Did you know it’s Mercury Retrograde? To be honest, I wasn’t even sure what the term meant until I picked up my July issue of Cosmopolitan. The front cover featuring Aubrey Plaza was plastered with the usual teasers about sex, dating, and hair tips, yet also included the headline “Why This Mercury Retrograde Will Suck For Everyone But You.”
After skimming through dozens of adverts, I finally found the corresponding article. Mercury Retrograde is a time Cosmo describes as “when the hella-extra red planet will be doing The Most from July 7th through July 31st.” Essentially, it’s a period in astrology where all your chakras and star juju is out of whack, which astrologers take to be a bad omen.
While I’m used to the amusing horoscopes page tagged on to the comics and crosswords section of papers, I was a little surprised to see astrology “news” making the front cover of a large magazine. Not only that, Cosmopolitan hadn’t just assigned one little column to this event, they dedicated seven whole pages to astrology in their print magazine for July.
Apparently, I needed to know my skin horoscope and my regular horoscope. I needed to know what my Tinder matches sign was telling me about them. I needed to know about my past-life energy and a Cosmo writer who actually quit her job because her horoscope said it was a good idea. All extremely informative content according to Cosmo, none of which was written in jest.
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) July 11, 2019
I can’t quite pin down when astrology made a comeback, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a women’s magazine that doesn’t have an affinity for it as of late.
Broadly, which used to be an offshoot of VICE magazine, was supposedly dedicated to women’s empowerment and rights. The project has since been shut down and combined with VICE, yet a webpage remains with some of the archives and original subsections.
Included in the five featured sections is a uniquely bolded and stylized “Horoscopes” link. Once clicked it’ll reroute you to the routinely updated VICE horoscopes page, where you can indulge in hundreds of pieces all about how the stars or Pluto screwed up your life this week. (It totally wasn’t because you got wasted the night before that job interview.)
The other Broadly subjections included Power, Life, Culture, and Lore. Turns out the Lore section is also about astrology, amongst other wonderful, very real, very applicable life advice like “How To Use Tarot Cards To Find Out How 2019 Will Treat You.”
So, let’s get this straight, two of the five sections featured in a women’s empowerment magazine are about astrology and witchcraft?
This is not just two magazines either, this is an ongoing trend in women’s media. Allure magazine currently has a featured piece on Tarot readings and entire sections dedicated to astrology. FASHION devoted their whole homepage to Mercury Retrograde earlier this month. The trend of marketing astrology and, quite frankly, entertainment-based life advice for ladies is booming amongst the top women’s magazines.
Could this just be an overall trend for media though? Well, let’s take a look at some of the most prominent men’s magazines, like GQ. Not only does GQ not have a horoscopes section, but the last article they wrote mentioning the word “horoscope” was from 2014, and it’s one out of five total. Men’s Health has a single article with the word horoscope from 2013. Esquire, Maxim, and all the rest came back with practically blank search results as well.
We are aware in modern times that nothing that happens in the stars is going to impact your daily life short of our sun blowing up or a meteor hitting the earth. It’s obvious that someone being a Capricorn or a Virgo will not influence their patience, kindness, decency or dating abilities with different star signs.
There is no proof astrology has real-world consequences. It seems because of this, men’s magazines focused around life improvement don’t even bother entertaining the idea. They don’t want to give their readers baseless advice.
So why is it that women are treated as though we have lower intelligence, like we can’t understand this concept? Are we a joke to women’s magazines?
Some would argue this is all just for fun. It’s entertainment, and critics of astrology shouldn’t be so stuck up about it all. Ok then, where’s the disclaimer that says “haha, we’re just kidding”? Why am I reading featured articles about people genuinely quitting their jobs due to their horoscopes?
More importantly, if it is all a joke, why are we treating women’s life advice, career advice, and relationship advice as a joke at all? Many of the people reading magazines like Cosmopolitan are young, some are impressionable, and most are genuinely looking for guidance.
Do women’s magazines who tout feminist talking points have any responsibility at all to treat us like the adults and the intelligent individuals they claim we are?
It’s no question that cultural trends impact people. And mass cultural trends pushing women, but not men, into astrology takes women back into the category of juvenile thinkers that pre-1900s society would’ve labeled us as.
This isn’t to say abandon questions of spirituality, in general. However, there’s a reason theologians don’t spend much time on astrology in their classes of historical religion.
The Abrahamic faiths or Eastern belief systems have thousands of years of history and tradition behind them that are worthy of discussion, even the greatest non-religious thinkers find themselves analyzing parables and what we can learn from them.
Prayer, deeper thinking, and metaphysical questions on the eternal are all worthy subjects of discourse. If women have a particular inclination towards spiritual contemplation that magazines feel a need to satisfy, why not raise that conversation beyond “you shouldn’t hang out with Patricia because she’s a Capricorn.”
It’s immature thought, and even the way these articles are written tend to be juvenile. I could perhaps see the benefit of discussing historical astrology and the traditions it stemmed from, much like the faiths I mentioned previously. However, there’s no genuine thoughtfulness about this modern astrology trend.
My July Cosmo “skinscope” reads, “You’re making bank, yay! But you’re product hopping. Which is a no. It’s why you’re struggling with dry patches and chin breakouts.”
My skin has never looked better, and as for my wallet situation? A little precarious. I can hardly say these readings hold a light to all-encompassing lessons found within Christs Prodigal Son tale or ancient Buddhist parables.
Unfortunately, there are a few reasons this trend will continue to grow. Firstly, the top women’s magazines are looking to make money. They may feign interest in women’s empowerment every once in a while, but the bottom line is… they care about their bottom line. If they make more money and get more clicks by giving women bad advice, or even selling them straight nonsense like astrology, they will do it.
The second reason is a more tragic one especially when we consider how it’s being taken advantage of. Young women are genuinely looking for direction, we want a belief system and an explanation for the chaos that is modern life.
We are deep thinkers. We are longing for reason, yet we are being placated with silly explanations for complex times that don’t even remotely challenge our intellectual capabilities. It’s just fast food for the brain.
“Your week sucked because the stars weren’t aligned properly and the boy you went out with was a Gemini” may be a fun placeholder for an explanation, but it’s also hogwash. I happen to think women are capable of deeper thought.
I also happen to think anyone who is interested in elevating women in this world and empowering them should be strongly against cultural trends that try to push ladies into low-tier thinking.
Forget about man-spreading or mansplaining, if we want to elevate women then female writers and content creators need to respect their intelligence first. Like men’s magazines, we should stick to reality, or expand spiritual-based advice to genuine theological discourse. Only then can we elevate modern women beyond the celebrity gossip, makeup obsessed, astrology touting stereotypes used to make a mockery of us.