As It Happens

As It Happens calls Sweden's 'mansplaining' hotline

A workers' union in Sweden ran a "mansplaining" hotline, which women could call to report patronizing explanations from their male co-workers. As It Happens host Carol Off dialled them up.
An exasperated woman cries for help on the phone. A workers' union in Sweden just finished running a "mansplaining" hotline, which women could call to report patronizing explanations from their male co-workers. (Fox Photos/Getty Images)

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You've tried to ignore them. You've tried saying, "Mmm-hmm" and reminding them, "Brilliant, but I actually wrote my PhD thesis on that." Your eyes really can't roll back any further. Now, thankfully, Sweden has introduced a new tool in the ongoing fight against mansplanation.

Last week, a Swedish workers' union opened up a hotline you can use to report an incident of "mansplaining" — when a patronizing man explains something to a woman, ignoring the likelihood that she already knows more than he does about the subject. 
The call-in campaign just ended but As It Happens host Carol Off called the hotline on the final day. She spoke with stand-up comedian, mansplaining expert and sympathizer, Moa Svan. Here is part of their conversation.
Moa Svan is a stand-up comedian who was answering phones at the mansplaining hotline. (Jenny Carnborn)

Carol Off: What are some of the mansplaining events or incidents that women told you about this week?

Moa Svan: There was one woman who was studying philosophy. She didn't want to complain too much. She didn't want to actually go into that. She was more like — do you have any general advice? I think that's how a lot of people are. We don't want to complain. We don't want to talk about that this happened and I'm so upset. My advice was have a friend who helps you out and you help her out. You just sort of watch things happen together. When the class or the meeting is over you could just say everything: "Wasn't that really weird when he stole your idea and then everybody said it was his idea?" "Yeah! That was so weird." "Next time, what should we do?" "Maybe boost each other up instead, like yeah Maria your idea was great!" "No, your idea!"

We had generally a positive conversation. I think a lot of people want to be positive rather than complain. Especially women, because you know, nobody likes a girl complaining! [Laughs] We should be happy. But I think that's good actually — that's what makes us survive.

CO: But you know Moa, I'm no shrinking violet. I don't pull back from things. Do many women accept mansplaining or how often do they push back do you think?

MS: I do think we push back all the time. I just don't think we complain too much about it. A lot of us have strategies but maybe not consciously. Like, if someone steals our idea or tells us how things are we just be stubborn about it. I don't think we take it. I just don't think we even reflect on how often we deal with it. We rarely just point out like, "Hey! You stole my idea." I think we are so clever that we deal with it in so many ways. One of those ways is boosting other women and creating our own networks.

CO: There are some very famous cases of mansplaining. Men explaining the pain of childbirth. Men explaining menstruation to women. Men explaining feminism and men often saying, "Well, I can't really explain this to you because it involves math."

MS: [Laughs] Yeah, but what I like is the new thing in Sweden — it's Dad feminists. It's like a new generation of feminists because they are Dads and they have daughters. They realize, "Oh my god, my daughter is going to grow up in a world that's not fair." What happens to these Dad feminists is, because they are men, they want to be experts in feminism all of a sudden.

MS: Especially in my field, in comedy, guys just come up to me, not only to tell me they heard my joke and maybe I should do it differently and that they have advice. I say, "Thank you, I will not do it that way." They just continue and say, "Yeah, this thing about how tough it is for women in comedy, I think the problem is that you don't take enough space. You should just be out there more. I think it's the way you make your jokes. You should just write less jokes." Or sometimes it's, "You should write more jokes. You should improvise more. You should improvise less." But I'm like, "Okay, great. Actually, you guys are the problem because you make this into a sexist world where women don't want to be with your mansplaining."

For more on this story, listen to our full interview with Moa Svan.


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