The term “mansplaining” has gained widespread currency in recent years, but there’s little to do about people who patronizingly lecture you in public or personal life—unless you’re Swedish. This week, Unionen, Sweden’s largest union, counting over 600,000 members, launched a new temporary service: a hotline that women and men can call to discuss patronizing remarks in the workplace.
The Mansplaining Akuten hotline opened on Nov. 13, and will accept calls until the end of the week. By the morning of Nov. 15, the line had already received 215 calls.
The service is open to anyone who feels they have been subjected to suppression techniques (strategies used by a dominant group to diminish the power of others) or are being unnecessarily patronized on the workplace. Twenty women and men experienced in dealing with suppression techniques—including researchers, athletes, comedians, cartoonist, writers, and rhetoric experts—are answering the calls.
Sweden ranks fourth in the world for gender equality, according to the World Economic Forum, but Unionen believes there is still progress to be made. “It’s important to create awareness about how seemingly small things that we do or say, add up to a larger issue,” Jennie Zetterström, a spokesperson for Unionen, told Quartz in an email. “Suppression techniques, such as mansplaining, are one such thing. It’s really about how we talk to and about each other.”
According to Zetterström, mansplaining behavior can be identified as follows:
- Men interrupt you;
- they repeat what you have already said;
- they explain things at length to you without you asking for their advice or help.
Prior to launching the initiative, the union published a blog post explaining what mansplaining meant, and looking into some reasons behind the phenomenon, including a discrepancy between men’s confidence and women.
The initiative has drawn some criticism. One Facebook commenter asked, “What do you offer to help to men who are victims of master suppression techniques from a woman at work?”
“Our intention has never been to point fingers or blame all men,” says Zetterström. “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.”