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It’s easy to feel like the rights of marginalised people were flushed down the toilet with last week’s election of you-know-who.
So I’m pleased to present a piece of good news from Sweden where a union has put in place a fantastic service for female workers that could easily be replicated elsewhere.
Mansplaining: you’ll know it if you’ve experienced it. A man over-explaining something to a woman who already knows perfectly well what he’s talking about.
A study by the American Psychological Association found that men “tend to overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women”, and this regularly plays out in the workplace where men – already more likely to hold positions of power – lord their presumed intelligence over their often equally-intelligent female counterparts.
In some cases, a man will explain a concept to a woman who is already an expert in the field. Ignorance will not stand in the way of a dedicated mansplainer. Here, arrogance prevails.
The most brilliant example of mansplaining may have been a Twitter exchange in August between Dr. Katherine Mack and self-described “Texan conservative activist” Gary P. Jackson.
When Mack tweeted: “Honestly climate change scares the heck out of me and it makes me so sad to see what we’re losing because of it,” mansplainer Jackson responded with an incredibly ill-advised attempt to explain science to a scientist:
“Maybe you should learn some actual SCIENCE then, and stop listening to the criminals pushing the #GlobalWarming SCAM!”
Mack’s dry response was what mansplainers everywhere need to hear: “I dunno, man, I already went and got a PhD in astrophysics. Seems like more than that would be overkill at this point.”
At moments like this we can laugh right along with Dr. Mack. But in situations where the mansplainer is also the employer, female staff can feel obliged to go along with the explanation, smiling away politely and gritting their teeth as they’re told about something they already know plenty about.
But help is on the way: a Swedish union has launched a hotline for female workers to report cases of incessant mansplaining in the workplace.
Unionen, which represents 600,000 Swedish workers, has invited female politicians, comedians and scientists to work the hotline, offering support to callers reporting incidents of condescension. People of any gender are welcome to call in with concerns.
The decision has already faced plenty of backlash online since it launched on Friday, with critics calling the hotline sexist and polarising.
But surely drawing attention to the issue is exactly what the union wanted. Whether you think a mansplaining hotline is sexist or not, it’s certainly got people talking about gender equality and oppression.
No further explanation required.
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