Why can’t women read maps? Why can’t men shop?

Q: Why can’t men wring out dishcloths? I know all about why women can’t read maps and why men can’t shop (worried about my husband who loves shopping) and the fact that men can’t say sorry but … dishcloths is a burning question for me along with … why are the ladies loos always further away from the bar, hotel lounge (whatever) than the men’s?

Sent by Gwen Rhys via Email

Unfortunately you have fallen into the trap of selecting evidence to confirm the modern equivalent of old wives tales. In scientific research it’s called confirmation bias and is one of the pillars of dodgy science. Claiming that ‘women can’t read maps’ or that ‘men can’t shop’ is not only scientifically inaccurate, it is also blatantly sexist. Such stories are generally propagated in the popular media and are supposedly underpinned by poor interpretation of science, such as (in these cases) the concept of sex-determined left/right hemisphere dominance in the brain, and the traditional role of women as gatherers (while the men hunted) in the early days of homo sapiens. If I were to disprove any of your statements as scientific fact, all I’d have to do is find evidence that contradicts your claims. Your claim that your husband loves shopping is such an example, ergo your statement is scientifically unsound.

Answered by Daryl Ilbury

Like what Daryl has to say? Daryl is our Sceptic Guru and in Issue Ten (released 1st Feb 2013) he will be donning his toga and presenting some handy Latin terms to dazzle your friends and derail false arguments.

Article by Daryl Ilbury

December 5, 2012

Daryl Ilbury is a former multi award-winning broadcaster, now a science journalist and op-ed columnist based in South Africa. He has a Masters degree in Science Journalism from City University, London. You can see an archive of his work on his website www.darylilbury.com or follow him on Twitter at @darylilbury.


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