Swedish union launches 'mansplaining help line', gets accused of being sexist to men

Workers were invited to call the line to discuss gender inequality in the workplace, but now the scheme is accused of creating more

Swedish union launches 'mansplaining help line', gets accused of being sexist to men

[Twitter/SadDiego]

A helpline launched by one of Sweden’s largest trade unions, which invited female workers to call and details instances of ‘mansplaining’, has been met by calls on social media that the entire idea is sexist and demeaning towards men.

Unionen, a private-sector syndicate representing 600,000 Swedes, officially debuted the phone line on Monday, encouraging its members to ring whenever a male colleague ‘mansplains’ something, giving them unsolicited advice or explanations on matters and topics they already understand. From 10am to 4pm every day this week, feminist politicians, comedians, and scientists will man the phones, offering their own advice and sympathy to any callers.

In a statement issued on Monday, Unionen pointed to a study by the American Psychological Association that claims that men “tend to overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women.

“The study also shows that self-assurance in men grows with age,” the statement said, adding that it hoped the helpline would help all Unionen members “handle this kind of behaviour in your workplace.”

But the campaign has been met with criticism on the union’s Facebook page, with comments accusing the sexism-awareness scheme of being sexist towards men itself.

“How would women react if you used word like ‘old biddy chat’ or ‘female whining’?” wrote Daniel Bergman of Sundsvall in eastern Sweden. “Equality can’t be won using negative invective, but should be built using mutual respect and partnership. But maybe I’m the only one who thinks so.”

Others were less nuanced in their criticism, such as Stockholmer Jim Brännlund, who wrote: “Just what we need in society, more polarisation. And people wonder why right-wing populism is on the rise.”

Some comments did defend the helpline, with Linda Landgren posting: “Good initiative. Judging by the comments, it seems quite a lot of men feel this is aimed at them, so it shows how much this kind of work is needed. While others acknowledged that there was value in the project, but that the references to mansplaining could be problematic.

“Change the name of the event, ‘Mansplaining’ is incredibly sexist,” said Fanny Uppenberg.

Responding to the criticism, Unionen said that its members needed to examine all aspects of inequality, including structural and historical factors.

“The campaign is not intended to single out or add debt to all men,” a spokesperson said. “The campaign aims to raise awareness among all of us, regardless of gender, about this phenomenon and hopefully begin a joint change. Everyone benefits that we visualise suppression techniques and talk about them.”

Peter Tai Christensen, Unionen’s gender expert, added: “It is obviously not the case that all men expose women to mansplaining all the time. It would be an absurd assertion that lacks reality. But enough women are exposed to enough mansplaining for it to be a problem that needs to be highlighted, discussed and solved.”

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