TIME Opinion

You’ve Come a Long Way Daddy

Girl playing outside in the summer
Brian Braiker

A new book asks whether fathers matter. And this dad wonders why we're still asking that question.

Do fathers matter? On the face of it the question is a preposterous one. You might as well be asking “Are friends important?” or “Who needs trees, anyway?”

But Do Fathers Matter? happens to be the title of a new book by author and award-winning science journalist Paul Raeburn. And while the title seems to indulge in a bit of trolling, it turns out the book does a nice job of filling in a few gaps no one completely realized were gaping.

Science has historically focused only on the mother’s role in child-rearing. Raising children, after all, is women’s work, right? It’s a cliche that has taken root in modern society but biologically, this is simply not the case.

Raeburn points us to the titi monkey as an example: “Titi monkey fathers provide food for their offspring and follow mothers around all day, so that whenever the babies are not nursing the fathers can carry them on their backs,” Raeburn writes. “The father carries his infant 90 percent of the time.

The baby monkeys, in return, are very attached to their fathers.” Human fathers, while maybe not quite dedicated, remain the most committed mammalian fathers of any species on Earth, Raeburn goes on to tell us (tantalizingly leaving open the prospect of some kind of reptilian Superdad.)

Look no further than the latest ad by Cheerios, which comes with its own hashtag: #HowToDad. In it a father of four gives his only mildly-grating manifesto for manly parenting — which lives in the Venn diagram sweet spot between being “awesome” and “responsible.” We’ve come a long way from Mr. Mom.

But science hasn’t been keeping up. The result is a body of knowledge that fails to take into account half of the child-rearing populace. I personally can’t fault science for spending an inordinate amount of time looking at ladies, but it’s not very scientific at the end of the day: A 2005 survey of 514 studies on adolescent and child psychology, for example, revealed that almost half of the research ignored fathers. Only 11 percent made fathers the exclusive focus, Raeburn tells us.

To be fair, there’s been some progress: Before 1970 less than a fifth of scientific studies about parental bonding took dad’s role into account. And minor though it is, Raeburn mines the progress well. One takeaway is that we dads have an impact on our babies before they’re even born.

A bit of context. Here is what progressive fatherhood looked like in 1986: “We were well prepared for natural childbirth, which means that no drugs can be given to the female during delivery. The father, however, can have all he wants,” joked Bill Cosby in his book “Fatherhood.” If only that were true.

“Research is showing that a father’s environment, his behavior and even his appearance can have a substantial effect on fetal health,” Raeburn writes. “And on the health of his grandchildren.”

Good lord. Even my appearance? Let me now use this public forum to apologize now to my grandkids for last year’s mustache and afro combination that I rocked for a solid six months.

Fortunately for my kids I also do the dishes on the regular. A recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, found that fathers who perform household chores are more likely to bring up daughters who aspire to careers in business, legal and other professions. I am dying for a corollary study to conclude that mothers who shout at the TV during football games and spend a lot of time in the tool shed raise boys that are more likely to go into ballet instruction.

But the research, conducted at the University of British Columbia in Canada, does dovetail with other findings that suggest girls who grow up in the presence of warm, supportive fathers tend to begin puberty later and are less inclined to engage in high-risk sexual behavior than daughters of absentee dads.

This “absentee” word hits home for me. I have been separated from the mother of my kids for nearly five years, a significant chunk of their lives. As a single father with joint custody I see my girls every day, including days when they don’t stay at mine, and am incredibly grateful for it. But I worry all the time about the impact of the breakup on my kids. So I am hyper vigilant.

I take heart in much of Raeburn’s book, not just because I like to cook and find doing dishes therapeutic. He points to one study that found that, while both parents play with children the same amount of time, Dad is — for lack of a better word — the fun parent. Father’s play is “more physical and idiosyncratic,” and babies tend to like it.

“Physical and idiosyncratic” is a diplomatic way, at best, to describe the dance parties I instigate at the breakfast table. Babies (and 6-year-olds) may like it, but the day is coming when my daughters become teenagers and “idiosyncratic” becomes “idiotic.” Oh how I will delight in embarrassing them, though.

It turns out Dad’s play is important when it comes to learning too, providing a critical boost to language development. Premature infants from disadvantaged families had higher IQs if fathers played with them and helped care for them, Raeburn writes. Studies have found that fathers are more likely to stretch their young children’s vocabularies. I can certainly boast that I’ve introduced a few four letter words into my girls’ verbal arsenal.

I’ve interviewed my daughters in this space before, so I thought it might be interesting to see what they had to say about the very question posed in Raeburn’s title: Do fathers matter?

Unfortunately, today got away from us. We woke up early and cuddled while we watched “Little Shop of Horrors” together — not entirely age-appropriate, but hey!, I’m idiosyncratic. Then it was time for breakfast (Waffles! Bacon! Plums! No screens!), then showers. I took them to get a birthday present before a friend’s party. After that it was playground time and swings and a water balloon fight and more swings followed by tears over a lost earring and much consoling and hugs and, finally, dinner.

I guess in the middle of all that I forgot to ask them if their father mattered.

TIME politics

Former Virginia Governor: My Dysfunctional Marriage Proves I’m Innocent

Bob McDonnell, Maureen McDonnell
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, accompanied by his wife, Maureen, speaks during a news conference in Richmond, Va., Jan. 21, 2014. Steve Helber—AP

Defense lawyers say the gov's wife accepted gifts because she had a crush on a political donor. Will the jury buy it? We asked the experts.

Lawyers for former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, argued Tuesday that the couple didn’t conspire to take over $165,000 in cash, shopping trips, and vacations from a wealthy donor, but instead only accepted the gifts because Mrs. McDonnell had a “crush” on the donor.

McDonnell, who left office in January, is accused of taking cash and gifts from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. in return for help promoting his dietary supplement company. But the couple’s lawyers are arguing that the Maureen McDonnell let Williams pay for expensive shopping trips and vacations because she had a “crush” on the charismatic businessman, and was unhappy in her marriage to the Governor. “Unlike the other man in her life, Jonnie Williams paid attention to Maureen McDonnell,” her defense attorney William Burck said. The couple face over 20 years in prison if convicted on federal corruption charges.

But will a jury believe the “crush” defense? Some lawyers think they just might.

“I think it’s ingenious, and I think it may work,” says Solomon L. Wisenberg, a D.C. based white collar defense lawyer who served as deputy independent counsel to Kenneth Starr during the Whitewater-Lewinsky investigations. “It certainly doesn’t make either one of them look good, but that’s not the same thing as committing a crime.”

Wisenberg notes that the McDonnells had filed a motion to sever, which would have allowed the co-defendants to face separate charges, but that this motion was denied, which means they had to coordinate their defense arguments. “This allows them to have kind of a complementary defense without pointing fingers at each other, yet it helps him because she’s obviously the principle player, and she’s the first one who roped this guy in,” he says.

“This strikes me as a more atypical defense, but that doesn’t mean it’s a Hail Mary pass,” says Josh Bowers, a professor at University of Virginia Law School who specializes in criminal procedure. “It could very well be the truth, and sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction.”

But is Maureen McDonnell falling on her sword to protect her husband? “She’s got a lot less room to maneuver than he does,” Wisenberg explains. Mrs. McDonnell would have frequent private meetings with Williams, one former staff member called him her “favorite playmate,” and the two allegedly exchanged over 1,200 texts and phone calls over two years. “What’s she gonna do, say ‘It’s all my husband?’ The facts don’t seem to support that. What are her options other than what she’s doing?” he adds. The defense team also argued that Mrs. McDonnell was never a public official, and so shouldn’t be held to the same standards as her husband.

Wisenberg also notes that it might have been a misstep for the prosecution to start off with testimony from the McDonnell’s daughter Cailin, whose wedding was partially funded through gifts from Williams. Cailin McDonnell Young cried on the stand when she testified Tuesday that Williams had footed the bill for the catering at her 2011 nupitals. Wisenberg says Cailin’s tears on the witness stand could bode well for the defense, since a crying young woman makes the prosecution look like bullies, especially since juries are more likely to remember what happens at the beginning and end of the trial. “She’s an attractive young female testifying about the wedding, asking for Kleenex,” he says. “If I’m on the defense, I’m doing high-fives under the table.”

TIME

The 9 Circles of Hell for Millennials

If Dante wrote The Inferno today...

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here. This is a dead zone. (Effing AT&T…)
- Dante Alighier-ish

Dante’s Divine Comedy was written in the 14th century with his uber-Catholic, Italian counterparts in mind. While the allegory of the afterlife lives on in modern culture, the Inferno would probably look slightly different were it typed out on an iPad. Behold: The nine circles of hell for the basic millennial:

1. An eternity of online dating

Swipe left. Swipe left. Swipe left.

2. “Fun”-employment
Economy blah blah tough market blah lots of 26-year-olds still live with their parents.

3. Sharing an enclosed space with someone playing Candy Crush with the sound on
No one is celebrating you advancement to level 147. HEADPHONES.

4. Trying to cancel your cable
“You don’t want something that works?” “So you’re not interested in the fastest internet in the country?” “I’m really ashamed to see you go to something that can’t give you what we can!” “What is it about this other internet provider???”

These real talking points come courtesy of a Comcast customer service representative who fought tooth-and-nail to keep former tech editor Ryan Block’s loyal service. He posted an 8-minute clip of the recorded conversation that would be more appropriate from a jilted lover rather than, you know, a cable provider.

5. Actual activism as opposed to hashtag activism
#So #Much #Work

6. Only getting 10 likes on every Instagram picture
11 is “the only like that matters.

7. Finding out your Craigslist roommate is actually a hoarder
Slash amateur tap dancer slash serial killer.

8. Explaining any technology to your grandparents
The weekly FaceTime calls home have provided you with a solid working knowledge of cartography of your grandma’s forehead and you hated geography in school.

9. Going back to dial-up
As terrifying as it is hypothetical. Then again, anything can happen in hell.

TIME viral

This Girl Is Replacing Photos of Her Ex’s Face with Beyoncé’s to Help Cure Her Broken Heart

For all the single ladies out there

After a breakup, Cassandra Blackwell photoshopped Beyoncé’s face over the photos she took with her ex-boyfriend. Then she compiled the images on a Tumblr called “Beyoncify My Boyfriend.” Since the website has gone viral, she has offered to “Beyoncify” other people’s photos with their exes. And now we can’t get the pop star’s hit “Single Ladies” out of our head.

Cassandra Blackwell
Cassandra Blackwell
Cassandra Blackwell
TIME feminism

Turkish Women Can’t Stop Laughing at Minister’s Advice to Stop Laughing

TURKEY-POLITICS
Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc speaks during an interview with AFP ahead of the presidential elections in Ankara on July 24, 2014. Adem Alta—AFP/Getty Images

A speech on public morals has morphed into a comedy of errors

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc did not intend his Monday speech on “moral corruption” to get big laughs, but when he advised women to suppress their laughter in public, it landed on the public like a well-crafted punchline. Women in Turkey have since tweeted pictures of their reactions, ranging from grins…

…to guffaws.

Over the past three days, hundreds of thousands of people have tweeted under the hashtag, “kahkaha,” the Turkish word for laughter. Sadly, the minister wasn’t joking.

 

TIME startup

ManServants: The Startup That Promises to Make (Almost) All Your Fantasies Come True

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Ladies, are you tired of (and maybe a little grossed out by) the male strippers at bachelorette parties? Do you wish instead that you could just hire a hot guy to serve you food, do your laundry, or dole out creative compliments whenever you walk into a room? Beginning in the fall, new San Francisco-based startup ManServants promises you can have all that, and more, with their rent-a-perfect-guy service.

The men for hire go through “a very rigorous training process,” co-founder Dalal Khajah told Mashable, and they can be hired to do whatever the client wants. During the testing phase of the service, one woman wanted a sassy gay friend to give her relationship advice. Another wanted her man to serve her food while singing songs from The Little Mermaid.

The singing will cost you extra – according to ManServants’ website, the standard services include waiting on you hand and foot, serving drinks, acting as a body guard, taking photos, giving compliments, and “[cleaning] up your hot mess.” For an additional fee, you can get your ManServant to do things like speak in an accent, or give you a spa day complete with cucumber water and chocolate covered strawberries. (The website doesn’t say what it will cost you to hire your ManServant, but he will be compensated by the company beginning at $80 per hour and $300 per day.)

Josephine Wai Lin, Khajah’s business partner, explained all the customizable options: “Every woman’s fantasy is different.”

But one thing the men won’t do is fulfill fantasies that are less innocent than say, singing “Under the Sea.” In the ManServants code of conduct it says, “A ManServant keeps his penis in his pants and out of the lady’s face.” Chivalry isn’t dead!

The company’s vision is “to empower women to make their own rules. Rules a ManServant may then follow.” So watch the hilarious promo video, and start coming up with ideas.

TIME health

Dieting Young Makes Women More Likely to Be Obese Later

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Image Source—Image Source/Getty Images

New research says managing weight at a young age could lead to dangerous behavior later in life

New research suggests that the younger a woman is when she first starts dieting, the more likely she will be to suffer from adverse health effects later in life.

Led by Dr. Pamela Keel of Florida State University, a team of researchers interviewed college women every decade beginning in 1982, and followed up with each woman 10 years later to evaluate how dieting impacted their long-term health. Those women who began trying to manage their weight at a young age were more likely to practice behaviors like induced vomiting and excessive drinking, and were also more likely to be overweight or obese by the time they were 30.

The research is careful not to speculate the cause of this correlation, but does suggest healthy behavior should be promoted in girls as early as elementary school to prevent negative body image as they enter puberty. Since more than half of teenage girls attempt to control their weight in unhealthy ways, from suppressing their appetite with cigarettes to taking laxatives to suffering from anorexia or bulimia, a huge number of women are at risk for weight-related complications later in life. Parents who are concerned about their children’s weight are advised to implement a more holistic approach than dieting, such as helping their kids to get more exercise, cutting down on screen time and putting more fruits and vegetables on the plate at dinnertime.

TIME royals

Jumping in Heels: Kate Middleton’s Newest Skill

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge plays the South African game of Three Tins during a visit to the Commonwealth Games Village in Glasgow, Scotland on July 29, 2014 .
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge plays the South African game of Three Tins during a visit to the Commonwealth Games Village in Glasgow, Scotland on July 29, 2014 . Danny Lawson—WPA Pool/Getty Images

A performance fit for a Queen

Most avoid athletic endeavors while in heels, but not Kate Middleton—The Duchess of Cambridge showed off her jumping skills in wedges on Tuesday at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Prince William and Kate showed their support at the athletes’ village, said the Daily Mail, partaking in festivities including ‘three tins’, a jumping game requiring players to hop over three stacked tins.

Kate Middleton—inspiring wedged athletes everywhere.

 

TIME

Bipartisan Bill Aims to Reform Campus Sexual Assault Investigations

Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014.
Demonstrators protest sexual assault on college campuses at the #YesAllWomen rally in solidarity with those affected by violence in Seattle on May 30, 2014. Alex Garland—Demotix/Corbis

The Campus Accountability and Safety Act would require an annual survey of students' experiences with assault at college to be published online

Eight Senators on Wednesday introduced legislation aimed at curbing on-campus rape that will include an annual survey of students about their experience with sex assault.

“We should never accept the fact that women are at a greater risk of sexual assault as soon as they step onto a college campus. But today they are. And it has to end,” said Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) in a statement about the Campus Safety and Accountability Act. “ We will not allow these crimes to be swept under the rug any longer. Students deserve real safety and accountability instead of empty promises.”

Gillibrand, who has been at the forefront of efforts to combat sexual assault, was a part of a bipartisan group of Senators supporting the bill including Claire McCaskill (D-Mo), Dean Heller (R-NV), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

The proposed legislation came just weeks after a Senate subcommittee survey revealed that 41% of 236 American colleges had conducted no investigations of alleged assaults in the last five years. Under the new rules, colleges would be required to assign on-campus “Confidential Advisors” with the task of being a trusted resource for victims of assault. The goal of the advisors would be to encourage victims to come forward while reducing the likelihood that cases would be swept under the rug due to poorly executed, or non existent investigations.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Education is investigating 55 colleges and universities that may have violated federal law in their flawed handling of accusations of assault. (An estimated one in five women are sexually assaulted in some way while in college, though the bulk of victims fail to report to authorities.)

The Campus Safety and Accountability Act would require not only a uniform process for disciplinary proceedings; it would also colleges to coordinate with law enforcement throughout investigations. If schools fail to comply they could also face penalties affecting 1% of their total operating budgets and a $150,000 fine per violation.

Scott Berkowitz, the president and founder of the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) said in a statement Wednesday that the proposed legislation “will help improve the way that colleges deal with sexual violence, and will give more victims an opportunity for justice.”

The bill also takes a historic approach to campus transparency by administering an annual survey of students to gage their experiences with assault. The results would be published online as a benefit to parents and current and prospective students.

“This bill represents a rare thing in Washington—a truly collaborative, bipartisan effort—and that bodes well for our shared fight to turn the tide against sexual violence on our campuses,” said Sen. McCaskill, who recently released a survey on college’s approach to sexual assault. “To curb these crimes, students need to be protected and empowered, and institutions must provide the highest level of responsiveness in helping hold perpetrators fully accountable. That’s what our legislation aims to accomplish.”

Read more about the campus rape crisis in TIME’s cover story here.

 

This post was updated to include a statement from Sen. Claire McCaskill.

TIME Cancer

You Asked: Is Sunscreen Safe — and Do I Really Need It Daily?

Is sunscreen bad for me?
Illustration by Peter Oumanski for TIME

Tons of you Google it. Our experts have the answer

Google sunscreen and toxic and see what you find. Claims that titanium dioxide is hazardous? Claims that you need vitamin D, and a little unprotected sun can give you that? Claims that chemical sunscreen can turn boy fish into girl fish? Let’s settle this for once and … for now, at least.

First thing’s first. There are two kinds of sun blockers — the physical kind, like zinc and titanium dioxide, and the chemical kind, like oxybenzone and its many cousins. They work in vastly different ways, the former blocking or “scattering” the sun’s rays (literally), and the latter causing a chemical reaction that is said to prevent damage from the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

Start looking into it and two topics tend to come up again and again. The first surrounds titanium dioxide or zinc oxide — but only in their nanoparticle form — which means ultra-fine specs of material used in sunscreens to block or “scatter” the sun’s rays. Some scientists have voiced concern that nanoparticles may be small enough to slip past your skin’s defense barriers and into your bloodstream. Those concerns have grown louder since a recent study — albeit in rodents — found that mice injected with titanium dioxide nanoparticles developed inflammation, a marker of cell distress that has been linked to lots of terrible things that happen in the body, including aging — and cancer.

These concerns do not extend to sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide and zinc in non-nano form—although those are becoming harder to find.

The second source of concern involves other nonnano sunscreen chemicals, which work by absorbing the sun’s ultraviolet radiation as opposed to reflecting it. More animal studies have hinted at ways in which some of these chemicals could cause damage to a person’s endocrine — hormone — system. That’s the worrisome news and if you want to avoid risk, many experts contend, you are better off with nonnanoparticle forms of the physical sun blockers.

The good news: there just isn’t much hard data showing that applying these chemical sunscreens to your skin can lead to health problems, says Dr. Henry W. Lim, chairman of the Dermatology Department at Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

Lim points out that many of the animal studies at the root of sunscreen concerns involve injecting or inhaling the chemicals, not rubbing them on your skin. “As of today there are no recorded health issues associated with sunscreen’s proper use,” he says.

But, in almost the same breath, Lim says there may still be reasons to worry about sunscreen. Specifically, he says spray-on sunscreens could present some unique dangers. That’s because, unlike lotions spread on the skin, spray-ons can be inhaled. “That could lead to very different types of risks not associated with creams,” he says, adding that the FDA is in the process of investigating the potential dangers of spray-on products. (The FDA is also, after much delay and pressure, investigating the introduction of new sunscreen ingredients that have been on the market in Europe for some time. Stay tuned for more on the bill that could change that.)

Looking past the possible dangers of sunscreen use, the benefits are far less nebulous: 1 in 3 cancers diagnosed worldwide is a skin cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. And up to 95% of malignant melanomas are caused by excessive sun damage, found research from the International Agency for Research on Cancer. “The risks associated with sun exposure are well mapped and well understood, and we have proof that using sunscreen lowers these risks,” Lim stresses.

“Sunburns are bad. There’s just no way around it,” says Kerry M. Hanson, a chemist at the University of California, Riverside, who has studied sunscreens extensively and has also worked with sunscreen manufacturers. “Protecting oneself from sunburn is critical to prevent skin cancers later in life,” she says. And to protect against sunburn, Hanson says sunscreen is proved to be effective — if it’s applied properly.

A recent study from the University of Queensland in Australia found people who followed proper sunscreen-application practices on a daily basis developed roughly 50% fewer melanomas than those who were left alone to use (or not use) sunscreen as they saw fit. Similar research efforts have uncovered proof of sunscreen’s effectiveness at blocking the development of squamous-cell and basal-cell cancers as well.

Unfortunately, Lim says many people don’t rub on nearly enough of the stuff to protect themselves. You need to spread on 1 oz. — or about the amount that would fill a shot glass — to safeguard your whole body for just a couple hours, he says. And that’s assuming you’re not sweating or swimming, in which case you need to apply more frequently.

In the end, he says the greatest danger of sunscreen may be that it provides people with a false sense of security against the sun’s dangers. “Just because you rub some on in the morning doesn’t mean you’re safe spending all day in the sun,” he says.

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