“The trouble with working in journalism is,” he begins, and I tense up. A man, in a North London pub, has taken it upon himself to critique the industry I work in. I breathe deeply and will my mind to stay open. He might have a great point. He might secretly work as a journalist too, alongside his job as an architect, which he has been explaining for the last 40 minutes while I patiently ask questions. He finishes his sentence: “Twitter’s taken over. I’m a journalist, too. We all are. You’d quit if you had any sense.”
“You think I should quit my career of seven years, based on your experience in journalism as a full-time architect?” I ask.
“If you had any sense, you would.”
He turns around to his friend. He has made his point, the conversation has therefore, unquestionably, ended. Done. No more words shall be uttered on the topic. Man has spoken. He gives me a final look that says, “You’re welcome”, and starts talking about how "weird" it is that penguins are so popular nowadays ("What have they done to deserve that?" he ponders).
Meanwhile, quite brilliantly, several men are busy on the internet explaining that the term “mansplaining” is sexist and why this initiative is entirely futile
I did what women everywhere do when they’re being mansplained to – I paused, I subtly narrowed my eyes, I laced my pleasant smile back at him with a subtle facetiousness and I thought about the best way to challenge him. Would he listen? Probably not. This time, I let it go. But what if I didn’t have to?
Sweden is making that option possible. A major union has created a hotline for women to report incidents of relentless mansplaining in the workplace. In an attempt to raise awareness of the issue – the peculiar set of circumstances which sees men repeatedly overestimating their intelligence and simultaneously underestimating that of the woman they’re speaking to – Unionen, which represents 600,000 women, is encouraging workers to log the instances of mansplaining to curb the behaviour. And it’s already getting a huge reaction.
Gabriel Wernstedt, a spokesperson for the hotline, which will be staffed by feminist politicians, comedians and scientists, said that it will work because “everyone wins when we expose suppression techniques and talk about them".
Mansplaining, at its heart, is not just an arrogance of some men, but also the incredibly irritating result of a larger cultural discrimination against women, which historically saw male intelligence elevated and women’s diminished. And the only way we’ll successfully reverse that is by exposing it.
Meanwhile, quite brilliantly, several men are busy on the internet explaining that the term “mansplaining” is sexist and why this initiative is entirely futile. At which we pause, subtly narrow our eyes, lace our outwardly pleasant smiles with facetiousness – and devise a plan for our own hotline.