So a while back, I got some unsolicited feedback from a person I know in real life. This person had seen one of the illustrations I’d drawn for this blog, and she was incensed—absolutely incensed—that I would depict the planet Saturn as female. You see, Saturn is a very masculine planet. That’s a fact, apparently.
A lot of my thinking about planets—including my thinking on the gender identities of planets—was shaped by a book called Venus Revealed, by David Grinspoon. That book was my first serious introduction to planetary science. In a section titled “Men are from Venus, Women are from Mars,” Grinspoon has this to say:
At first I tried being completely gender-neutral in my writing, but this was unsatisfying because, to me, Venus is not just a “thing.” Venus is not, in my mind, inanimate, and so “Cousin It” will never do to describe him… or her.
In that same section, Grinspoon does a little cross-cultural analysis and finds that Venus has been “a real gender bender” across human cultures and human history. Sometimes she’s male; other times he’s female, depending on which mythological tradition you’re looking at. And some cultures have apparently assigned different genders to the Morning Star and Evening Star, thus effectively making Venus genderfluid.
So do planet’s have genders? No, of course not. But much like David Grinspoon, I can’t see the planets as purely inanimate objects. Planets have too much personality for that. And since I think of the planets as having personalities, then, for better or worse, I also think of them as having genders.
For purely arbitrary reasons, I tend to think of Saturn as female. But if you’d prefer to think of Saturn as male, or as something else entirely, that’s okay. I’m not going to fight you over it. I can love Saturn (and all the other planets, too) just the same, no matter what gender identities we pretend they have.
P.S.: While doing research for this post, I ended up reading a lot about how astrology assigns genders to planets (and also to numbers, elements, constellations, etc). I don’t want to dive too far down that particular rabbit hole, but I thought I should at least share this article on the subject. I used to think astrology was just silly. Now I think it’s problematic for reasons that go beyond mere pseudoscience.