Are There Such Places As “Women Destinations”?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

I just finished reading an interview with Susan Van Allen about her new book, 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go To, the second installment in the “100 Places Every Woman Should Go To” series. Van Allen describes Italy as a woman’s haven, where they can “feel at home” because they are, essentially, worshiped by men. For this reason, she created this book to recommend places visit based on “sites and artworks that glorified the female.” From Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s apartment in Florence to Peggy Guggenheim’s museum, she chose places where women can connect with a monument or piece of art on the most basic level: being a woman.

However, although I think it is great that there are more and more female travelers heading out on the road — some single, some in groups — I have some reservations about classifying destinations as gender specific. Perhaps men should be included in the title as they, too, should enjoy and appreciate the “glory” of women. (Of course this would likely cause some consternation with the publisher’s marketing department.)

Women shouldn’t need specific sites to feel empowered. Traveling, in and of itself, is empowering enough. However, thanks to Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert — author of Eat, Pray, Love — more and more women think it is necessary to find their femininity by going abroad. I don’t necessarily disagree that traveling allows someone to experience a sense of growth, but I don’t think this is limited to only women. Doesn’t that just widen the divide?

As a North American myself, I would personally find a butt-pinch a little offensive and not at all respectful. Even coming to Buenos Aires, where wolf-whistling and cat-calling are common practice, I find I have to bite my tongue. Nevertheless, I suppose for some women it is empowering to be fawned over. Personally, I prefer two-way streets. If the men can coo at the women, I only hope the ladies are reciprocating.

Anyways, the book seems interesting as an alternative to typical travel guides. I think for either sex, it could be an interesting read. (And on sale at Amazon for $12.89.)

By Brit Weaver


About the Author

Toronto born and based, Brit is an avid leisure cyclist, coffee drinker and under-a-tree park-ist. She often finds herself meandering foreign cities looking for street eats to nibble, trees to climb, a patch of grass to sit on, or a small bookstore to sift through. You can find her musing life on her personal blog,

  • Brit

    I'm glad to hear that men are able to pick up the book and use it all the same. Sounds like it has provided some insight for all on a country that seems to attract so many women.

  • Ciao there, from Susan Van Allen, Author of 100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go. Thanks for writing about this topic. It's true what you say–that traveling is empowering to both men and women–in Italy as well as destinations worldwide. With many great reviews coming in for "100 Places In Italy Every Woman Should Go," the only gripe is the title–as men are enjoying it too. I don't want Italy to be labeled as gender specific, I simply felt that this phenomenon of women being so attracted to this country should be explored–and what a joy it has been!

  • Carrie Thompson

    I am absolutely baffled by such things. I'm a woman and I've traveled to 35 countries, and I've visited most of them alone. Yes, little ole' me. I think giving women who do travel special props for going out in the big, scary world alone is just another type of discrimination. Why shouldn't a woman be perfectly capable of traveling alone?

    It sounds like this book is furthering the stereotype that Western women are promiscuous and should be treated as such. I've never found a country or location to be gender specific.

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