though, another kind of sexism in those older books, those dealing with outer planet energy. A man with a strong Neptune will be an imaginative creator, a woman with a strong Neptune will be a deluded twit at the mercy of her own fantasies. Uranian male: genius. Uranian female: insane. I dragged out some of my own texts to take a look — she was right. I had usually mostly given up on these books before getting to that point.

 I started to wonder why that might be. Rather than go into a, all men are terrible and secretly hate women snit, I began to think what else might be different from men’s experiences and women’s experiences.

 What exactly does a strong blast of Neptune do? It feeds creativity, it can create elaborate dream worlds, it can offer a connection to the divine realms. But it can also cause hallucinations, create fantasy escapist realms, and addiction to substances. The difference is not only our free will. It’s not simply that we choose what to do with that state, that’s the kind of thinking that leads to “think nice thoughts and you can get rid of your cancer” kinds of things.

 The difference is in the support that you have. What outlets you have for that energy. What kind of education, social support, livable environment, and options for movement and adaptation you have. Women for a very long time had one or two options on hand. They could get married or they could join the church. They weren’t educated, they weren’t given creative outlets, they did not have control of their own money. And so a blast of Neptune for a man, who had the educational background and institutional support and society’s acceptance, could funnel that energy into painting. Women, who were told be pretty and birth babies, might respond to that same energy, that would become pent up and blocked, would run straight for the laudanum.

And hey, we lost some of our best men to this energy. It’s why some of our greatest Uranian mathematicians and inventors ended up in mental institutions or hanged themselves from the rafters. But with very few outlets at all, you really don’t have a chance, it starts shredding you from the second the transit begins.

The failure of the astrologers is a failure to understand why women might be more vulnerable to the bad effects of a planet’s influence. It’s a bit like my racist hometown, who when Ferguson blew up in the neighboring state, said they couldn’t understand why the protestors couldn’t just go work at a Best Buy or something, get a real job, create a better environment. It must be because they didn’t want to. They didn’t understand (and they didn’t want to) the societal underpinnings and the lack of outlets and structural support. They didn’t see how extremely lucky they had been in their lives, because their lives were still hard. Surely if they had been born into privilege, they would have millions of dollars and everything would be easy for them.

 We have free will, but we are also born into a context. And that puts limits on how we can respond to certain stimulus. The important thing is not to believe that your circumstances confine you completely, nor that your will creates the world you live in entirely. And not to believe, when you look out in the world, that your ratio of free will to context is the same as everyone else’s.

GENIUS.  Thoughts?

Jessa Crispin is the editor of Bookslut and Spolia, and her book, The Dead Ladies Project, will be released by the University of Chicago in 2015. If you’re interested in a tarot reading, specially designed for writers and other creatives, contact Jessa here.

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Mel c

I just had a skype reading with Jessa. It was brilliant! She’s awesome!!! I highly recommend her 🙂 Really good if you’re a creative person professional or otherwise. AWESOME!!!


*Jessa, LOL – damn autocorrect!


“We have free will, but we are also born into a context. And that puts limits on how we can respond to certain stimulus.” Respectfully but vigorously disagree with this premise! I was was born into some very long odds – virtually nil for support anywhere, just sort of stumbling along and having to figure out as I went. I have a very hard chart, but I am very proud of how far I’ve come and how well I’ve responded to some pretty hellish situations, and I credit astrology for a lot of this . It is SELF AWARENESS and… Read more »


I did have a good laugh, since I have an astro book from the late ’60’s/early ’70’s has the same hilarious dichotomies for each sign. It really seemed like he thought some signs were more appropriate for one gender or the other, & looked down on those who chose poorly. And he HATED Capricorns! Just all Capricorns. Evil Imperialist Oppressors, every one of ’em. Picking on poor little Aquarians all the time. Anywhoo, did want to make one comment. I feel it’s important to remember that for millenia, rank & file men did not have a lot of choices in… Read more »

Virgo Earth Monkey

There was no safe public drinking water sources until the second half of the 19th Century. Gin and beer was safer to drink.

Wish Upon a Star

God you’ve just explained why this Neptunian felt so trapped in a working class upbringing.


Reminds me of the issues I take with Cancerian men. As a cancer, I usually vibe really well with other Cancerian women, but the men?

Nope. Dudes cannot handle being emotional because society tells them they’re not supposed to be. So they grow up being told they’re bitches, and never taught what they can do with it or how to cope.

Does not make for someone who is easy for me to socialise with.


not only do I have Saturn and Mars on top of each other in cancer, 5th house, my progressed sun has just moved into cancer. Trying to make sense of it all is a nightmare! An astrologer told me years ago that I must hate my mother and was probably abused by her. I don’t and I wasn’t. When I looked Mars in cancer up, it barely even mentioned women, and described men with that placement as sooky, demanding and passive aggressive. I wonder if anyone could help with some modern thoughts on it!

Loquacious Air with a Scorpio Moon

Brilliant! I reckon this bit is one of the most telling: “When we are dealing with archetypes, it is very easy for people to project their own nonsense into those blank spaces.”

Sasha Fenton drives me bonkers for this reason – her reading of the energies around my ascendant are spot-on, but the reasons she ascribes to it are waaaay off planet.

Virgo Earth Monkey

Not only sexist, but heterosexist and distinctly binary in its gender assumptions.


Astrology is as political as anything else, I guess. As reasonable to apply various critical theories (feminist theory e.g.) to interps judgements and perceptions here as anything else?

The Baroness

I just found out that Astrodienst was using a DIFFERENT local suburb to the one I was born in. So, now that I’m using ‘Sydney’ as my ‘city of birth’ my rising has moved a sign, and my Lilith, Mars and Venus have all moved houses. They say that women in Lilith with the Second House will experience debilitating (sp?) illness in their old age. And yes, I have my Neptune in the 7th house and they say all kinds of nasty ‘thangs. I did a Chinese Horoscope for the hell of it last week and when I changed the… Read more »


As soon as I read the title, I knew Cancer was going to be mentioned (and I had forgotten that Jessa was one as well). I felt the limitations of Cancer interpretations even as a young girl reading sun sign horoscopes. Sun sign, no matter the sign, does not speak to the complexities of experience. I think part of the critical hermeneutic work that modern astrology can do is to acknowledge that people are deeply complex, and that this is fascinating, not frustrating. Traditional Western astrology arose as a science first, and now (thank goodness) we see it as an… Read more »


a delightfully written bit on something i feel very strongly about!




yes, well said! I always remember this Douglas Adams quote that really made sense to me as a young girl: “In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. It’s just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge. The more rules, the tinier the rules, the more arbitrary they are, the better. It’s like throwing a handful of fine graphite dust on a piece of paper to see where the hidden indentations are.… Read more »


yes, i might agree with this sphinx. I have noticed that i have used astrology to encounter the same issues / situations in my life that i might also try to deal with in other ways too. and the archetypes of astro which obvs borrows from western mythology is an interesting way to approach the shape of things, without reducing it to modern behavioural science or whatever . i mean it is definitely imo not the only way to solve problems but it is one way in, and a handy torch to carry in the labyrinth of existence . so… Read more »


Yes, you are right that it is vulnerable to the interpreter’s lens, that is why we gravitate to the quality people (the lovely MM) as opposed to any old astrologer I guess.

And I also think that only certain people think in this way, pulling on archetypes and patterns such as astro provides. I have friends who appreciate astro, but they don’t really use it in their life. Writer type creatives seem good with it, as far as I see here at least?

gemini cat

It’s nice to have analytical psychology on the side, but storytelling makes things meaningful in the way that abstractions don’t.

gemini cat

“a handy torch to carry in the labyrinth of existence” – I love this line xx.

Ariadne is the patriarchal Hellenic version of Crete’s goddess The Lady, and her involvement with Dionysos is such an interesting story. I’m sooo curious about that civilization.


Great post. Thank you. I have sun, moon and mercury within 2 degrees of each other in Cancer in 10th house. I’m 43, single, no kids and happy. I have really good friends and a good career and satisfying creative outlets. I love kids and get along well with my friends children and younger members of my family. I think I would’ve been a good mum but i’m not sorry it didn’t happen. I thank the goddess every day that I am born in a time where as a woman I can own my own destiny and choose to be… Read more »


Very interesting, great thought process.. Thanks for sharing 🙂


Word, this, yes.

Nice piece. Is this then the latent structural feminist self-critique that just about every other thing has gone through, and is astrology now catching up on? Can’t wait to see what intersectional feminist astrology/ies will look like!


Agree! Aren’t we already creating the intersectional work on this blog? So many comments, everyone coming from a different perspective, diverse interpretations respected. BOOM—intersectionalism. I think breaking down the masculine/feminine dualism is another step in that direction as well.


Eh, I get the gist of what she is saying, but it is not insulting to be described as a “good mother.” Being able to extend love, support, and attention to another human being – marks of being a good mother – are qualities that are to be commended, not characterized as “vomit-worthy.”

Molly Blue Dawn

Again, everything is dependent on context. Any role that is forced on you arbitrarily can be sickening, even though it is a wonderful role for anyone who actually gets to choose it freely.


I believe Jessa’s condemnation was directed towards the historically patronizing (shaming) tone and soc/eco/pol marginalization behind the “good mother” description, not as ridicule of the power of birthing life and/or raising children.


Pretty deep stuff.


This is such good thinking! Much love for the Bookslut.

Margy cap

Agree with you totally, interesting thoughts.
Next line of thinking for Jessa Crispin –
What drive/planets causes some of us to break free from societies & their limits an create a new generation of exceptions of freedom and though that becomes the norm?

Mel C

Total genius!!! Love this 🙂 🙂 🙂


YES. Depth perception analyzer laser beams on, Jessa. Nice. A good reminder for keeping perspective, a dry kindling for fueling the awesome.

Sparkling Leo

Yes, feel the same. Context and free will and language interpretation.


Interesting synchronicity … I have my final exam tomorrow in sociology, which explores exactly what Jessa is banging on about – systemic disadvantage and the types of social processes and institutions that lead to that disadvantage. Of course the sociology books being aligned with S.C.I.E.N.C.E and all don’t include discussion on planetary energy as an influencing factor. Perhaps they should. Anyhoo … yes of course the way planetary energy is expressed will be dependent on the support structures and resources available to the individual experiencing the transit. From example, you could have every planet in the solar system engaged in… Read more »


and yeah [email protected]*K that noise about Cancerian women. With Sun Venus Cancer nobody picks me as one … I usually get Leo (it’s the hair) and the bombast of a 3rd house Leo Mercury.


Ha! me too – being picked as leo (((HAIR))) as well). But i betcha my moon, merc, mars, venus and uranus in 10th house leo can out-bombast your bombastic leo merc….. :-/ …not even i can deal with that. Though lately i’ve been told right out that i look scary and that i vibe scorp (not surprising with the shite-fest i’ve got goin on in Scorp 1st house, and pluto and mars setting off more shite fests every where. Lilith’s along for the ride too astride my pluto and venus – squaring my natal lilith …sweet lilith… I suppose that… Read more »


/i was at a concert tonight that featured a composition by Fanny Mendelssohn: Felix Mendelssohn’s sister. Yes, that Mendelssohn! Naturally being female and c19th, no way in hell was she going to get the chance to cop Composer as a career, so her music was always limited to Sunday shows at home with bro. Mozart’s sister (also a film of the same name), there are theories that some of his pieces were actually hers. We know about writers under pseudonyms etc but composers, a much more cliquey world… and so it goes, the talent left to rot because one owned… Read more »

gemini cat

Mystic has posted about Alma Mahler before – Gustav Mahler had her give up composing to marry him, then she left him and became a serial ‘muse’ to many successful artists/architects/novelists. I wonder how many of their ideas were hers?

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