It’s funny isn’t it, how women are considered to be poor map readers?
I’ve often wondered about the stereotype as I’ve never had a particular problem. I tend to be the family navigator, which is unsurprising really, I was a Brownie, and a Girl Guide, both of which have always promoted self-sufficiency and outdoor skills. I was never told girls have a problem reading maps.
I excelled at Geography at both GCSE and A-Level, grasping concepts quickly and able to apply them to the local terrain. I studied Geology at University, which involved a 30-day solo mapping module, over which time I mapped 15 sq km of land.
After graduation, I gained a job in a Local Authority, scouring the area for certain features, I learned how to populate maps from written documents and wielded computer mapping packages (GIS) programs with skill and ease. I enjoyed the challenge of creating a new map that gave a graphical representation of data that had been collected, to create a business case for a new service, or explain quickly where a certain issue had been spotted.
I pored for days over historical maps and aerial photographs looking for features that would provide clues as to previous land uses, and became expert at placing historical evidence in a contemporary context. I can give you a guided tour around my home town, describing the changes that have been made, based solely on maps I looked at over 15 years ago.
… and yet….
I had some interesting feedback on my previous post on female erasure, which included the name Marie Tharp, who, bizarrely, I’d first come across in a cloth nappy context, when she was featured in a special edition nappy by Bumgenius.
Now, to be totally honest, I’d not really paid her much mind. She’s described as a geologist and oceanographer, and oceanography has never really been a passion of mine. But she’s a namesake and a geologist, so I bought the nappy.
So, having been suitably reminded of Tharp, I decided to look into her in more detail. As I read more, embarrassment that I’d paid her no mind, turned to fury as I realised that she’d *somehow* been missed from my reading list. I don’t recall her name being mentioned in our cartography lecturers (one of my lecturers was a cartographer, so we all got a through schooling in the subject – it’s quite important to be able to tell people where you found your rocks).