Campaign Targets ‘Mansplaining’ and Gender Equality

As though pay inequity, glass ceilings and sexual harassment weren’t enough for working women to deal with, they often have to endure "mansplaining" as well. 

Merriam-Webster defines mansplaining as "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." 

Put more bluntly, "no matter what a woman says, a man always seems to know better," Christina Knight of Sweden’s largest trade union Unionen told CNN. "While it can happen both ways, more women tend to be the victims of this presumption that women need men to explain them things." 

An American Psychological Association study, which was reported in the Independent, offers some mansplaining insights. The study showed that men "tend to overestimate their intelligence to a much greater extent than women," and it also found that "self-assurance in men grows with age."

An article on includes a real-world example from Bonny, whose job at the Goddard Space Flight Center involved integrating new communications equipment and fiber optics on the Hubble Space Telescope:

I was looking over the drawings when a member of the team came in the conference room. He looked at me and said, "This is going to be difficult if you can’t read a schematic, but I guess it’s going to be my job to make sure you get it right." He stepped toward me into my personal space and began pointing at the drawings and said, "Do you know what these are?" . . . At this point I looked up and made eye contact with him. I turned the drawings around and pointed to the legend where my signature was.

The 600,000-member Unionen has initiated a campaign to raise awareness of mansplaining, which (to be fair) men don’t always realize they’re engaging in. 

"Mansplaining is a fallacy that can both be linked to inequalities and discrimination in the labor market," Unionen’s Marina Åman said in a press release. "By drawing attention to mansplaining, we hope to stimulate interest in discussing gender equality and discrimination."

"The traditional view of gender is . . . changing," Unionen’s Peter Tai Christensen said in a statement, "and although tough challenges remain before the community is fully equal, it is obvious that many male privileges previously taken for granted are disappearing." 

He added that societal changes prompt varying reactions. "Some of us develop and integrate while others of us consciously or unconsciously resist. Mansplaining can be interpreted as a reaction to the fact that traditional gender roles are being renegotiated," and, as a form of resistance, it is "designed to put women in their place and thereby consolidate or restore a privileged [male] position." 

Although it's slightly ironic having a man explain mansplaining, let's go ahead and assume he knows what he's talking about.

Bloomberg BNA’s International HR Decision Support Network  provides resources, including labor and employment law primers on more than 70 countries, to help you stay compliant and develop policies for your international operations. Start your free trial  today.