Men call Sweden’s mansplain hotline for mansplaining tips

The trade union behind an anti-mansplaining campaign which attracted global headlines has told The Local how men have been calling the hotline.

Men call Sweden's mansplain hotline for mansplaining tips
A file photo of a man not mansplaining. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

The number was launched last week to allow female members of Unionen, which represents around 600,000 workers in Sweden, to report instances of male colleagues patronizingly explaining things to them (mansplaining).

There have been claims in Swedish media outlets that the line has been dominated by male callers, with one of the operators saying that most of her calls were men telling her why mansplaining was a bad term to use, how the campaign is bad, and how it should be run instead.

But a Unionen spokesperson insisted that was not the case, and that some of the men who called were actually looking for guidance on the subject.

“No. Our mansplaining campaign has attracted engagement from both women and men. Many women who rang in have felt that someone finally put into words a recurring experience in both their working and private lives,” Unionen spokesperson Gabriel Wernstedt told The Local.

“The men, for their part, have been both curious about a concept they were not aware of, and annoyed about a concept they see as discriminatory. Some men also wanted to get tips on how you can avoid mansplaining,” he added.

The hotline attracted a huge amount of international attention after The Local wrote about it in English a week ago, with the campaign subsequently covered by the likes of The Independent, The Guardian, The New York Times and CNN.

And Unionen’s Wernstedt said they didn’t expect the reaction:

“We knew of course that it would spark a debate, but never that it would go all the way to CNN, the BBC and the New York Times. The concept of mansplaining has a bit of an unexpected angle to it and provokes discussion. We think that’s good, that’s the point of the campaign. That the question takes on a life in the workplace.”

It has also been criticized however. Posters on the Unionen Facebook page argued that it is polarizing and negative, and even that using the term ‘mansplaining’ in the name is sexist in itself.

Unionen said the negative responses were unfortunate, and the campaign was not intended to make men feel guilty.

“Our goal has never been to single out or make all men guilty, but rather to raise awareness about the mansplaining phenomenon, harassment and discrimination in the workplace,” Wernstedt explained.

“Our purpose was to stimulate discussion in workplaces and and in society, and I think we have succeeded in that,” he concluded.