Adam Falklind noticed something weird happening whenever he would go rock climbing with his spouse at the gym.

His partner, Ylva, would get odd comments thrown her way. Even though she had been an avid rock climber for seven years, a lot of people at the gym would talk to her like a newbie. The remarks, Falklind noticed, seemed to come from one specific type of person: dudes.

Many of the guys who felt a need to chime in — mainly the "big biceps kind," as Falklind describes them — assumed she needed some extra help getting up the wall. They assumed wrong.


"They will say [to her], 'Oh no, you have to do it like this,’" says Falklind. "When actually, she’s the one that has better technique and footwork.”

When the outdoorsy couple, who live in Sweden, have gone on scuba diving adventures, Richert encountered the same sort of unsolicited comments from guys there, too.

Adam Falklind and Ylva Richert on a diving trip. Photo via Adam Falklind, used with permission.

So what gives?

A few weeks ago, Falklind spotted a post on Facebook that put a name to this weird phenomenon: mansplaining.

It's not officially a real word (yet). But "mansplaining" (a term coined after Rebecca Solnit's 2008 essay "Men Explain Things To Me") is one that Merriam-Webster has been keeping a close eye on lately:

Mansplaining is "what occurs when a man talks condescendingly to someone (especially a woman) about something he has incomplete knowledge of, with the mistaken assumption that he knows more about it than the person he's talking to does."

This was it — the thing Falklind's spouse had been dealing with from male divers and rock climbers alike.

The Facebook post Falklind spotted was promoting a Mansplaining Hotline, launched by Unionen, Sweden's largest workers' union. It was meant for both men and women across the country to call in to vent, ask questions, and — most importantly — start conversations about mansplaining and other forms of harassment as they exist in their own workspace.

As a guy, Falklind was curious: How prevalent is mansplaining? How can it be avoided? And was he a perpetrator without even realizing it?

He decided to give it a ring. “I wanted to dig a little deeper," he says, noting he had discussed it with Richert before phoning in. “I felt like I wanted to know more about this."

Photo via Adam Falklind, used with permission.

He definitely wasn't alone.

According to Unionen, the Mansplaining Hotline blew up. 60% of the callers — believe it or not — were men.

"It exceeded our expectations — by far," says Gabriel Wernstedt, a Unionen press officer.

The hotline was slammed with hundreds of calls throughout the five-day span it operated in mid-November, with news of the service spreading as far as Ireland, India, Australia, and the U.S.

Many women who called in felt a great sense of relief, says Christina Knight, an expert on gender who helped answer calls. They learned they weren't alone or being overly sensitive about their condescending coworkers; they finally had a word to refer to what they were experiencing at the individual level.

Among men, however, some were irritated, feeling as though this whole mansplaining concept was some sort of personal, gendered attack against them.

Those male callers were in the minority, though. "In many men," Knight explains, "it brought to their attention a phenomenon they might not even have been aware of. It evoked an interest and a desire to try and understand and avoid mansplaining."

One man in his 30s, for instance, hoped to give some good feedback to his young nephews in order to stomp out a potential future generation of mansplainers, Knight recalls. Another man — the head of his department at work — specifically asked for tips on how to avoid being that guy in a managerial role, since he often had to train his employees, Wernstedt says.

“I asked, ‘How can I help myself?’” Falklind recalls of his own chat with a hotline operator. “It awoke a lot of interesting reflections in me.”

Photo via Adam Falklind, used with permission.

Wernstedt was careful to note that women can also be condescending toward others, of course, and that the point of the hotline was about people of all genders being more proactive in fighting for change — not pitting genders against one another.

But there is a reason why this phenomenon has been dubbed mansplaining, after all: Men do seem more likely to want to exhibit control and strut their knowledge at the office, Wernstedt says. And that's part of the reason why this sneaky form of sexism exists in far too many workplaces around the world.

The best piece of advice hotline workers gave men who called in was simple: Listen.

Hotline operators — volunteers in various career fields who all had some expertise in workplace harassment, like Knight — were happy to lend a helping hand. "Asking questions and listening is an easy way to have a dialogue instead of a monologue," Knight notes.

The best way for men to avoid mansplaining is to be more cognizant of their own behavior, she says — stop "going on autopilot," simply assuming something needs to be taught. Instead, show a genuine interest in and respect for the women you work with by listening and responding to them. Or, as Wernstedt puts it, understand why "we have two ears and one mouth.”

Falklind, who's well aware he's likely mansplained at some point or another, knows he's a work in progress.

“It’s hard to admit when you’re wrong in any situation, despite gender," he says. "It’s something that I try to work on every day."

Photo via Adam Falklind, used with permission.

As far as all the hoopla around the hotline ... does it mean there will be another one down the road? Possibly, says Wernstedt. But Unionen is still climbing out from under the overwhelming responses to this one, which ended nearly two weeks ago.

“We’re still amazed by the interest," he says.

It seems the world could use quite a few more Mansplaining Hotlines — there's certainly no shortage of men with an urge to pick up the phone and dial in.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Maxim Hopman on Unsplash

The Sam Vimes "Boots" Theory of Socioeconomic Unfairness explains one way the rich get richer.

Any time conversations about wealth and poverty come up, people inevitably start talking about boots.

The standard phrase that comes up is "pull yourself up by your bootstraps," which is usually shorthand for "work harder and don't ask for or expect help." (The fact that the phrase was originally used sarcastically because pulling oneself up by one's bootstraps is literally, physically impossible is rarely acknowledged, but c'est la vie.) The idea that people who build wealth do so because they individually work harder than poor people is baked into the American consciousness and wrapped up in the ideal of the American dream.

A different take on boots and building wealth, however, paints a more accurate picture of what it takes to get out of poverty.

Keep Reading Show less

"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

Keep Reading Show less