You can read an introduction to the light & shadow series and find links to its other installments >> here! If you aren’t yet familiar with my interpretation of the cards in discussion you might want to read up on their meanings before you continue with this article.
The Men and Women cards play an exceptional role in the Lenormand deck: They are used almost exclusively as person cards – as representatives of people. The cards themselves carry no attributes; they are like naked mannequins, like templates, place holders for the actual people they represent. For this reason it is a bit difficult to classify them as positive or negative cards; the classification doesn’t make a whole lot of sense in most ways. When not used as representatives of persons, the Women and Men can stand for whatever the querent categorises as femaleness/maleness, feminity/masculinity – as all the biological realities and social norms and concepts and even places and activities assigned to the male and female gender respectively. That’s where the Light & Shadow article about them will become slightly more interesting. But still: the Men and Women are neither very suitable nor fruitful candidates for this series.
As the representatives of persons, the Women and Men will often appear quite neutral, at least by themselves. Their positiveness/negativeness will be mostly determined by their position in the spread, their positioning towards each other and towards specific cards (like the Heart), and by neighbouring cards – for it’s those that define them more closely in the concrete reading. But especially if they turn up in the reading by chance (and not by default, as they would in a Grand Tableau), their presence alone is significant and will feel positive or negative depending mostly on whether your relationship with the persons they represent is healthy or unhealthy. The healthier and happier the relationship, the more positive the card’s presence will feel; the unhealthier and unhappier the relationship, the more negative the card’s precence will seem. But even if you have a very negative relationship with the person, and are thus at first annoyed that the card turned up, its presence in your reading could still lead to something productive. It might help you think about the reasons for the negativity, maybe reconsider at least some of it, or you might be able to open yourself up enough to figure out how you could make the relationship with them better (or, how to end it).
As the representatives of maleness/femaleness, and masculinity/femininity, the cards could point both at productive, positive goings-on, or at destructive, negative issues. Which will apply is difficult to describe free of context because what is considered female and male, what is perceived as feminine and masculine, differs so much not just between cultures but also between individuals of one culture, and because for an increasing number of people, there is a question mark over whether such a strict, binary division corresponds with reality much at all. So I’ll keep it pretty general.
Firstly, if the querent thinks that the strict, binary division of human beings into female/male, and of physical and character traits into feminine/masculine, doesn’t correspond with reality at all, or is at least much too narrow, too stereotypical to be useful, the cards very likely represent something negative and actually unhealthy to them: limitingly small, artificial boxes they (and everyone else) are being forced into by society; unrealistic and confining standards everyone is judged by even if they never agreed to partake in that particular competition.
If the querent has a very narrow view of what is masculine and feminine; if they think that men and women are fundamentally different and should be so; it is quite likely that the Men/Women will only represent positive issues if they relate to people of the “appropriate” gender. If for example the Man appears in a concrete reading to be describing a male person, the querent will likely see this as something positive. Afer all, the male person described by the Man is looking, and acting, just as he should; he’s appropriately masculine, acting according to his nature (the querent believes).
If, however, the Man appears to be describing a female person, the querent will likely see this as something negative. A female person would in this case be showing male, or masculine, characteristics, and would thus be acting against her true (female) nature. As for productiveness: I personally would argue that such an overly strict, absolutely binary, naturalistic view of gender is in itself harmful, and that interpreting and using the Women/Men in that way can only lead to unproductive results, can only reinforce the querent’s biases.
However, there is a softer view of gender differences. According to this softer view, all character traits appear in both men and women, but in different degrees. Women and men are not fundamentally different, so to speak, but by nuance. In such a view, those character traits that are believed to appear to a greater degree or more often in women, are thought of as female/feminine, although it is acknowledged that they also appear in men – and that a man who lacks them completely is not healthy. Character traits that are believed to appear to a greater degree or more often in men, are thought of as male/masculine, although it is acknowledged that they also appear in women – and that a woman who lacks them completely is not healthy.
If this is the querent’s view on gender, the Men/Women can represent positive issues if the traits they stand for are in the context of the reading desired, productive traits – no matter whether the person they relate to is male or female. They will represent negative issues if the traits they stand for are in the context of the reading unproductive. For example, if the Woman relates to a person who gets angry very quickly, or who tends to play rough, the Woman suggests that a more “feminine” (a gentler, more lenient) approach would be beneficial. If, on the other hand, the Woman relates to a person who has often put themselves at a disadvantage by being too yielding, the Woman can be interpreted as a warning that this is happening again now, and that adopting this “feminine” approach (yielding to pressure) once more is likely to be unproductive this time around, too.