TIME

PULLING Equal WEIGHT

SWEDEN HAS TRIED TO MAKE MEN AND WOMEN EQUAL. CAN AMERICA CATCH UP?
Martin, Peter and Simon, out with their children in Stockholm on Sept. 18; the three dads are all on parental leave

BY THE TIME I ARRIVE IN STOCKHOLM, I KNOW TO EXPECT THE DADS. Enlightened Swedish dads, with their easy security in their masculinity, are literally a state-sponsored selling point. But nothing can really prepare you for them, not even living, as I did for a decade, in New York City’s performative-dad capital of Park Slope, Brooklyn. On the scrubbed streets of Stockholm are dads balancing Joolz strollers, looking up from their cell phones to shake stuffed animals in an infant’s face; bearded dads in beanies with newborns on their laps at a café; dads pushing a pink bicycle up a hill as a helmeted child sulkily hoofs it.

One of the first dads I spot upon arriving in Stockholm, a burly man in a crisp button-down, who tenderly holds a small child’s hand as they wait to cross the street, turns out to be international hockey superstar Peter “Foppa” Forsberg, a father of three. He is very polite as he offers me directions.

Liberated men are the vanguard of the decades-long Swedish war on gender inequality. The country’s last Prime Minister, who admittedly is also a man, adopted the label of “the first feminist government in the world.” Every year, Nordic countries jostle one another for the top spot in global gender-equality rankings; over the next two weeks, more than one Swede will shamefacedly confess to me that the country recently dropped to No. 5.

Should you not have memorized the U.S.’s ranking on the most recent World Economic Forum scorecard, I’ll refresh your memory: it’s No. 49. Next to “days of paid parental leave” on America’s scorecard is a zero. Sweden allocates 480 days per birth, with three months assigned to each parent to encourage dads to take more. It also outranks the U.S. in women’s “economic participation and opportunity” by seven points and in “political empowerment,” which measures women in elected office, by 88 slots.

That women still make up only 20% of the U.S. Congress and 0% of the Republicans of the Senate Judiciary Committee was thrown into sharp relief, amid allegations that Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh had sexually assaulted one woman, accosted another and was present at the rape of a third. One of the Democratic women on the committee, Kamala Harris, was given the post only after Al Franken resigned under a cloud of harassment allegations.

After spending much of the past year reporting on sexual harassment and assault, including allegations against TV host Charlie Rose, I have arrived in Sweden feeling pretty bleak about men. I spent months talking to women about the

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