Forget Mars and Venus. Men are from the sun and women are from the moon.
I’m coming from an Astrological perspective, but so did John Gray.
I’m talking about archetypes, not actual people. Believe it or not, the world isn’t black-and-white. It’s made of shades of grey. Yes, I know, groundbreaking. Inconceivable to some, in today’s polarised world — but a truth doesn’t stop being true just ’cause people dislike it. So before you feel outraged at my post, try to consider what I just said. Every REAL person on planet Earth has a combination of both energies within: male and female, yin and yang, sun and moon, whatever you decide to call them. Some women have more “moon”, some men have more “sun”, a lot of non-binary people are balanced, but regardless, that doesn’t exclude the fact that both EXIST within EVERYONE. Even if it’s in unequal proportions. Got it?
Another thing to keep in mind: please try not to throw the baby away with the bathwater. Maybe you dislike Astrology because “the planets don’t actually affect us. That’s woo. Ridiculous!” — Okay, I hear you. This blog is atheist-friendly. But here’s the groundbreaking realisation: you don’t have to. You’re okay. Keep doing you and maybe skip this one.
I’ll be referring to “male” and “female” here as archetypes, not political identities. You can keep your political identity, you’re fine, I’m not coming after it. I’m simply talking about the theoretical extremes in a binary in order to better understand the real life iterations of it (and outside it too), which are made of shades of grey in between (aka, you and I, for example). I won’t take kindly to aggressiveness from people who won’t even TRY to understand where I’m coming from, so be warned and behave.
So, why do I think a Mars/Venus binary is wrong?
Simple: because in Astrology, Mars and Venus are not a binary. Yes, I know, it’s not only Astrology that deals with gender philosophy, but again I’ll repeat: I’m refuting a book I first read a long time ago and only now I’m feeling mature enough to argue against. In the book, the author used Astrology. It’s only logical that I drink from the same fountain, so to speak, in order to show you the fault I see in his conclusion. Of course both his words and mine are speculative, so feel free to read both and draw your own conclusion.
Some will say, “but Meron, you’re crazy. Even the symbols for male and female imply Mars and Venus” — to which I’ll argue that “the Ancient Greek never intended for that to happen, so it’s your problem”. These symbols were first used in Astrology, not gender theory. There is zero evidence of them representing “male” or “female” in Ancient sources. They just meant Mars and Venus. Somewhere along the line, people started using them for male and female, but it certainly wasn’t the original creators of those symbols. You know the saying, habit and repetition doesn’t necessarily make something true. Sometimes, the majority is wrong, and has been wrong for a shitload of generations — but that doesn’t suddenly make them right.
“Oh, but Ares is a man and Aphrodite is a woman” — yes, so what? Zeus/Jupiter is a man, shall we start referring to all men as ♃? I hope you get what I mean. A correlation isn’t always causation.
Anyway, back on topic: Mars and Venus are not a binary. Where did I take that one from?
If you’re into Astrology and understand the basics, I bet you’ve heard of oppositions. But in case you still haven’t, fear not: an Astrological opposition is essentially an aspect where two planets (or objects, we don’t only study planets) are on opposite sides of the sky as seen from Earth (because we need a neutral point of reference, don’t we. Ours is planet Earth). So according to the more mystical and less scientific part of Astrology, they’d be on opposite signs.
Signs are important because they stay where they are forever, they’re “areas” of outer space we have mapped out. Planets can move between them all the time (although different systems disagree. Vedic Aries is not the same as Greek Aries, but they don’t change anyway). So two opposite signs (say, Aries and Libra) will forever be in opposition. Whatever lands on one of them is in opposition to what lands on the other at a given moment. I think that’s clear enough, isn’t it? But that’s not the full story. Here comes the fun bit:
Each planet or object “feels comfortable” in a specific sign, hence we say they rule that sign. (According to woo, but again, there’s philosophy in it, don’t throw the baby away with the bathwater).
For example, Venus rules Taurus and Mars rules Scorpio. Since all Earth signs are considered feminine, at first sight it looks logical that Venus would feel comfortable in a feminine sign. However… Let’s look at its opposite. What element is Scorpio? Water. Is water masculine? Hm, no. It’s feminine, just like the opposite. I don’t make the rules.
To complicate things even more, we’re not done yet. Venus also rules Libra, a masculine sign (because it’s air); and Mars also rules Aries, another “man” on the chart (because it’s fire). Can you see what I mean? Venus is pretty happy outside femininity, and believe it or not, Mars can be “a woman”. Both rule the two genders, therefore gender is not important in this relationship.
Venus and Mars can and often do represent an opposition… But they can’t be a binary. Oppositions and binaries are not the same. When you see a binary, don’t be assuming it’s made of “opposites” (I told you there was philosophy).
Regardless of my point, however, there IS merit to Gray’s initial conclusion. If there wasn’t, his book wouldn’t resonate with so many people! So I’m by no means saying it’s stupid or worthless or whatever. In fact, I enjoyed it when I first read it, and I still enjoy it. I think it makes a point in case for femininity being associated with Venusian qualities, and masculinity with Martial ones — but I’d argue that although it’s true, this truth isn’t coming from “nature”. It’s coming from how women and men are socialised to behave, rather than what they are ACTUALLY hard-wired to do.
It goes to show the rampant sexism in our society, and the arbitrary taboos we force down everyone’s throats about what they “should” or “shouldn’t” do because of gender. So, yes, from that lens, Mars and Venus describe it perfectly. It’s the opposition we idealise as a society for a gender binary — but it could be very far from the pure, unbiased, truth.
I don’t KNOW the pure unbiased truth. I’m simply striving to reach it with whatever tools I have. And today, that’s mysticism. On that note:
Not all planets rule two signs. Can you name the exceptions?
The sun rules Leo; the moon rules Cancer. That’s it, period. And yes, I know, they aren’t planets, they’re objects in a more general sense — don’t be pedantic. They still play a central role in a chart.
In fact, let’s talk about how they’re not planets. The sun is a star, our moon a satellite; And all other objects in your chart that are equally important to sun and moon are planets. That’s true in Classical Astrology, but it can also be true with the more recent discoveries (Neptune, Uranus, Pluto). Interesting, huh? So let’s recap: sun and moon are exceptions in the sense that they aren’t really planets (and there’s no way the Ancients could know that because they didn’t have modern technology), BUT they’re also exceptions in the sense they only rule one sign each (and that’s something that DOES come from Ancient sources), so even without our technology, they already did acknowledge that sun and moon are different from everything else they saw in the sky. It makes you wonder… But I digress.
Leo (fire) is masculine; Cancer (water) is feminine. That means the sun (the archetype, I mean) is only ever comfortable with masculinity; And the same is true for the moon with femininity. Hence men are from the sun, women from the moon. I rest my case.
Mythology can give us further insight into “male” and “female” archetypes.
Specifically, Greek mythology — although I’m pretty sure male sun and female moon also appear in many, many other traditions; often very far away from each other. So maybe all these traditions worldwide are on to something. Anyway, Greek mythology is where I’m at, so I’ll focus on it.
As you probably already know, each object in the solar system received its name from Classical gods — Roman, to be more specific, but drawing a very heavy influence from earlier Greek myths and legends. Some of them were already present in Astrological theory which survived from Ancient times, so we simply adopted them in modern Astronomy as well. Other planets were “baptised” upon their discovery, following the same Classical god theme, because… Why not.
Hence, there are myths you can read if you’re curious enough to search these planet names. I’ll focus on sun and moon here. Which deities come up? Why, Apollon and Artemis, some will say. That is… Not wrong? But it’s not the full story.
You see, in Greek mythology, when you think of planet archetypes, you’re thinking of the Olympians — or some of them anyway. Zeus is Jupiter, Aphrodite is Venus, Hermes is Mercury, you get the gist. These are undoubtedly the most “popular” Greek deities, because they directly interact with humans in myth (and it is believed they are the gods we can directly talk to in Hellenism, if you’re into it). However, other more distant and perhaps more powerful gods exist in Greek sources as well. They’re just less known.
Among these less known deities, you can count the titans. That is where you’ll find personifications of sun and moon — namely Helios and Selene. This is very important to mention here, because again, there are no titans representing other planet archetypes. If you look them up, they tend to be associated with bigger and more abstract ideas: Gaia is “the earth/ground” (only on our planet? Or on every planet? Who knows…), Uranus is “the sky” (only the one we see from here? or outer space entirely? Who knows…), Rhea is “moderhood”, Chronus is “time”, etc. They all seem to encompass but surpass the solar system because they remain valid outside it; Except… you guessed it, sun and moon. Helios and Selene. So… What does that imply?
This is speculative, but if I were to take an educated guess, I think it implies they represent gender extremes. And as such, they’re present everywhere you see life; not only, necessarily, on Earth. It’s just their symbols, their representation so to speak, that is contained within the solar system — sun and moon — but they’re so much more than that, and so much OLDER than that.
Apollon and Artemis were “born” on planet Earth, according to myth, perhaps as a representation of solar and lunar influence on us, keeping to the Olympian paradigm of “direct communication” with human beings… But that doesn’t mean they personify these forces. In a way, there’s beauty in that realisation, because it implies that male and female are primordial; they were a thing before our very planet or system even existed. So why limit the entire concept of [natural, polarity-driven] gender to “younger” gods like the Olympians?
Yes, it IS necessary to call it “gender” and not “sex”. Here’s why.
Remember what I said in the beginning? Both exist within us. Nobody is extremely male or female because that’s simply impossible. In fact, if extremes existed IN NATURE (and this is going beyond just “human beings”), there would be no communication, no relatability, between them. Even when you’re feeling annoyed at someone’s feminine or masculine nonsense (yes there’s toxicity in both sides), what you’re doing is projecting onto the other person something you suppress within. It’s not my opinion, it’s a scientific fact. Psychology is a science, after all. There’s no way one can be ANNOYED at the complete unknown; it can make you afraid, but not annoyed. You’re only capable of annoyance (and rejection) against the known — something that already feels familiar to you but is just perhaps uncomfortable.
After all, let’s face it: nobody hates (in the sense of “wanting to rid the world of”) penises or vulvas. There’s no animosity, no emotion, in realising that specific genitals exist in specific ways. They aren’t alluring or intimidating to us in and of themselves, they simply exist in the same exact manner lungs and kidneys exist (or would you prefer a sex toy over a real entire person to fall in love with? Would you have a relationship crisis and argument with a sex toy? I think not). What people sometimes hate is gendered behaviours that feel familiar, yet not completely understandable, to them. That’s what creates conflict and animosity; not the concrete physical organs by which gender is sometimes defined. And this is an objective fact, whether or not you’re comfortable with the concept of trans or non-binary (We’re not even discussing that here, I’m just acknowledging that a lot of people steer towards that when we speak of “gender different than sex” — as if it wasn’t just, ya know, good old boring science).
Archetypally (and more on the verge of mysticism perhaps), sun and moon aren’t “just genitals” either. Even if you run with the metaphor of moon receiving sunlight like women receive men (I’m trying to keep this family friendly, and probably failing, lol), you can’t deny the fact that our moon isn’t simply there to “shine pretty in the sky”. She controls the tides. She helps us keep track of time with more precision than the sun does (ask any Scandinavian or South Pole dweller); She influences animal behaviour in ways not yet completely understood, among other super important functions; She moves around our planet instead of just passively sitting somewhere. You can’t deny there’s agency in that. You can’t say the moon is passive (or worse, submissive) because that’s not only bigotry but also scientifically false.
The same applies to the sun; it isn’t just there to provide for the moon. There’s an entire planet in between. More than one, in fact. The sun provides fire, warmth, ultimately life, and it does so chaotically. It’s not meticulous like “oh, today I’ll only shine on the moon, because the moon is my woman”. No. It affects everything on its way, without a care as to who it is or what gender predominates on it. (Hence the logic in saying both Helios and Apollon are bisexual. But I digress).
If gender was as simple as “just genitals”, its only purpose would be reproduction and child-rearing, but we know it’s not. It’s a behavioral spectrum that allows living beings to relate to each other and their environment, even outside the context of mating. That in itself implies some overlap between the two extremes. Sorry to disappoint the radicalists and the dogmatic crowds out there.
Opposites or not?
Perhaps the most annoying thing when it comes to stereotypes of sun and moon is the fact people think they’re “opposites”. No, they aren’t. They never were opposites. They’re twins, like Apollon and Artemis / Helios and Selene; like Cancer and Leo, coming one after the other in Astrology; like so many other analogies in other cultural myths that also point to them being twins. They’re two energies within us which we can choose to feed or starve at any given time (or ideally, ya know, choose more wisely and keep both alive for different occasions).
People just choose to believe the lie that they’re “opposites” because that’s comfortable. It gives you an excuse for not getting in touch with your feminine or masculine side when the other is in your comfort zone; It prevents you from growing, learning, exercising empathy, or even being efficient in life. I mean, let’s face it, not all situations call for a sun-like chaotic directness overlooking details, and likewise, not all situations can be dealt with on a very lunar perfectionist, exact, and indirect approach.
You can criticise femininity for the tribalism and cliqueish attitude it creates… But sooner or later you’ll need it, because we all need to belong and have a safe place. You can criticise masculinity for its lack of sensititivy or care… until you’re dealing with a war, or a disaster, or an emergency, and suddenly you need to BE the choleric dictator you were hating on five minutes before. My point is maybe you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you, even if you don’t fully identify with it.
Some men think their masculine status will be taken away from them if they dare deviating from a societal norm, and some women love ostracising masculine behaviour among them even when it’s actually needed — because, you guessed it, somehow that’s threatening “femininity”. No, it’s not. In both cases, a pursuit of balance and discernment will only ever threaten extremism. But then again, some people hold extremism very dear to their hearts and will lash out at anyone who differs.
Whatever your opinion on this topic, know that a lot of what I’m bringing to the table is based on a mix of facts and tradition — which is to say, I didn’t take it “oot me arse”. All I ask is don’t take the baby away with the bathwater, although there is much still to explore and investigate.