Friday, February 6, 2009

Women CAN read maps, men just DON'T listen

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?

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Cheryl said...

I for one am excellent at reading maps! ALthough they must just be oriented in the direction I'm travelling in as I haven't mastered the art of facing one way and looking another. Reading upside down can be a little tricky but at least when i say "left" I know I mean "left" :-)

Kim Wildman said...

Unless I am reading a large cross-country map, I also usually find it best to have the map facing the same direction I am going.... That just makes prefect sense to me :-)

Gennaro said...

I alway thought that men learned to read maps well because we refused to ask for help when it's the obvious thing to do :)

Carrie said...

Hi Kim,

I'm so excited to have just found your blog. What an excellent post!

My husband often discredits my ability to read a map. (We have both read Men Don't Listen and Women Don't Read Maps). He uses it as an excuses every time. Low and behold, we got off course a few weekends ago and I was the one who got us home safely. I think that book has done more damage in discrediting female travelers than any other book out there. It's wonderful to see someone finally address the issue! Looking forward to reading more of your posts.

Kim Wildman said...

Hi Carrie. Thanks so much for stopping by. I'm glad you liked the post. Though, I have to amit that I was a little worried it might hit a nerve with some people.

Lara Dunston said...

Hi Kim

I'm with you on this one! Like you, I'm very adept at map reading, and also charting routes and creating itineraries. As a child I 'read' my Junior Jacaranda Atlas before bed, and when I travelled around Australia in a caravan with my family for 5 years, I marked out our journey on the Atlas, so I guess I started from a young age.

In my experience men are more hopeless than not when it comes to reading maps. I love Gennaro's comment!

However, I have to admit that one thing I am not very good at in Australia is estimating durations of journeys, because I had forgotten how many 30 and 40 zones there are here! People drive so slowly compared to Europe and the Middle East. But that's not a reflection of my map reading is it?!

I can't wait to see the results of your survey. And I'm looking forward to checking out that story!

P.S. Thanks for posting links to my posts about the bushfires at Much appreciated.

Vanessa said...

Haha! I love this post. I just found your blog today and I think its great! I am an avid traveler and an excellent map-reader also, and I think you hit the nail on the head with this. Every man I´ve traveled anywhere with (even short, local distances) has a horrible sense of direction and refuses to listen when I know where we are and how to get where we´re going.

Great posts! Keep it up!