I've just finished writing an article for MSN New Zealand titled Are men better travellers than women? (yes, a minefield I know, but I can't wait to see the reader comments on that one!), and one of the arguments that kept popping up time and again in my research against women was the old Women can't read maps chestnut.
While this notion has certainly been bandied around for as long as I can remember, it was made popular by Allan and Barbara Pease in their 2001 book, Men Don't Listen and Women Can't Read Maps. It was then given more credence by a report released by the University of Warwick in 2007 that claimed that women are apparently genetically predisposed to remain forever lost.
Really, I'd just like to say what a load of rubbish! I for one am very adept at reading maps (road maps, that is) and love nothing more than plotting a route and hitting the highway with a map close at hand. Perhaps it is because I've spent so many hours following and drawing up maps for the travel guidebooks I have worked on, but I pride myself on being able to get from A to B without getting lost. I've even, with my trusty map in hand, managed to have a fight with a GPS and been proven to be right (it's a long story).
Personally, I think it is more a case of men not listening to the women who are reading the maps. I have had this happen to me on several occasions while travelling for work, when in spite of the fact that I had a perfectly good map and was providing accurate directions to the destination I was seeking my male driver refused to listen to me and instead continually stopped to ask other men for directions. In one particular instance, the driver had blindly driven past the place we were trying to find, but rather than following my advice to turn around and go back he simply ignored me and continued on down the road in the wrong direction!
So what do you think? Can women read maps? Or are men, as the University of Warwick claims, genetically predisposed to be better travellers than women?