Saturday, December 05, 2020

Mapping Love

Fiona McGrath

The Power of Maps

November 15, 2018

Professor Sharon Albert

Mapping Love

Maps serve to guide us from Point A to Point B, they present logical and clear information to help guide us along our way and hopefully they don’t raise too many more questions than they answer.  As they attempt to explore and define the unknown, we attempt to better understand and navigate it.  Jo Lowrey’s somewhat unconventional 1960 maps do their best to compare and unpack the intricacies of love.  The maps come in a pair, the first titled: Geographical Guide to a Man’s Heart with Obstacles and Entrances Clearly Marked and the other is titled: Geographical Guide To A Woman’s Heart Emphasizing Points of Interest to a Romantic Traveler. Each map is in the shape of a heart constructed of different territories and quadrants which surround the center of the map.  At the center lies the Walled City of the Real Him and the Hidden City of the Real Her, respectively.  Before I dive further into the maps I want to take a moment to acknowledge that throughout this essay I will look at the differences and intricacies of love through the lens of a heterosexual relationship.  While I recognize that this essay is an addition to the already heteronormative culture that is present in much of the world today, I chose to write from this perspective because I am interpreting the essay and (the author’s point of view) through the lens of my experiences.  I believe that Lowrey’s maps are reflective of the idea that power dynamics between genders play a significant role in love.  This idea is highlighted by the maps’ similar construction which in turn showcases the differences between them.

The use of quadrants and entrances in both maps showcases the mapmakers claim that it is harder to reach the heart of a man than the heart of a woman.  There are multiple steps to reaching the city of either person, the first is making it into the heart.  This immediately becomes more challenging when attempting to enter the heart of a man.  While the woman’s heart features nine different and easily accessible entrances, the man boasts only six and includes a large spiked off section known as the Impenetrable Wall of Ego.  The man’s heart features twelve different sections compared to the woman’s six, thus making it harder to navigate.  This poses the problem that there are now some areas where a woman might think she is still in one territory when actually she might have quietly slipped into a whole new one without realizing.  Adding to the complexity of the difference in sections, there are multiple areas of the man’s heart which are completely blocked off.  Without seeing the map the woman might not realize they are there because she cannot see them and will then operate with an incomplete idea of what exists, thus adding to the complexity of the man’s heart in comparison to the woman’s which is less divided and generally more open. 

Additionally, evidence to support the claim that the mapmaker sees men as more guarded and powerful than women can be found in how their “cities” are preserved.  The man’s city is behind a wall which suggests something impenetrable and consciously place.  A wall is built intentionally and resources are invested in its construction and maintenance.  In contrast, the woman’s city is hidden behind a forest, something which grows naturally and often continues to develop unwatched.  While the placement of her city suggests that perhaps she did take care to place it out of sight, the city is still reachable by simply going through the forest.  In other words her city is guarded but can still be found by a determined visitor, suggesting that the man carries the power.  However I do not believe that the woman carries the power when traveling in the man’s heart.  The construction of his walls is impenetrable, she cannot go through it and would not be able to over it.  When it comes to the woman reaching the city, she must rely on the man to let down his walls.  In both hearts the man holds the power and while I do not necessarily believe that this is true in love today, I believe that this is the claim that Lowrey is trying to make.

By looking at the differences in the amount of quadrants and entrances in both the man and woman’s hearts and by observing the power struggle that exists as each tries to reach the others Walled/Hidden City, it is evident that Lowrey believes the hearts of men and women to be far more different from each other than they appear at first glance.  While the focus of this essay has been on the mapmakers intention and point of view, I think that it is interesting (and perhaps necessary) to note the ways in which the time that these maps were published factors into the mapmakers point of view.  While it is true that the 1960’s were a time of change, protest, and a lot of political unrest, it is also important to remember that the world that these maps were published into was a lot more rigid when it came to traditional gender roles within love and relationships.  It is impossible to ignore how the bias of the time period is expressed in Lowrey’s maps.  For example, one of the largest sections in the man’s heart is Territory of the Big Operator which features landmarks such as the River of the Good Provider and Peak of Prosperity.  In contrast, one of the woman’s largest sections is Mother Country which includes the River of the Good Homemaker and Children’s Corner.  It is also very true that the traditional gender roles of Provider and Homemaker have played a significant part in how we have seen power dynamics expressed throughout our analysis of these maps.

While these maps are captivating for a variety of reasons, I think that the power struggle we see represented is simultaneously a very clear sign of the times and somehow still a reminder of how close we still are to those dynamics today.  I suppose that in a way it is up for you as the reader to decide how relevant these maps remain, and how much weight we should place in the social roles that they depict.  I know that to me, as a young woman in the 21st century, it does seem critical to look at the ways in which we see gender roles represented in media both then and now.  How we view and present ourselves and other people has always been and continues to be indicative as to how the rest of the world will view them and it is our responsibility to hold and acknowledge the significance of our power as media consumers and creators.  After all of this reflection and diving into the author’s point of view and perspective, I know that I am more and more eager to consider what these maps would look like as done in a more modern setting and how Lowrey’s suggestion of power dynamics would play out.

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