Why the mansplaining hotline has left me cold

“People don’t read the news anymore,” a man at the bar begins to explain to me, he belches mid sentence and a waft of Strongbow shrouds my face. He’d asked me what I did and, in a strained slur, began to tell me why exactly my job was pointless and why people had stopped listening to the news. Ironically, in a far corner of the put was a muted telly which was tuned into Sky News. When he’d finished, he looked at me as if to say, ‘you know I’m right, you’re welcome.’

Beyond my wry smile my head was swimming with suitable replies… I was being mansplained at. Trevor was summing up the futility of my career, the futility of media, all with an air of superiority that was unfitting for a man whose job title was exactly, ‘nothing, for the minute…’

Mansplaining happens everywhere: in universities, in the workplace, in bars and probably even on the street. It’s when a man explains something to a woman – usually something she already knows – in a patronising way… It can usually be countered by a quick witted, equally as smarmy response.

It isn’t just men who are perpetrators of patronisation. Women do it too – shock horror. Yet, no hotline has been set up to combat them… 

But a Swedish union has set up a hotline for women to report incidents of mansplaining in the workplace in an attempt to raise awareness of the issue. Admittedly, mansplaining is a hugely insidious way for men to underestimate and belittle women by overestimating their own intelligence. But is a hotline really necessary?

After Trevor from the pub had finished drunkenly mansplaining at me, I told him I wasn’t going to take career advice from a man with no job… I didn’t scurry off to make a candid phone call to someone working in a call centre – I decided to beat Trev at his own game.

Mansplaining isn’t a new problem and has probably been going strong for as long as the gender pay gap or slut shaming – surely by now women are able to tackle the problem head on? If kick ass babes like Diane von Furstenberg, Lena Dunham and Maya Angelou fearlessly raising their voices against sexism, then surely women in the workplace should be following suit?

If some men will occasionally explain to us why a seemingly simple idea has gone way over our pretty little heads, then women should be able to bite back with their own sassy, facetious retort…

The problem for me is that the hotline is an all too gentle approach to such an insidiously aggressive problem. It wraps women in cotton wool and beckons them to the receiver of safety where they can speak to an understanding ear. After this, a more qualified team will deal with this women’s problem. It’s all a little primary school. A little patronising.

When you use a hotline, you’re scared, apprehensive or unsure of how to tackle a problem. And I just believe that women are a lot more fierce and fearless than all that. I don’t believe that a woman’s first instinct – upon coming up against sexism – is to make a private phone call. I think we’re perfectly capable of dishing up a feisty, succinct response – one that carries undertones of fuck-you, but with far more wit …

Personally, I’d rather this approach than waste my minutes whinging down a hotline…

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