“…they can’t read maps. Apparently that’s a woman thing”: Exploring gendered performances of everyday wayfinding

Miss Ainsley Hughes1

1University Of Newcastle, Newcastle, Australia


Recent feminist scholarship has pushed studies of mobile life to consider how gender relations and identities are tied to meanings of home, household, and economy (Pavolvskaya, Gerrard and Aure 2018) in both everyday contexts and across broader patterns of global migration. This is evidenced by a recent special issue in Gender, Place and Culture which focused on gender and (im)mobilities. This paper seeks to take research on gender and mobilities in a new direction by exploring gendered practices and politics of everyday wayfinding. Drawn from semi-structured interviews, the stories in this paper illustrate the perceptions of respondents about the skillfulness of women to navigate; perceptions which had affects for how women viewed themselves, their mobile performances, and dynamics of companionship and collaboration when moving with other people. Where some interviewees expressed that having poor navigational skills was simply “a woman thing”, other interviews revealed that recent developments in digital wayfinding technologies are empowering women to move in new ways. These gendered negotiations with feeling lost and found are important as they are intimately tied to the broader politics of mobile life, for how particular bodies come to know and move through space and place.


Ainsley Hughes is a PhD candidate at the University of Newcastle. She is broadly interested in mobilities, emotion and affect, and how mobile life might be changing in the face of rapid technological change.

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