The World As You Know It Is a Lie

Or rather, the map as you know it.

The Mercator projection (the most common map projection for global maps) was developed for a very specific use: to navigate between Europe and North America by ship. Its usage beyond that is misleading and racist.

All map projections are inherently inaccurate, because they are the result of reducing a 3 dimensional surface (the earth) to a 2 dimensional surface. Choosing which aspect(s) of the map one allows to be inaccurate is dependent on its usage.

In the case of the Mercator projection, it was designed to be used to navigate between Europe and North America. This means that it prioritizes accurately representing those two continents and the Atlantic Ocean.

This comes at the cost of inaccurately portraying everything else.

The Mercator projection underestimates the size and complexity of everywhere on earth that is not Europe or North America. This has direct and devastating impacts on society at large.

All maps are inherently distorted. However, using one projection that explicitly favors Europe and North America as the base template for “the world” almost universally reinforces implicit biases that these regions are larger or more complex than the rest of the world.

No map projection is perfect. But we can at least embrace projections that do not systematically reinforce white supremacist and colonialist idealism.

A note: a lot of writings on this topic deny that the Mercator projection is racist. That is technically true, in that it is a tool like any other. While it was not designed to be racist, its usage is racist nonetheless, and these debates of technicalities are beside the point.

Link to original thread here:

I am a disabled binary trans man who primarily writes about feminism, queer history, trans issues, science communication, healthy masculinity and public health.