This Mansplaining Hotline In Sweden Combats Workplace Sexism & It's Feminism Goals
Many of us have been fed up with the patriarchy for a long, long time, but here's some good news that'll give us hope for the future: There's a new mansplaining hotline in Sweden that people can call to report incidents of mansplaining at work and to receive tips on how to promote a more inclusive environment in the workplace. The hotline was launched on Monday by Unionen, a major trade union representing hundreds of thousands of Swedish employees. "The aim of our hotline is to increase awareness of discrimination and harassment at the workplace by encouraging discussion," writes Gabriel Wernstedt, a representative for Unionen, in an email to Bustle. Um, can we get one in the United States, too, please?
From now until Friday, Nov. 18 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. CET, workers can call the hotline, 08-504-15-500, and receive support from one of 20 men and women well-versed in gender studies and everyday sexism, according to Unionen. Issues to bring up during a call can range from feeling ignored during work meetings to having men talk over them to getting an insufficient amount of credit for a work project.
Chances are, most people have encountered a mansplainer in their everyday lives. You know, that guy who brags about how much he knows and literally goes on and on ( and on ) about a random topic that you're already well-versed in? Yep, that's a mansplainer. A concept first introduced by Rebecca Solnit in her essay "Men Explain Things To Me," the word itself — "mansplaining" — finally gave us a concrete term for a phenomenon so many of us have experienced: Men explaining things to a person which that person absolutely does not need explained. Typically the people on the receiving end are women, and the tone of mansplaining is always one of condescension.
Over the last couple of months, I have had men attempt to mansplain the following topics to me: U.S. Congress (it's comprised of the Senate and House of Representatives, and that's called a bicameral legislature — yes, I know), election polls, Hillary Clinton's political history, basic manners, and, oh, male privilege.
According to Wernstedt, the benefits of a more inclusive environment for employees include better working conditions and lower employee sick leave. "In the longer term, inclusive workplaces where all employees are taken seriously could lead to more efficient and innovative companies," Wernstedt says. And indeed, research supports this idea: A report released by the Peterson Institute for International Economics found that there was a link between the presence of women in corporate leadership positions "firm profitability." (Not to mention, inclusive workplaces also encourage men to learn to check their privilege and have greater respect for their peers overall.)
On Tuesday, Unionen posted a cartoon on its Instagram page that perfectly describes what a situation of mansplaining might look like. Here's the direct Swedish-to-English translation:
Man: If you open the browser, it's easier if you...
Woman: Sorry, I am actually coding!
Man: Oh, great! I have some thoughts on that, too.
To be clear, Unionen said in an official statement provided to Bustle by email about the hotline that it doesn't point fingers at all men or believe that all men are guilty of mansplaining. Rather, the goal of the hotline is to help raise concerns of gender inequality, promote equal employment opportunities and encourage people (both men and women) to speak up when they've experienced mansplaining either firsthand or witnessed it as a bystander.
The fact that another country now has a public hotline to address issues of mansplaining is both comforting and saddening; while it's nice to know it exists, and a positive step forward, the fact that it's necessary in the first place goes to show how big of a problem workplace sexism really is. So far, Unionen has received an overwhelming number of calls from both men and women that have exceeded the trade union's expectations, Wernstedt says.
"To achieve change, Unionen believes that it’s important to create awareness about how seemingly small things that we do or say, add up to a larger issue," said Unionen's statement. "Suppression techniques, such as mansplaining, are one such thing. It’s really about how we talk to and about each other."
Here are just a few real-world examples of hotline topics that Unionen has dealt with so far:
I have a client/colleague/boss/coworker who only turns to my male colleagues even when I am in charge. How do I deal with that?
My male colleague, who has the same role as I do, does not take as much responsibility. Nevertheless, I feel that he gets more cred. Should I talk to him or my boss?
I notice that my female colleague is being ignored by a man in our working group. What can I do to help in a situation like this?
I think this hotline is such a great step toward opening up what is often seen as an uncomfortable and unnecessary conversation about the power dynamics between genders. So what about the rest of us whose countries have yet to adopt a similar approach? "It is mainly for Swedish employees, but you can try calling it from abroad," Wernstedt said.
BRB, setting a "call hotline" reminder on my Google calendar now.
Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; courtesy of Unionen; Giphy (2)