Monday, August 11, 2008

On Tarot

cartofeminism: noun; the exploitation of playing cards and particularly Tarot, usually by post-menopausal "white" Western females with an abundance of animus-ity, to achieve allegedly feminist objectives, often by dishonest means.
Wow. What an interesting quote. I have time these days to beef up my Tarot study and I just came across this Tarotist and critic. I’m still sifting through his general ideas but so far what I’ve read is intriguing. I do love a good controversy.

If I’m understanding correctly, his contention is that Tarot is being ruined by ‘carto-feminists’, Tarotists with a shrill anti-male agenda. He does tend to generalize rather harshly. Many of the readers I've met are entirely responsible and open-minded. But parts of it do echo my own vague discomfort with some aspects of Tarot literature.

What initially drew me to the Tarot was the lovely harmony I saw between the masculine and feminine. I am not talking about Man / Woman. Yes, gender can come into a reading, of course it can. If you’re a heterosexual woman, we can read about the men in your life, right? Why wouldn’t we?

But when I talk about masculine and feminine aspects of a deck, I am talking about traits that anyone can have, regardless of gender. Ever met a woman who has masculine traits? Or a man with feminine interests? I’ve always felt a pull towards the masculine. Martial arts, good beer, super hero movies, knowing how to fix the plumbing, to list a few cliches. If I look at it as a masculine part of the world we all inhabit, as opposed to ‘a man’s world’ exclusively, then I can damn well participate as much as I please. Just like a daddy can fit into the decidedly feminine world of a little kids’ playgroup. We all have the capacity to nurture, to varying degrees, just like we all have the capacity to fight, when it comes down to it.

It all matters to Tarot. If you and I read the cards together, I can get a good read of which combination of the masculine and feminine makes you you. What is your reaction to the Hierophant, for example? Do you see a rigid, oppressive, male-dominated religious tradition? Or do you see the best characteristics of the wise, aged, old sage you aspire to be some day? Or do you see something else entirely, like a grandfather you loved? A teacher you hated?

The problem is that as student, I’m more likely to come across the ‘cartofeminist’ (for lack of a better term) definition of the card. The masculine cards are almost always defined negatively or assigned a bland, pseudo-feminine, non-threatening meaning. The feminine cards, like the Priestess, are treated with a kind of reverence. As in, the Priestess can do no wrong. The feminine inherently trumps the masculine. But that's not how I see the world. The world is masculine and feminine, capable of being both weakened and strengthened by each.

Frankly, it relies a lot on the art work, and yes, the art work can be problematic. If you see a man or woman in the card, it's hard to get past the literal interpretation. I think the image of the Pope in the Hierophant is misleading and loaded with negative meaning. As I've said, this can be a very positive card. This is why we readers chose our decks so carefully and why there are some decks I will never be comfortable with. I never want to push meaning onto my querent.

I see a blessing and a warning in every card. And I need the masculine as much as I need the feminine. They are both a part of me and both a part of my readings.

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Anonymous Mari ~ 10:38 AM

A lot of the Hinduism classes I took talk about the joining of Prakriti (female energy) and Parusa (male energy). One feeds into the other and without one, the other does not exist. Everything, from humans to rocks, contain both female and male energy - in some, one is more dominant than the other. I agree with this - some men are meant to be stay-at home parents while some women are meant to run companies...not everyone has to fit into a defining male or female role and I think our society tries to hard to define without allowing people to just be who they want to be.  

Anonymous Mary K. Greer ~ 2:55 PM

"cartofeminism: noun; the exploitation of playing cards and particularly Tarot, usually by post-menopausal "white" Western females with an abundance of animus-ity, to achieve allegedly feminist objectives, often by dishonest means."

Let's look at this "definition" more closely:

"exploitation of playing cards/Tarot" = I suppose he's referring to: "use (a situation or person) in an unfair or selfish way." So, what is jk's idea of using Tarot in a fair way? Perhaps he means using the Rider-Waite or Thoth deck only as indicated by the books of the creators. But, wait, didn't they themselves exploit the original Italian Tarot? Doesn't everyone exploit cards and Tarot in some way?

"post-menopausal" = he doesn't seem to think much of older women! Is there something wrong with being post-menopausal? And, why assume that the creators of such decks as Motherpeace were then post-menopausal (though many of them certainly are now)?

"white Western" = why shouldn't white Westerners use a European cultural object?

"animus-ity" = derogatory name-calling, which could equally be said about jk's anger at cartofeminists.

"allegedly feminist" = sounds as if these supposedly 'post-menopausal' white women's views of feminism don't meet the criteria or approval of this white, male critic.

"often by dishonest means" = this is being disingenuous, when the likelihood is they've just done something this person disagrees with.

I think if you look at wikipedia's groundrules for fair, objective encyclopedia entries you'll find that this definition breaks every rule in the book.  

Blogger Working From Home Today ~ 3:01 PM

Thank you so much for your comment, Mary. I don't agree with him and I should have made it more clear. But I appreciate the chance to see the dark side of Tarot. It helps me set my own goal posts.  

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