Women who have things mansplained to them in the workplace can now report it to a dedicated hotline.
Unionen, Sweden’s largest union, is encouraging members to call up when male colleagues give them unsolicited lectures on things they already understand.
The organisation, which represents 600,000 private sector workers, launched the advice line on Monday and said it will be open from 10am to 4pm everyday for a week as part of a campaign to highlight and stamp out the insidious and damaging practice.
For those who might not be familiar with the modern portmanteau, the union defined mansplaining as when “a man explains something to a woman without being asked, particularly something which she might already know more about than the man”.
Unionen said the commonplace practice diminishes women, by making them appear less competent than they are.
A study by the American Psychological Association found that men “tend to overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women” and showed that “self-assurance in men grows with age”.
Unionen said the phone line, which will be staffed by a gender expert and a group of feminist politicians, comedians and scientists, is “about equality”.
“It is about putting your finger on the small everyday problems which become large when they stack up.”
When left unchecked, mansplaining can contribute to men earning more than women, and being promoted faster, the organisation said – “something most of us, regardless of sex, think is unfair and want to change”.
The hotline will advise upset and frustrated callers on what action they should take next, and aims to help them move on. But there are no set answers, instead the people staffing the line will have the freedom to say what they want, based on their own experiences.
Unsurprisingly, the initiative unleashed a flood of negative comments on Unionen’s Facebook page, particularly from men.
“How would women react if you used words like ‘old biddy chat’ or ‘female whining’? Equality can’t be won using negative invective, but should be built using mutual respect and partnership. But maybe I’m the only one who thinks so,” Daniel Bergman of Sundsvall wrote on their Facebook page.
Others, such as Jim Brännlund from Stockholm, were even blunter.
“Just what we need in society, more polarisation. And people wonder why right-wing populism is on the rise. You. Are. Retarded,” he wrote.
Others defended the campaign, however. Linda Landgren wrote:
“Good initiative. Judging by the comments, it seems quite a lot of men feel this is aimed at them, so it shows how much this kind of work is needed.”
Some said that while they would support a campaign against sexist behaviour, they thought that the references to mansplaining should be removed.
“Change the name of the event, ‘Mansplaining’ is incredibly sexist,” Fanny Uppenberg said.
But Unionen said it was important to look at historical, structural inequality in society.
“The campaign is not intended to single out or add debt to all men,” the organisation said in a statement. “The campaign aims to raise awareness among all of us, regardless of gender, about this phenomenon and hopefully begin a joint change. Everyone benefits that we visualise suppression techniques and talk about them.”
It added: “There is a structural problem built into the concept mansplaining that can not be ignored. The Union shares the analysis that mansplaining is more often performed by men and we believe it is important to talk about the problem on the basis of the analysis for us to bring about change.”
Unionen’s gender expert Peter Tai Christensen elaborated on this explanation.
“We all react differently to changes in society. Some of us develop and integrate while others of us consciously or unconsciously resists,” he said, in a statement. “Mansplaining can be interpreted as a reaction to the fact that traditional gender roles are being renegotiated.
“Mansplaining is maneuvering, tricks and suppression techniques designed to put women in their place and thereby consolidate or restore a privileged position.”
He said whether it was intentional, a form of “misguided benevolence”, or just a habit, ” the problem is basically that women are assumed to be less knowing, competent, important, or legitimate”.
“It is obviously not the case that all men expose women to mansplaining all the time. It would be an absurd assertion that lacks reality. But enough women are exposed to enough mansplaining for it to be a problem that needs to be highlighted, discussed and solved.”