Swedish union launches mansplaining hotline for women to report every "Well, actually..."

Source: Shutterstock
Source: Shutterstock

Historically, the eye roll has been women's first line of defense against everyday sexism. But a company in Sweden wants women to start sounding the alarm when they find themselves on the receiving end of say, a lengthy soliloquy on how the electoral college works. Or who Slavok Zizek is. Or how to ride a bike ... to an Olympic cyclist.

According to CNN, Unionen, a Swedish workers' union, has launched a "mansplaining hotline" women can call to report the worst offenders in their workplace. 

While Unionen won't be doling out any punishments to Sweden's mansplainers, the agency's employees are turning their callers' anecdotes into cartoon illustrations and posting them to Instagram to raise awareness about the persistent problem. 

Though each of the hundreds of women who've called the hotline so far have all had varying experiences, Unionen head of press Jennie Zetterstrom said there's been one clear theme to their stories.

"No matter what a woman says, a man always seems to know better," she told CNN. "While it can happen both ways, more women tend to be the victims of this presumption that women need men to explain them things."

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In an email to Mic, Zetterstrom explained that the hotline is just one part of a larger initiative to combat workplace sexism. She said she hopes the campaign results in some concrete ways people can transform interactions in professional environments for the better.

Indeed, many of the women who call are looking for practical advice. Zetterstrom said Unionen employees have fielded questions about things like how to speak up without coming off as "the bitchy feminist" and how to empower fellow female employees who are being systematically ignored by their male colleagues.

Though Zetterstrom called Sweden "well-advanced" when it comes to gender equality, she said mansplaining continues to represent a huge gap in equal treatment for women, including herself.

"I've gotten the 'Don't be such a good girl, relax!'" she said. "I think it diminishes my hard work, especially when the comment comes after the work is done and the male colleague even benefits from it." 

A few men have taken to feeling personally offended by Unionen's campaign, Zetterstrom said. But she said Unionen's intention was always to spark discussion, not point fingers.

"Of course it's regretful if someone feels offended, on the other hand, the lively debate shows that this is an important topic to discuss," she said. "Awareness and discussion is the first step towards change."

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Marie Solis

Marie is a Slay staff writer with focuses in culture and class. Her writing has appeared in Gothamist and the Awl. You can reach her at marie@mic.com.

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