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A Most Un-Libra Libra

by Kylie T 11 months ago in gender roles

Redefining the cutesy star sign

When I was young, I was considered to be on the cusp between Libra and Scorpio. The perfect blend of sweet and spicy. Somewhere over the years, though, that definition changed just enough to see me kicked firmly back into full Libra.

Libra has never sat well on my skin. It feels too sweet, too cute. Too devoted to things that hold little to no interest for me.

According to those in the know, Libra is a sign devoted to love, charm and beauty, with a taste for pretty, expensive things and rampant intellectualism. Represented by scales, it is, unsurprisingly, a sign with a focus upon balance and harmony. Ideal careers for Libras include design and decorating roles, art criticism, and styling. When speaking of relationships, physical attractiveness is an ongoing concern- a Libra’s mate must be as pretty as the rest of their world. An aunt who was very, very enthusiastic about star signs told me, often, that Libras are charming, sweet, and wise enough to avoid such poor efforts as sarcasm and swearwords.

You should know I rolled my eyes a lot while typing that. I relate to nothing in that paragraph. And honestly, I don’t know any Libras who fit that particular mold (odd, given my family has two months where births are ridiculously common: February and October).

My head is the least harmonious place you’ll ever encounter, and I have never once been considered the pretty, sweet lil thing in social settings. Sarcasm and swearwords are the cornerstones of my linguistic prowess, and never more so than when someone tells me to be more ladylike and stop using them. I’m more likely to be described as snarky than charming, even if, in fairness I can charm my way out of trouble as needed. Well, I call it charming, but really, it’s more smoke and mirrors than charm, so it probably only counts if you take pity on my almighty lack of Libra traits.

I die a little inside whenever I’m forced to endure overly intellectual conversation. Oh, I will match wits and discuss the topics that matter (even if I’m more street brawler for truth than tweed wearing devil’s advocate). But those conversations concerned with sounding smart rather than solving problems are like nails dragged over chalkboards, except infinitely more boring.

I cannot afford to have expensive tastes, and frankly, I’m more likely to be found decorating my home with cheesy Halloween skulls than boutique, fluffy cushions, so I doubt I’d be in high demand as a decorator. And though apparently in some spaces this is enough to get my girl card revoked, I don’t understand throw cushions. You have to move them constantly to sit down or go to bed. Why would anybody do that? It makes no sense. My ex-boyfriend has more throw cushions than I do.

Don’t get me wrong, when it comes to people pleasing and indecision, I go above and beyond and can put other Libras to shame. But beyond that, my star sign has always felt like an ill-fitting suit at a formal event.

Scorpio, though?

Scorpio is ruled by Pluto, the planet (I for one refuse to demote a planet named for the god of death, so fight me, NASA) of destruction, and overseer of the chaos of transformation. That alone sings to my little emo soul like Gerard Way in corpse makeup. Like their scorpion namesake, the Scorpio wanders through life with a sting in their tail ready and waiting. They are pure ‘mess around and find out’ energy given human form and existential dread.

While Libra is focused on beauty and charm, Scorpio is all about the power and passion. Scorpio feels like perfectly applying winged eyeliner, pairing Docs™ with a cute little dress, and junk kicking any man who tells you you’d be cuter if you smiled more. Pro tip: work on developing a serial killer smile. Looking like you’re about to gleefully murder people makes them way less willing to demand you emote on command, possibly because they’ve realised they’re being irritating while in your easy reach.

That, right there? Reason #89743 I feel like I’m far more Scorpio than Libra. My idea of a fun conversation is dissecting the motivations of serial killers, or the overabundance of predators in the creative industries, not the artistic stylings of people who treated their art as masturbatory offerings to their own glory. I can eat hamburgers and look through crime scene and autopsy photos (allow me to add a hasty ‘crime writer, not serial killer’ addendum here), but ask me to watch a chick flick with the risk of cringe-factor, and watch me run away. Or devolve into ranting about the faux-feminism of the work- anything to stop me having to actually deal with that second-hand embarrassment.

I am, quite possibly, the most Un-Libra of Libras.

*

I’ve never been particularly good at fitting in to rigid gender ideals around being a girl. Even as a child, I fought hard against the notion of being girly. Girls, in most books and movies, sat around and waited for the boys to do things- boring! I was convinced I would be better than the boys around me at the sword fighting games they enjoyed- a point I proved rather well when I broke an old, meter long ruler by hitting a bully with it.

I was in my 30s before I could tolerate the colour pink, because in my childhood everyone expected me to love that one, typically feminine, colour. Rather than playing happy families with dolls, I decided Ken had cheated, and hung him from my wardrobe door handle for his sins. On Halloween one year, when my sister scared me and I fell, requiring a trip to the ER, all I remember is the absolute tantrum I threw, blood soaked and vicious, because the doctor wanted to give me pink stitches, and I refused to stop bleeding until those abominations were replaced with something else. Libra feels not only incredibly feminine coded, but like a home for all of those appropriately feminine hobbies and passions that I hated on principle.

As a semi-mature adult, I can see how rebelling against the gender norms that were forced upon me made me look down on elements of feminine-coded (but actually, not gender specific at all) life that I actually enjoy. But still, I can’t help the ripple of unease about who a Libra should typically be.

Thanks, patriarchy. You’ve ruined a perfectly good star sign.

From that perspective, it makes sense that I can’t help but be drawn to Scorpio, the sign that focuses more upon power than prettiness. But the problem is that there is power in prettiness. One of my favourite Marvel MCU characters, the Black Widow (played by Scarlet Johansson) takes all that coded femininity and bludgeons her enemies with it. Same with Peggy Carter (played by Hayley Atwell). Both these characters take those preconceived notions around being pretty and feminine and exploit them mercilessly to reach their goals.

In ‘The Avengers’, the Widow is introduced while handcuffed to a chair for an interrogation. She is beautiful, and dressed to impress in a little black dress, her red hair loose and lightly curled. While the three men surrounding her bluster and demand information, she remains docile, almost meek. She seems happily surprised to hear herself called pretty. And yet, when Coulson calls, she tells him, clearly frustrated, “I’m in the middle of an interrogation. This moron is telling me everything.” Moments later, she subdues two bodyguards and a military officer, while for the most part still being handcuffed to the chair. In one 3-minute scene, she makes it clear that underestimating her because she’s an attractive woman is hazardous to your health. Further in the movie, she uses the same approach, successfully tricking the trickster god, Loki. She plays a god known as the liesmith so flawlessly he is visibly baffled when she reveals her ploy.

She cultivates assumptions simply so she can sharpen them into knives and attack using the weapons constantly being used against her.

In ‘Captain America’, Peggy Carter strides into scene, not even getting through her introduction before a cadet interrupts her in the sort of banal dominance display every woman has had inflicted upon her at one time or another. In this moment, she is a superior officer being backtalked by a cadet, not only so he can put a woman ‘back in her place’ and show off to the guys, but also, creepily if unsurprisingly, in an awkward attempt at flirtation.

Calmly, she tells him to step forward. Then to put his right leg forward. And as he, again, launches into banality, she punches him hard enough he hits the dirt. Of course, she’s caught in the act by her own superior officer, and the plot advances. But as Colonel Phillips steals the limelight, you can see Peggy in the background, looking about as smug as an avenging goddess should be.

Prettiness is camouflage. When the world sees cuteness, prettiness, or anything that’s coded as feminine, they assume weakness. The pretty ones are dismissed as just another pretty face.

Heddy Lamar, remembered as a pretty actress, helped develop early torpedo guidance.

Audrey Hepburn risked her life supporting the resistance during WWII, and spent the later years of her life working tirelessly with UNICEF. She’s most often remembered for her beautiful face.

Being forced to undress before being murdered in Nazi gas chambers, Franceska Mann used the moment to distract an SS officer, kill him with his own gun, and attempt escape.

History is overflowing with pretty women whose contributions are forgotten to better focus on their beauty. It’s something that urgently needs to change. And yet, while we work to drag humanity into the ability to see women as complex and worthy beyond their appearance, there is certainly honour in exploiting the weaknesses and biases created and wielding sexist (and racist, and ableist, and homophobic, and, and, and…) stereotypes the way Harley Quinn wields a baseball bat.

This is the power of Libra, I think. The ability to take all the preconceived notions and weaponise them. To make beauty more than something seen as vapid or silly. To take those things you love but the world calls frivolous, and make them something to be respected or destroyed by.

I’ve always been more interested in the messier sorts of power. Give me Mulan, grabbing a sword and getting things done. Give me Merida winning her own hand in marriage in defiance of falling in line behind the plans of adults. That ability to find the beauty in the rebellion is a very Libra trait. And really, while Scorpio rocks the sting in the tail aesthetic, there’s something equally beautiful in that power being hidden flawlessly behind particularly cunning distractions.

It’s taken me far too long to realise that Libra is just as badass as Scorpio. And, even better, gives me way more scope to kick ass and take names without anyone seeing it coming.

gender roles

Kylie T

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