Can American Men and Women Ever Really Be Equal?

Gender equality in Sweden.

Gender equality in Sweden. Three dads on paternity leave, walking their strollies in Årsta, Stockholm. From left Peter Hellqvist, Simon Bengtsson and Martin Gunséus. They often spend time together.

Source: Time

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.

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  1. Reminds me of an episode when I was guest of Sir Mohammad Zafrullah Khan in New York for a week during his final days as President of the UN General Assembly. Choudhry Sahib was invited to speak at an event organised by the Editor of Sunday Times. During the ‘before speech’ get-together the Editor’s wife attacked Sir Zafrullah Khan with the usual American thing: “Here in the USA we are equal” (and you over there in Pakistan are not treating your ladies properly). Sir Zafrullah Khan listened patiently and then asked the lady if she had any children. As a proud mum she said that yes she had three, one in University and two in High School. Sir Zafrullah Khan then said: “Please ask now your husband to have the next three children”. The lady was of course astonished by such a silly remark, but was impressed when Sir Zafrullah Khan explained that equality in function is of course impossible, but equality in value is a given fact in Islam, which he proved by Quranic quotations. The lady was impressed and embarrassed by her earlier remark.

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