Ah, Sweden. The nation admired the world over for its progressive social programs (and, of course, for bringing us IKEA and ABBA) is back at it again—this time in the form of a "mansplaining hotline". The hotline was rolled out last Monday as part of a week-long effort by Unionen, Sweden’s largest union of white-collar workers, to raise awareness of the issue. Unionen members were encouraged to call between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. to report instances of mansplaining, ask for advice and support, and to generally vent their frustrations. The team on call included 20 “gender experts, authors, academics and others,” according to Jennie Zetterström, a Unionen spokesperson.
And call they have. NBC reports that women used the hotline as an opportunity to report all kinds of instances of workplace sexism, from being ignored or talked over by male bosses and coworkers, to being excluded from informal social events, such as lunches. Both male and female callers wanted advice on how to confront these behaviors.
Additionally, male callers wanted to know how to avoid mansplaining. Christina Knight, a Unionen volunteer, told NBC that the advice she offered concerned men was simply to “[listen] and [ask] questions before you sort of go on ‘autopilot’ and just assume that you know more and have to explain things to a woman."
Unfortunately (to no one’s surprise, I might add), plenty of disgruntled men have taken to Unionen’s Facebook page to decry the hotline, mainly to the tune of #NotAllMen. There were also “men are the real victims here!”-style complaints: "What do you offer to help men who are victims of master suppression techniques from a woman at work?", one Facebook commenter wanted to know. Perhaps this is a fault of the translation, but “master suppression techniques” sounds waaay too ominous for the situation at hand. (I mean, I suppose it’s possible that Ursula the Sea Witch is this guy’s supervisor, in which case — where do you work and how do I apply??)
Clearly, mansplaining is something that’s gonna take a lot longer than one week to solve — but it’s heartening that Unionen has taken the initiative to start that much-needed conversation. Too often, victims of workplace sexism are gaslighted into believing that their experiences aren’t valid. By setting up this hotline, Unionen is letting members know that mansplaining is indeed a real phenomenon and that it needs to be addressed.
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