By Irin Carmon | Photographs by Elin Berge for TIME
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.