remaking fathers through state propaganda in sweden and the u.s.

Sweden offered paternity leave for the first time in 1974.  But men didn’t really take any.  Now they take a lot.  What changed?

Propaganda.  Lots and lots of state propaganda.

This is from a study by Roger Klinth in the journal Fathering in 2008:

Since the mid-1970s numerous campaigns and other forms of opinion molding have been launched to persuade men to use their right to parental leave. Through TV-spots, posters, brochures, antenatal and postnatal education classes, information meetings, etc., government authorities and service providers have tried to change attitudes about paternity leave. In the public eye, the representations of fatherhood displayed in the campaigns probably have had a greater impact than any policy declaration.

In the US, nobody gets good parental leave.  But the role of dad is still changing, getting more involved.  And what might help that process go even faster?   Or even, gasp, get people involved enough to fight for parental leave?

Propaganda.  Lots and lots of state propaganda.

Via Rebel Dad, here are a couple public service announcements from the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse.  See them all here.


It is all about a shift to what one researcher calls a “child-centered masculinity.”  I do notice that in a couple this means that dads are supposed to be more “girly,” which I don’t love.   Is that really being a more-involved dad?  I guess it can be that.  I certainly do “girly” things.  But my girl is also not always so girly, maybe partially because she has her dad around so much.

But, that aside, they are funny, and you gotta love Tom Selleck on the voiceovers.  Magnum P.I. always was a good dad …


6 thoughts on “remaking fathers through state propaganda in sweden and the u.s.

  1. Why do you think this is dad’s being more girly? I think it just means modern dad’s are more open to being involved in activities their daughters enjoy. Who said that these activities are necessarily girly? My dad could have benefited from hanging out with me more, and I think the biggest bone people have to pick with this website it ends in gov. I know the popular libertarian sentiment is the government is not coming between me my right to be a dead beat dad, or me and my right to buy tons of soda and rot my teeth, but maybe just maybe it is time the government create websites that give people useful ideas. You have the freedom not to read any website ending in gov, but I find this libertarian viewpoint that any gov website giving advice is curtailing our freedom. I am just find libertarians to be a bit control freaky considering they are all about respecting others freedoms and such. Not saying this about all libertarians, but there is a bunch that likes to get their control freak on.

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  5. I’m all for .gov sites, by the way. As for the ads, I totally appreciate showing a dad doing a a cheerleading dance with his daughter. Great. But why don’t they play basketball together? Why does being the dad of a girl mean you do a dance in a short skirt?

    Just trying to make the point that men can stay true to themselves and still be involved with their daughters – if those true selves involve dancing, great. If they involve hunting, great.

  6. Hi Nathan-

    Thanks for your blog. It’s interesting, and I’m enormously grateful to all the men making adjustments to contemporary fatherhood (I wish I’d had a dad like y’all.)

    The focus on the father being girly is interesting. I wonder if they are just showing that it’s important to meet your children where they are? You don’t have to become like them, but it is good to mirror them maybe, so they feel validated, and to follow their choice of activities even if not yours?

    I guess that might be hard to show in a short clip except by being very graphic, like with the father in a skirt.

    I would’ve thought it was weird for my dad to wear a skirt, but I would’ve liked it if he had shown interest in my world and joining me in it and not been afraid to enjoy it (if he did). But you’re right, he doesn’t need to be someone he’s not, he just needs to be accepting and not shaming or acting like it’s beneath him to do a customarily female thing like jumping rope.

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